COVID-19 has taught the legal profession that it can never be complacent and must always be adaptable. LOD is prepared to thrive in this “new normal”, its Australian MD says.
Lawyers and legal services providers shouldn’t have to wait for a pandemic to “gather the will to review how [they] work”.
That is the position of LOD Australian managing director Paul Cowling, who – as a business leader – has had to navigate the unique challenge of managing a remote workforce of legal professionals who typically sit on-site with clients during the global coronavirus pandemic.
Thankfully, Mr Cowling told Lawyers Weekly, LOD was able to manage this remote workforce in much the same way as it had pre-pandemic.
“We’re in a very fortunate position having operated a highly successful distributed workforce model for over a decade. We had the infrastructure, the processes and, perhaps most importantly, an organisational culture centred on flexible working. The challenges mostly came from managing the uncertainty with clients and helping them navigate remote working,” he outlined.
“However, we were able to guide clients through that process using various tools from our ‘Remote On-Boarding Guide’ through to one-on-one consulting and support. The complexity is deepened with some of our global clients who will experience different timelines and restrictions during their respective lockdowns when compared to some of our local clients.”
The key to overcoming these challenges, Mr Cowling explained, was to listen, consult and be prepared to “allow an even greater level of flexibility” in arrangements with both clients and lawyers.
“We have been extremely impressed with how our HQ team, lawyers, consultants and clients have responded to these challenging times – it is really about working together to adapt and to develop sensible and constructive solutions,” he said.
For all legal services providers, Mr Cowling submitted, the pandemic has offered an unmissable opportunity to “really lean on” one’s strengths, practically and culturally.
“The factors which differentiate us[ day in, day out[ from other organisations, such as BigLaw, have been invaluable during this time. We have further strengthened our already robust IT environment to handle the complexity of a fully remote workforce,” he said.
“We have by no means abandoned the office environment but have ensured that we have the ability to continue operating fully remote if required. At a broader level, our nimbleness as an organisation has meant we have moved quicker to respond to the new world.
“Within days of major government changes, we had specific pandemic teams helping our lawyers and clients and we’ve been delighted at how well our people have adjusted. Part of that is embedded in our values – favouring agility and different thinking over the status quo or more traditional practices.”
Moving forward, many of LOD’s clients will have leaner legal teams, Mr Cowling mused, that are being asked to do more with less. Depending on the nature of the economic recovery post-pandemic, he suggested, “that may continue for some time”.
“LOD will be ready to help our clients recover at the right pace, while keeping firmer control on their level of fixed cost, adding expertise and support when needed, be that for example as a remote extension of in-house teams or managing specific project requirement,” he advised.
“We’ve seen that flexibility has really flourished as a result of the pandemic – and this is something we will continue to encourage with both our lawyers and clients. We would welcome the legal industry to embrace practices we have known to work for a number of years – more flexible ways of working and smarter ways of doing it.”
Ultimately, what COVID-19 has taught the legal profession is that one shouldn’t have to wait – indeed, one cannot wait – for a once-in-a-generation event such as a global pandemic to have incentive to evaluate operations.
“High-performing legal teams should be constantly improving and looking to learn. As a business, LOD has prided itself [on] thinking differently to build better work practices. If you’re continuously challenging what’s possible, you’re more prepared when surprises strike and the world changes overnight,” Mr Cowling concluded.
“So, perhaps the lesson is to never get too comfortable with the status quo!”