What a year it was: 2020 brought us a monumental election season and a global pandemic that put the entire world on pause. Just a month past the one year mark of the initial bang felt from the COVID-19 global pandemic, law firms are still faced with some of the same challenges as last year along with a slew of new ones. COVID-19 completely changed the world, millions of people lost their jobs, economies tanked and our industry was forced to face a long overdue reality check. Never one for change, much less a so-abrupt-forced change, the legal industry came face to face with many challenges such as managing remote workers, technology and communication infrastructure issues, employee engagement, mental health and wellbeing, and recruiting and retention, among many others. While a year can sometimes seem like a lifetime ago, it is important that we do not forget what happened when the world came to an immediate halt and shutdown orders around the country forced law firms to close their doors (and unfortunately, some of those doors closed permanently). As a followup to the article “Then & Now: Law Firm Management Challenges Pre and Post Quarantine,” here are a few more areas law firms need to keep at the forefront so we can at least attempt to not allow history to repeat itself the next time a global pandemic is at our front door.
- Acceptance of the Remote Workforce.
Although some industries have made the decision to continue to offer remote work in a post-COVID workforce, the legal industry has been eager to return to in-person operations. We would have hoped that many in law firm management would have realized that “face time” is not always required to run successfully, but many firms have been chomping at the bit to get back to “the way things used to be.” For an industry that already struggled with retention of younger generations of workers who always had a preference to find that elusive work/life balance, the legal industry must accept that workers of today and tomorrow are now more than ever ready to jump ship and go work for a competitor that offers the benefit of remote working. Pre-pandemic studies have shown the plethora of benefits both employers and employees receive when there is the ability to work remotely. While pretty much everyone has experienced “Zoom fatigue” over the last 13 months, a majority of workers do prefer to continue to work remotely in 2021 and beyond. Additionally, recent surveys have revealed that a good portion of employees are still downtrodden with fear from the coronavirus and may simply refuse to return to work in the office if forced to do so especially if the employee uses public transportation to commute to the office. While some firms may use that as an excuse for mass layoffs they should be wary of doing so as they may find it hard to hire new employees if they do not offer remote-working capabilities. Lastly, a remote workforce is likely to help improve your bottom line as it can equate to a reduced real estate footprint saving the firm hundreds of thousands of dollars that could go toward employee benefits and bonuses or even revamping the firm infrastructure.