Now that we’ve all been in quarantine for what feels like at least 100 years, all law firms have been able to explore what a remote office could look like. Suddenly, we’re seeing lots of Zoom experts and conversations about the role of tech in law. Our firm has been fully virtual and paperless for several years, and it’s been great to see the uptake of comfort with video calls and digital solutions.
The question remains whether tech and digital solutions will actually transform the legal industry enough to catch up with everyone else. Video conference, digital portals, paperless offices and defaulting to the client’s preference is how most of the business world works. HR departments are full of very busy, very tech-savvy people. So much of HR is already digital, from recruitment to benefits portals to payroll to performance reviews.
Enter the lawyers, who require the client to come to them, often with paper in tow. Which scenario do you think clients prefer:
a) Gathering all documents, possibly printing from their email to bring with them, climbing into a car to find underground parking in downtown Toronto and/or hopping on the subway to figure out the entrance to the office from the PATH and/or driving into town with all their documents, stress and emotions in tow; or
b) A video call on their laptop/phone in a comfortable, convenient location with all their stuff nearby.
Yes, a small number of outliers continue to prefer the in-person experience, but this is rarely the HR/management profile. For so much of the time, a video or phone call is so much more convenient, time-effective for the client and yes, just as good as an in-person meeting, particularly if you have collaboration software in place and can look at the same document while on the call. It’s often at least as good as sitting side by side in front of the same laptop, and certainly better than sitting across from each other in a boardroom talking about what the other person is looking at on their own screen or paper.
This heretical position seems less heretical now that we’ve all had to get comfortable with video calls. No form of communication is perfect, but for most of the time, the benefits of video and phone far outweigh the cons. This goes for both employee and employer clients.
We never see clients in person and have built a business model around that, to ensure our workflow and infrastructure can support that kind of client service and to keep costs contained. This requires a paperless system, ruthless adherence to a collaborative internal system for information flow, and yes, lots of tech to build this out. But at the end of the day, HR departments just want quick, relevant and personalized service for their people problems. And it’s where so much of the world is already.
COVID-19 has had such a harsh impact on so many businesses, but one silver lining for the HR industry is that, hopefully, the legal industry has started to wake up to the array of options and possibilities for client service, communication tools and really putting the client first.
Will the humble video call be here to stay post-quarantine? Let’s hope so.