Agility is the key to success

The past year has made it abundantly clear that flexibility is one of the surest ways to garner and ensure success for your legal practice. Flexibility across the board can only be achieved, however, through utilisation of the right technological platforms. 

The age of coronavirus has provided many lessons for lawyers, both personal and professional. The most cited in industry conversations are the proven capacity to work from anywhere, the vocational resilience of practitioners to evolve, and the unwavering need of broader society for the provision of legal services.

Another critical learning – and one that emerged through communal bitter experience, Fiona McGregor notes – is that “things can change in a heartbeat”.

“We can and have adapted and that creates in our clients and consumers that we can and will be accessible whatever happens. Our experience is that life, and legal problems and needs still happen,” says Ms McGregor, who operates a family law practice under her own name in Ringwood, Victoria. 

“We need to be ready for the expectation we’ve created that we can deal with anything because we’ve shown we can. And those who are not tech ready will be left behind.”

The mainstreaming of flexibility

Amidst the lessons of the past 12 months are realisations for lawyers, including that remote working arrangements are not simply a flash in the pan to be explored in rare instances: it is here to stay. As such, law firms and their staff – or at least those not already on board – need software solutions that are agile and cloud-powered, says LEAP head of product Hilal Kabakoz.

“At LEAP, we’re continuing to build features designed for a flexible world that empowers lawyers to work digitally. Our mobile and iPad applications in particular have allowed many lawyers to embrace flexible work arrangements more than ever before,” she proclaims.

“Not only can our users easily work between home and the office, they can also update their matters or do things like record time spent on a call directly from their mobile device if they’re not in front of their computer. Integrating with FaceTime allows lawyers and clients to meet from anywhere in the world, eliminating travel and any related accessibility restrictions.”

“For lawyers, the billable duration of the call is automatically recorded back to the LEAP Mobile app, without the need to manually create time entries,” Ms Kabakoz surmises.

Further to this, LEAP Australia CEO Donna Broadley adds, our national legal marketplace is becoming more and more consumer-driven, with those buying lawyers’ services realising they have an abundance of choice when it comes to whose services to purchase.

This means, she explains, that “law firms that offer flexibility in the delivery of their services have a real competitive advantage over firms that don’t”.

Agility is the key to success
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Hilal Kabakoz

“law firms that offer flexibility in the delivery of their services have a real competitive advantage over firms that don’t”

— Hilal Kabakoz

“Whether that’s offering flexibility in payment options through services like RapidPay, or allowing clients to share documents and book appointments when it’s convenient to them through a firm’s Web Portal, all these conveniences add value,” she says.

“If firms want to remain competitive in a post-pandemic world, they’ll find that remaining flexible in the way they work with their clients becomes imperative to their ongoing success.”

Success stories

Taking work home, Benjamin Bryant recalls, “used to be seen as a no-no”. 2020, of course, upended this notion. Operating LEAP’s cloud software, he says, allowed him to install the provider’s platforms on his work laptop, home computer, mobile phone and iPad.

This ultimately means, he says, that he can “seamlessly transition between all of my devices with no effort at all, which is a big part of the modern work day”.

“Gone are the days where work is confined to the office,” he notes.

Such flexibility and agility is paramount for his firm’s work. As a partner of family law firm Bryant McKinnon in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, the majority of his and the firm’s matters are circuit hearings for the Federal Circuit court.

Recently, he listed, the FCC was sitting for a week in which Bryant McKinnon had three trials and approximately 30 directions hearings. “Needless to say, things were hectic and I was out of the office every single day,” he says.

“Having my iPad with me meant I could access all of my LEAP documents, using the note taking application Notably, I was able to make file notes on the run and save them directly to the matter, when the parties settled I was able to use the document scanner to scan the signed terms directly to the matter, and then circulate them to the parties and the court associate at once,” he says.

Benjamin Bryant

“Having my iPad with me meant I could access all of my LEAP documents, using the note taking application Notably, I was able to make file notes on the run and save them directly to the matter, when the parties settled I was able to use the document scanner to scan the signed terms directly to the matter, and then circulate them to the parties and the court associate at once”

— Benjamin Bryant

Another issue to grapple with, Mr Bryant identifies, is the “painfully slow” process one may have to endure while waiting to hear back from other parties to proceedings, or waiting for a matter to be re-mentioned, or for it to concluded.

Being at court during such times is hard, he says, but being away from the office while enduring the wait can be even more tiresome.

“The client’s whose matter is not at court on that day don’t care that you are out of the office and their needs also need to be met. Having LEAP on your laptop and mobile devices means you can at least attempt to stay on top of your workload,” he proclaims.

Ms McGregor’s experience was much the same, noting that LEAP, as well as the Apps, allowed her firm to continue operating as normal while the world changed around them.

Her firm’s workflow, she says, was “completely uninterrupted”, meaning there was no reduction in income.

“Our work flow was completely uninterrupted and that means that there was no reduction in income. That’s what makes the investment in cloud based technologies so worthwhile and absolutely critical. If you think it’s too expensive, ask yourself how you’d work for four months as we did, without it,” she insists.

Such an outcome was all the more important, she adds, because hers is “not a tech-savvy or tech-forward” practice: “We are, in very many ways, quite traditional in our approach. If we can do it, anyone can!”

Moving your firm forward

One of the essential ingredients for post-pandemic agility, Ms Kabakoz posits, will be having systems and protocols in place for the firm that allows it to “easily adapt or pivot” in the face of unusual or unexpected events.

“Law firms that were already using LEAP at this time were able to easily transition to working entirely remotely without the need to dramatically alter the way they work. The difference between these firms and firms that struggled to pivot their operations was the degree to which their technology was integrated into their firm and their existing processes,” she argues.

Firms that “truly embrace” their technology, she continues, and successfully integrate it into their workflows and day-to-day tasks at all given opportunities will have a unique advantage.

“It is these same firms that can easily adapt when changes occur – whether that’s in consumer or market demands, to professional regulations or global events like COVID-19,” she opines.

“Ultimately, technology that supports flexibility needs to be fully integrated into the firm as a priority, not as a second thought or something that is tacked on to additional processes.”

Mr Bryant agrees, noting that a firm’s use of technology can be deemed successful if all staff members exposed to it have the capacity to not only transition between devices for their respective workloads (and make physical transitions), but also work said workloads can seamlessly transition between those staff members.

“Gone are the days when lawyers are surrounded by piles of documents, stacked on their desk in the corner of their office with the door shut,” he advises.

“We have an open plan office with seven staff members all working within a 20m2 . The partner can hear all phone calls and client interactions in the office, the juniors can listen to and observe the senior staff members work…we don’t just have an open-door policy; we have no doors.”

Using the technology in such ways means that his team doesn’t just work in front of each other, it works with each other – and other firms must do the same, he says.

“The receptionist is able to use LEAP to see who ordinarily has carriage of the matter, the accounts clerk is able to see what monies owing and what stage the matter is up to,” he details.

“Work is able to be assigned between staff members using tasks, MS Team meetings are created for each other and best of all, if I am out of the office, anyone is able to pick up my file on LEAP and know exactly where the matter is up to, what the next step is or what we are waiting on.”

Having the ability to work from anywhere, together with the capacity to share loads between colleagues, is fundamental to the running of his firm, Mr Bryant deduces.

“You know the technology is working when you can pull it all off,” he reflects.

Agility is inextricably linked with success

Reflecting on the year that was, Ms Broadley muses that the ongoing success of law firms of all stripes ultimately came down to the systems and processes that they implemented and/or already had in pace at the onset of the pandemic.

“For the law firms that we are able to continue meeting with clients using LEAP’s integration with Zoom and Microsoft Teams, could easily share documents via LawConnect and importantly, continued to get paid by setting up instalment plans online through RapidPay, they were able to come out the other side having maintained their firm’s existing success and revenue streams,” she submits.

It is these systems, Ms Broadley espouses, that allowed so many firms to “remain agile and be able to pivot quickly” when the extraordinary events of 2020 demanded it.

Because of this, she says, “they experienced little to no down time in continuing to serve their clients to the same high standards they previously had”.

“This ability to pivot at short notice to changing circumstances and demands is what, in my experience, drives the long-term success of many law firms,” she concludes.

Donna Broadley

“This ability to pivot at short notice to changing circumstances and demands is what, in my experience, drives the long-term success of many law firms”

— Donna Broadley