The COVID-19 pandemic has affected law firms in two key ways. First, they have faced a flurry of legal work arising directly from the pandemic or from fiscal measures to stimulate the economy (e.g., property tax “holidays”), on top of surges of activity that built up during lockdown. Property, employment, family, private client, commercial and corporate law are all experiencing some increase in activity—with personal injury litigation as the outlier, having experienced a reduction of activity while people are moving less and therefore having fewer accidents.
Second, law firms have needed to adapt to the “new normal” that has been imposed on almost all industries globally. Many countries initially required—then later advised—that employees work from home wherever possible. Although most governments have relaxed their requirements for home working, there are still significant obstacles to the return to normal office operations. Offices need to be COVID-19 safe, social distancing requirements reduce capacity, offices need to be deep cleaned frequently, measures such as one-way systems need to be implemented, and buildings requiring elevator access remain functionally closed. Finally, employees themselves may be reluctant to return to the office, especially in urban centers that would require the use of public transportation and interactions with large numbers of people. The move to working from home seems to be here for some time to come, regardless of government policy.
This shift to working from home and the increase in volume has brought into focus a lack of digitization in the legal world. Healthy margins may have previously offset any urgency to advance from outdated, paper-based processes, but the disruption caused by COVID-19 is now accelerating these plans. Increased digitization would not only pave the way for employees to work from home more effectively—it could achieve so much more. Straight through processing, cloud technology and automation can all bring about radical change to law firms.
SS&C recently published a paper that examines just how far law firms could go in bringing their operations up to speed. Download our “Making the Case: Digital Strategies for Law Firms” whitepaper to learn more.