During this difficult time, it’s increasingly hard to stay connected, Mobliciti hosted a virtual wine tasting and discussion surrounding ‘Legal in Lockdown’ for 13 Legal IT Directors from the UK’s top 20 firms including two magic circle firms.
The discussion began with sharing thoughts and experiences of lockdown across firms and the change of focus from ‘just get people working remotely’ to ‘what more IT can achieve in the current phase.’
In the Beginning
The move to working from home was not one that was done gradually but rather everyone, all at once and so initially IT departments threw resource at it. The aim was to just get everyone working as fast as possible, there was agreement that “everyone mucked in from IT”, ensuring the transition was as quick and painless as possible.
One firm stated that “we’ve recently completed a massive refresh, so have reasonably been okay.” With another echoing this statement saying, “we had everyone able to work from home straight away due to the investment over the years.” It appears that those who have already begun or allowed working from home adapted quickly to the change.
Ensuring support was available for end-users was a priority but now that the country is several months into lockdown firms are finding that “people are savvier now and therefore calls have dropped.”
Another firm stated, “emails to our Service Desks has never been quite so high” with one firm moving from a 70/30 split of calls vs emails to 50/50, whilst another stated they had moved from 80/20 to 20/80.
User behaviour has adapted to suit the new working world, where there was some resistance before around working from home, it has now been fully embraced.
There was also feedback from across multiple firms that people want to have more flexible working and to work remotely more often once lockdown ends.
It boils down into the fact that lawyers have been forced to embrace technology and now understand the value the new tools can bring.
Home connectivity was a highly topical subject matter, firms want to provide users with the best connectivity possible but unlike within the office, home broadband, as it stands, is not manageable. Home Broadband is “unmanageable and upload speed is a killer”. Simply put, it’s a contended service and frankly not designed for Enterprise.
But, what can really be done to resolve the issue?
Unless the way home broadband is delivered is fundamentally changed, there is nothing IT can do to help troubleshoot and improve connectivity. Does this lead the way for a new type of enterprise home wireless solution?
There is no single technology in use when it comes to the use of unified communications platforms within Legal, in fact, the consensus is that it’s not very unified at all.
Most firms appear to be using multiple platforms including Skype, GoTo Meeting, Microsoft Teams, Webex and Zoom, and each firm had differing opinions on what should and shouldn’t be used.
One firm “allows users to join Team’s meetings set up by external businesses but we do not use it internally.” Another stated that whilst they use Teams inhouse, it seems to create more problems than it solves.
The discussion then moved onto Zoom and with all the latest in the news, there is very much a mixed opinion as to whether it should continue to be used, with one IT director asking, “is it a plague?”
Simply put, there is no set platform which stands out amongst the others and each platform is reviewed on a firm by firm basis.
What does this mean for the future?
For the time being it appears that Lawyers do not want to return, “80% now say they want to work home” but could this simply be related to trying to minimise their risk of catching COVID-19. But it could simply be that remote working is popular and that no-one wants to be the odd one out. However, what happens when courts go back to normal? Will Lawyers want to return then?
Another point of discussion was how firms were going to change their office environment as a result of homeworking for an extended time, most of the attendees agreed that there would be a significant reduction in printers as the lack of printing during lockdown proved there was no need for such a large amount within offices.
The other item which is being removed is physical phone handsets, whilst they will be keeping the telephone numbers, they will no longer be using desk phones but instead opting for soft clients on laptops.
At the end of the discussion, there was a consensus that Lawyers and the firms, in general, have adapted easily to the change of working location because of the investment that has been put in over the years.
One CIO stated:
It’s time to accept this and fundamentally change the ways in which law firms approach IT and the way it’s used to benefit staff and clients.
Whilst this situation has not been easy, it is incredible how quickly firms have been able to move when people are receptive to doing so and as a final thought how can this new way of working be locked in?
Firms have achieved more in a few weeks than they have in the last 10 years with a move to the cloud and mobile-first working. The suggestions are that by helping staff work better outside of the office can make them more efficient, as demonstrated by some lawyers billing more hours than before.
The potential cost savings of less office space, less travel, less printing, less hardware will also be hard to ignore for firms and this is without considering work/life balance and environmental benefits.
Look out for Part II, where our group of legal leaders discuss what an exit to lockdown might look like and what the new normal might be.