Solo/Small Firm October 2021
The Future of Work
Trends that have changed the way we practice law
Written by Ruby L. Powers
The pandemic has shifted law practice management. A combination of automation, skill upgrading, employment and schedule flexibility, and labor and work-space arrangement changes are where we must focus to stay relevant and profitable Several trends have changed the way we practice law and will do business indefinitely.
To reduce the friction of onboarding new business and decrease labor costs, firms will increasingly rely on artificial intelligence-powered technologies. Automate time-consuming tasks and stay competitive in the AI world by: (1) using chatbots that help screen clients and obtain contact information and allow you to respond after business hours, (2) using AI-enhanced legal research tools, (3) simplifying document/contract reviews with machine learning, (4) increasing the use of virtual legal assistants and/or receptionist services, and (5) generating content or reducing human note transcribing through transcription software such as Otter.ai.
The pandemic accelerated the demands for a more skilled workforce. Consider retraining staff for law firm software usage, as well as general tech-focused and time-management skills. There are free online digital skills training on learning networks like Coursera or Udacity. If you haven’t by now, expand your firm’s ability to operate in a fully digital environment.
Employment and Schedule Flexibility
Flexibility has become an important driver for workplace well-being. When considering flexible schedules, factor in school schedules for students and parents and child care availability for parents and caregivers. A flexible option that includes daily reporting and weekly check-ins can lead to an increase in productivity and employee wellness.1 After a year and a half of video conference calls, consider other alternatives to meetings including project-management tools like Trello, Monday, Basecamp, or your own case management software.
Labor and Work-Space Arrangements: Remote, In-person, or
Beginning in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted labor markets globally and forced the legal industry to explore a different work-space arrangement. Firms are deciding whether to resume fully in person, find a hybrid model, or stay fully remote. Often office space and labor costs are the two largest expenses for a firm.2 Mastering the remote or hybrid firm model reaps savings from costly office space. If your staff can work remotely, why couldn’t you hire full-time or contract staff located anywhere? Many firms are questioning their staffing needs and arrangements. Expect more outsourcing and remote employment moving forward due to labor cost savings as well as more flexible arrangements to attract and retain essential staff.
Occupational Health and Safety
Protect your staff by updating your firm’s policies to include new COVID-19 federal and state safety regulations. Use incentives for employee vaccination. Know your rights as an employer about vaccine mandates. Make sure to actively communicate your company policies on a regular basis and be clear about your focus on health and safety for your staff and clients.
There is no going back to “normal,” but if we continue to adapt and learn, we come out on the other side with the ability to operate in a fully digital environment, the opportunity to reinvent ourselves through innovation, and the ability to strengthen adaptability and resilience for the post-COVID-19 world and beyond. TBJ
RUBY L. POWERS is the founder and managing attorney of Powers Law Group. Located in Houston, the firm focuses solely on immigration law. She is certified in immigration and nationality law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law, Powers is an alumna of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Leadership Houston, and American Leadership Forum. She authored AILA’s book Build and Manage Your Successful Immigration Law Practice (Without Losing Your Mind). Powers is a law practice management consultant and coach with Powers Strategy Group (rubypowers.com). She served as the AILA LPM Committee and HBA LPMS chair and currently serves on the American Bar Association Future Initiatives, Book Publishing, and Women Rainmakers committees.