The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global workspace across all industries, including the aviation and composite engineering ones.
For some, adapting to the new remote work model may not have been that challenging. However, many law firms across the world struggled with restrategising their corporate footprints and tiptoeing into the virtual world.
Despite the seeming difficulty of this new reality, the legal market seemed to adapt quickly, with virtual court proceedings becoming a regular occurrence. By early April of 2020, about 40% of law firms had adopted a hybrid work model, and this number has steadily increased over the past months.
In this article, we discuss the gradual rise of the hybrid work model and its implications on the legal industry.
So let’s get started.
The hybrid model: what is it?
Like the term implies, the hybrid work model combines two different approaches: remote and physical work. It involves the structure of working from a brick-and-mortar office and the flexibility of working from the comfort of one’s home.
Usually, this work model designates specific days of the week for in-office work and other days for remote working. However, the exact schedule completely depends on the law firm in question.
While some firms may assign more days to in-office work, other companies may adopt a primarily virtual model. This new hybrid work trend is quite beneficial to the legal industry as it allows law firms to rake in gains in terms of productivity and reduced expenses.
How the hybrid model works within the legal industry
Despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, law firms have had to put new structures in place to conform to the need for a hybrid work model. One of such structures is the new trend of virtual court proceedings combined with physical meetings between lawyers, the lawyers assistant, and other relevant parties in a given case.
Hayley Boxall, a partner at a leading law firm in the UK, recently revealed how an important arbitration was held in September 2020 on a hybrid basis. According to her, different legal teams participated virtually from their respective offices while other parties in France presented their evidence in person.
Today, we can witness an acceleration in the use of digital technologies for important legal proceedings. Lawyer-client meetings are often held in-person, while witnesses and legal teams provide evidence and examinations via video conference calls using tools like Zoom or Skype.
Apart from court hearings, many law firms utilise this model in their day-to-day activities. While some briefings and partner meetings may be held virtually, certain legal activities are reserved for the office space. For instance, most lawyers may prefer to meet their clients physically rather than virtually to ensure that there is no miscommunication or misunderstanding.
The positive impact of hybrid working on law firms
The recent hybrid workplace trend has a few advantages that law firms across the globe can tap into. Some of these include:
According to a study released by Microsoft, about 82% of leaders in Europe revealed that their companies experienced increased employee productivity. In a hybrid work environment, legal workers can utilise their time better, thereby increasing efficiency.
“…increased employee productivity.”
Not only does it offer them the organised structure of a traditional workspace, but it also gives them the flexibility that comes with working in a virtual law firm. This way, they can fully focus on tasks and churn out better output.
A hybrid office helps law firms to significantly lower the cost of running day-to-day activities. An effective hybrid office eliminates the need for several rows of assigned desks and work tables. Rather, versatile spaces such as soundproof booths for virtual meetings and subsidised office supplies can be provided.
Similarly, since employees won’t have to come into the office every day, firms will spend less on workplace utilities such as Wi-Fi and electricity.
The future of hybrid working in the legal industry
What began as a measure to stave off the effects of the pandemic is fast becoming a permanent fixture. Post-COVID, the trend of hybrid working will most likely continue to prevail in the legal industry. According to McKinsey Research, the percentage of time worked in physical offices is likely to decline by 12%.
Some real estate professionals also predict a 15-25% reduction in brick-and-mortar spaces occupied by law firms. As the hybrid model becomes increasingly popular, more firms will incorporate unconventional aesthetics in the workplace to fully embrace hybrid working and promote more opportunities for connections and comfort.
The hybrid model has become prevalent in the legal industry over the past few months, and from all indications, this trend isn’t likely to go away soon.
As such, law firms should incorporate relevant strategies to ensure that they have a well-executed hybrid work policy. With the right technologies and tools in place, firms in the legal industry can easily adapt to this trend to provide the best legal services for their clients.
Author Amanda Dudley is a writer and lecturer with a Ph.D. in History from Stanford University. Currently, she works at EssayUSA, a reputable college essay writing service that specialises in writing academic papers and projects for students.
Search all legal jobs
Stephan Werthauer is a Senior Consultant/Trainee Solicitor at D2 Legal Technology, a global legal data consulting firm. We recently caught up with Stephan to find out insights on working within the legal technology industry, what he does on an average day, and his...
Our partners, The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs cover the rise of electric signatures and whether they will become the norm: Some changes have been made as to how important conveyancing documents are lawfully signed. These changes were made early in the novel...
Our partners, The Student Lawyer covers the benefits, challenges and relationships law firms have with consumers and legal technology, by author Elizabeth Adeogun. ‘Legal technology’ essentially means the use of technology and software to aid, supplement or replace...