How Covid-19 is Shifting the Legal Culture

Over the past three decades, the technology boom redefined the way we practice law. Every so often during that time, an event came along making a major impact on the “big three” … People, Process and Technology. COVID-19 is likely to affect the practice of law for years to come.

The first major affect will be on the number of virtual employees working full-time from home after the pandemic passes. Pre COVID-19, only 3-5% worked full-time from home. Experts predict this number will increase to 15-25% post COVID-19. This will change everything from the way we meet with clients and colleagues, to how we appear in court, and how clients sign their documents.

The second major impact is what I call “the kick in the butt” effect (putting it nicely) on many operational areas. These are things only a handful of attorneys were doing before now. I recall a meme I saw a few weeks ago:

FeatureGraphicWhen adopting changes in processes and technology, law firms are reactive instead of proactive. We don’t adopt change until we have to. Being reactive instead of proactive is costly.

These are the processes and solutions now being rapidly deployed that will have a lasting affect on the practice of law:

Centralization of Data and Security

Documents and files are being decentralized and scattered even more than they were before COVID-19 because attorneys and staff are copying and saving documents all over the place as they work remotely. To address this, law firms and legal organizations are investing in cloud solutions (namely cloud-based document management systems) like NetDocuments, Worldox Cloud, etc. and white-glove hosted infrastructure solutions like ProCirrus.

Getting lawyers and staff to put all information in one centralized place where it can be properly secured is like herding cats. Working virtually is forcing us to use gold-standard cloud-based technology to bring everyone into compliance with the best security practices.

Paperless

Similar to centralization, we can’t maintain paper files when we have virtual employees. Paper exists in only one place. We need our files to exist everywhere we work. This forces us to maintain digital case/matter files. The foundational solution to organize our digital paper has always been document management systems (DMS) like NetDocuments, Worldox Cloud, or iManage.

Digital Signatures

We cannot safely ask our clients to sign paper documents during this pandemic. We also can’t securely sign documents by applying a scanned image of our signature. Services like DocuSign, RightSignature and CudaSign, which uses encrypted signatures, solve this problem. Over the past 60-days, companies like DocuSign report that implementations of their solutions increased exponentially. 

Automating our Document Generation

Automating and organizing your organization’s document templates in a central location, reachable by all wherever you are, is something firms wanted to do since legal tech started to boom in the late 80’s. The pandemic has again kicked us in the butt to get this back-burner project to the front-burner.

Online Meeting Platforms

Online meeting platforms like GoToMeeting have been around for 20 years. However, despite the having the ability to participate in a meeting from your desk, according to the 2019 ILTA Survey, about 1/3 of firms under 50 users don’t even have an online platform. Even if the organization has the technology, less than 15% of respondents say they actually used it as their primary method of meeting in 2019. Now that we must use this technology, adoption has skyrocketed, and most love it. It is saving gas, electricity, travel costs, our environment, and is proving to be a preferred method of meeting.

Conclusion

Legal technologists, I.T., and cybersecurity professionals have been trying for decades to get attorneys to adopt these processes and technologies. Thank goodness that at least some of these solutions were partially in place before the pandemic. Whatever the case and whatever the reason, these newly adopted processes and solutions are becoming the new normal and will having a lasting, and hopefully positive and secure, impact on the legal profession.

If you need help adjusting and fine-tuning your law firm's technology and processes to get through this crisis and be ready for the new normal, contact us or call (877) 676-5492. 

 

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Paul Unger

Written by Paul Unger

Paul is an Affinity Partner and law practice consultant with a passion for teaching attorneys how to use technology and how to automate their practice. He teaches and coaches lawyers how to be more efficient with time, task, document & email management, and just as important, distraction management by offering customized time management workshops for lawyers and their staff throughout North America. He helped modernize the use of courtroom technology and is an expert in paperless office strategies and document management. He is also an author of numerous books, manuals, and articles. Paul is a national speaker and frequent lecturer for CLE programs.

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