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Remote Working and British Legislation

by Fatima Freifer

case management software, practice management software, legal accounting software, legaltech, technology for lawyers, case management, immigration, london, united kingdom

How does working remotely affect procedures in place?

The promise of higher profits through automation of routine tasks and the resulting efficiency gains has been the primary driving force behind the adoption of legaltech by law firms. The traditionally conservative legal sector has been a late adopter of technology, but this is changing.

However, there have been other significant factors, most notably the pressure to provide remote working options for newer entrants to the profession, which became a de facto requirement following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clients have also come to expect a certain level of ‘tech savvy’ from their lawyers. Because of increased competition for certain routine legal services, firms must automate certain processes. [1] Many of the benefits realized as a result of law firms embracing legal technology have been passed on to their clients in the form of lower fees, greater flexibility and increased transparency. Case management systems with a degree of client access, for example, can reduce inputting time and errors by allowing clients to interact with the firm 24 hours a day, seven days a week and track the progress of their case.

Legal Tech: Golden Timing

Legal technology advancements present an opportunity for many established firms seeking to increase efficiency and adapt to an increasingly popular agile working culture. However, technology allows boutique firms and sole practitioners to compete with the larger players by providing access to powerful research tools that help to level the playing field.

Because of the rise of a 24/7 consumer culture and the emergence of the new generation who have become accustomed to rapid technology, businesses must change many of their traditional working practices in order to survive and thrive.

Until relatively recently, many law firms were resistant to using email. Lawyers are now reaping the benefits of their investments in automation tools that have reduced administrative costs, cloud solutions that have enabled agile working and AI research tools that have introduced efficiencies and competitive advantages.

Being available to meet clients in a single office location during traditional working hours is no longer sufficient; clients now expect a more flexible approach, including the ability to contact their lawyers outside of regular office hours via various means of electronic communication, as well as access to a case management tool where they can view progress.

Similarly, lawyers are demanding flexible work environments where results are valued over office attendance, and new entrants to the profession are more willing to jump ship to more forward-thinking firms.

The growing emphasis on flexibility from both clients and lawyers may have the unintended consequence of blurring the line between work and home – whether increased flexibility improves or hinders work-life balance is debatable.

Legal tech presents a huge opportunity for technology companies looking to break into the legal market, whether by developing products for law firms or selling services directly to consumers. It also arguably provides better access to legal services for a large segment of the public who would otherwise be priced out, with DIY legal options more abundant than ever.

Development of Legal Tech in the Workplace

Working remotely may have appeared to be a perk in the past—an unconventional lifestyle choice that could work in certain fields but is too difficult for the demands of the legal profession.

However, when one examines how to work remotely as a legal professional—how many lawyers are already doing so, and what is truly possible in today’s technology-supported legal sphere—remote legal work is becoming increasingly viable and perhaps even ideal.

In fact, in light of rapidly changing situations like COVID-19, legal professionals may be viewing remote work not as a once-in-a-while perk, but as a viable option with the potential to protect their families, clients and communities.

Despite the fact that incumbent IT companies have a sizable market share in the legal technology sector, many truly innovative products and services are being developed by startups.

Traditional investment channels have provided funding, and some larger law firms have established law tech incubators where startups can develop their products in a collaborative environment with other technology companies, lawyers and clients.

As David Turney demonstrates with Avery Law, a fully virtual law firm, it is entirely possible to complete some or all of your legal work remotely—while also providing an excellent client experience while not in the office. “Most law firms are still traditional law firms,” says David Turney, one of two managing partners at Avery Law. “We’re a boutique law firm that has the ability to operate almost virtually.” [2]

By working virtually, the firm avoids many of the typical costs of maintaining a traditional legal workplace (such as maintaining a physical office space), while improving efficiency and allowing employees to work to their strengths from wherever they wish.

With modern technology, legal professionals can handle legal work online, including drafting and reviewing legal documents, having them electronically signed (in most cases), and keeping clients up to date, all while keeping client and firm data secure and confidential.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued client confidentiality guidance for solicitors working remotely and has stated that all processes established for working with clients in this manner should be documented. This means that the compliance officer for legal practice (COLP), who is already tasked with implementing firm-wide practices and processes mandated by the new Firms Code of Conduct, will be taking a closer look at compliance, making it all that more essential to choose an SRA compliant system when selecting a software for remote working. [3]

Remote working expands the geographical reach of hiring. Instead of being limited to talent within a 20-mile radius of their office, law firms will be able to access talent from all over the world. As a result, they will get the right lawyer for their firm rather than the most geographically convenient.

Similarly, law firms that provide workplace flexibility are more likely to retain their employees. Employees are more likely to be loyal to a company when they feel valued. As a result, as they advance up the legal career ladder, the firm benefits from their experience and investment in training.

Conclusion

Law firms, which have traditionally been hesitant to embrace remote working, have been forced to embrace home working wholeheartedly as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Today’s legal technology, with its pandemic-induced growth, has eliminated most  reasons why law firms can’t continue to offer their employees the option of working remotely in the future.

case management software, practice management software, legal accounting software, legaltech, technology for lawyers, case management, immigration, london, united kingdom

References

[1] Legaltech in 2021: an evolving landscape, Alex Heshmaty, June 2021,

https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/en/topics/blogs/legaltech-in-2021-an-evolving-landscape

[2] Guide to Remote Work for Legal Professionals, Teresa Matich, Sharon Miki, March 2021,

https://www.clio.com/uk/blog/legal-professional-work-remotely/?amp 

[3] Not going back: remote working and the new normal, David Seager, Nov 2020,

https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/en/topics/small-firms/sifa-remote-working