Please enjoy this blog post authored by Tara Patterson, Marketing Technology Manager at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.
To say priorities have shifted greatly over the past year and a half is an understatement. Many of us have been tasked with developing and implementing tools and processes allowing for more remote collaboration. Requests have grown in complexity with even quicker turnaround times expected – mainly because we have learned through this pandemic that our workforce is adaptable. To accommodate this progression, we now have technological solutions in our (virtual) tool belts that are indispensable.
You literally cannot be efficient if you cannot communicate. If you recall from our 2020 KM Survey, there was an incredible uptick in collaboration tools. Obviously, no firm can function right now without a video conferencing tool and Zoom seems to be the system of choice (harkening back to our survey were 66% of respondents noted Zoom as their preferred software). In 2019, most firms had limited users/licenses with Zoom, WebEx, and other similar video conferencing. Now, most staff and lawyers have an individual accounts forgoing telephone conferencing solutions and landlines. How seamlessly we went from hurried calls on a dial-up phone and having to send emails to view the same materials to “hopping on a quick” video chat to share screens, collaborate on updates in real-time. Pre-pandemic, some firms were only starting to integrate VoIP solutions. Today, Zoom is such an integral part of our day-to-day it has entered our lexicon as a generic term to encompass any video call.
Also in popularity is Microsoft Teams. And no wonder. It slices, it dices, it minces. Well, not really, but it is the technological epitome of collaboration. It centralizes discussions (rescuing us from never-ending email chains), collates notes, documents, and project updates (to name a few) into an easily accessible channel with customizable alerts for each team member. Further enhancing connectivity, it has a chat feature (fully searchable) and is another source for video calling and full telephony (assumingly, one already integrated with all firm users of Microsoft products). It has taken project team productivity to a new level. Remote work is the norm, online collaboration is a necessity.
The need to automate is ever pressing. So, it is not shocking the increased usage of document automation tools. Document automation significantly improves organization and control over work. It drastically reduces paper use and the need for printing and reduces the time needed to fill, share and store documents – all tasks made more complex virtually. HotDocs, Contract Express and Formstack have become common software over the past year. Firms are developing teams focused on creating automated documents for both internal and external use. These roles barely existed pre-pandemic. Now, firms are struggling to find experienced staffers to handle the increase of document automation requests.
One reason we cannot live without these tools now is how it fits better into our new work-life balance. The tools mentioned are all mobile-friendly. Beyond where we physically work, the way we work has changed, too. Business and personal lives are intermixed. We are not just working from our home office on a laptop. We are tackling tasks on our digital devices while taking out kids to soccer, visiting a public park for fresh air and mental clarity or doing curbside pick-up on groceries since 1 pm was the only timeslot left for the day. The need to access firm resources from mobile devices is the new norm. Only a few short years ago, firms were trying to limit mobile access for security purposes. The need for continual and instantaneous connectively along with increases in mobile security now have firms prioritizing mobile solutions. Lawyers regularly ask if the technological solutions we provide can be accessed from their phones.
This is a small sampling of business efficiency tools firms are utilizing. The adoption of innovative technologies will continue to evolve. Go-to solutions today many become back-burner and no longer back pocket. What are some of the more unique technologies your firms have been using? Do you see the list of must-have tools changing as we move to hybrid environments? Let’s continue the discussion in our ILTA Community pages. It has been an interesting year, so sharing what we are using helps us all be even quicker to adapt and assist our law firms in the continuous drive for efficiency and improvement in productivity.