Like companies all over the country, going remote isn’t something we expected to do. But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the direction in which our firm was forced.
So, we went virtual, only to find little changed about working across eight states and multiple practice areas. Our partners, associates and administrative staff took over their dining room tables and juggled office tasks with childcare, finding that some of their day-to-day tasks were more easily completed. We felt a lot more flexible and portable as legal professionals and were surprisingly productive.
To put our situation in context, a poll that followed a recent Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) webinar saw participating firms conclude near unanimously that changes to working practices are permanent, including the shift toward remote work. Attorneys and their firms aren’t necessarily rushing back to physical offices at the first opportunity, with 74% now more willing to change their working habits – from the introduction of new technologies to changed collaboration techniques – since the onset of the pandemic and its continued disruptions.
What works for everyone is different, but there is now plenty of precedent and support within the industry at large about what our firm and others are doing. Our transition has been a success. We’re still proceeding with depositions, mediation and dispute resolution. We continue to keep cases moving through the courts, resolve issues when they arise, and win for our clients. Here’s how.
Client meetings and depositions proved themselves more than amenable to video conferencing. Deposition sessions involve other attorneys who are now used to remote work. But, significantly, both satisfaction surveys and attorney check-ins have found that clients highly value the ease and accessibility of video calls. We quickly eliminated the need for videographers in most deposition sessions, and everyone appreciates how electronic documents can be safely and securely exchanged in lieu of paper copies. Repetitive back-and-forth travel is, for now, a thing of the past.
Furthermore, a few of our practice areas were particularly primed for the shift to virtual due to preexisting technology solutions. The insurance industry’s trend toward virtual claims handling, which was already changing how evidence was gathered and investigations being made in car and truck accidents, is one example. Medical malpractice evidence, collected in much the same way, is another.
Cases brought to trial continued to move forward – though there was a bit of an acclimation period. Everyone from probate to the Supreme Court shifted to virtual courtrooms. As an August article in U.S. Courts observed about the federal judiciary, it “has spanned the horseback era to the internet age” with in-person appearances. For lawyers practicing at both the highest and lowest levels, it was an adjustment for sure.
The virtual courtroom was less charged and adversarial, lacking a certain level of adrenaline we often thought our best performances depended on. We were kept focused, though, by the identical trial structure and court sessions that were more orderly, deliberative and clear.
There has been no negative impact to our success rate for our clients. Yet as in-person court gradually resumes to become an area in which we no longer work remotely, at least not entirely, our attorneys have taken countless positives away from their virtual court experiences they will eagerly apply in every courtroom setting moving forward.
Tying it all together, we’ve remained a well-oiled operation thanks to productivity and unity tools that proved fairly straightforward. From the get-go, we made team members’ schedules and availability clear to everyone, and we’ve remained transparent around caseloads and deadlines.
We knew we could not fully replace the in-person connections everyone had grown used to, like casual case briefings in the break room or dropping into each other’s offices to chat. With that in mind, a “virtual open door” policy created open and flexible lines of communication while still being respectful of everyone’s needs and preferences.
We have learned a great deal about ourselves, our clients and our industry from remote work, all of which we’re grateful for. And as always, we’re here when you need us – an email, phone call or Zoom session away.