The effects of COVID-19 on law firms: workflow and technology
Written by Shamil Shamilov, founder of DNovo Group, a digital marketing agency with a focus on legal marketing
The coronavirus pandemic that swept across the world has led to three lockdowns in Ontario in the past year, forcing lawyers out of the courtroom and onto the video screen.
For a profession steeped in tradition and routine, the sudden pivot left some lawyers unprepared as social distancing necessitated that courts be closed for all but urgent matters. The new norm means firms must rely on phones, email, and video calls to keep files moving.
Those who waited for the storm to blow over fell further behind and learned that hoping for a return to normalcy was not an option, further exacerbating an already stress-charged situation. Indeed, mental health experts say even the strongest people buckle under the pressure.
“Our brains are like a mental gas tank. When you’re constantly having to dig deep and worry about all these extra concerns even on simple things, our energy is limited and when that gets depleted, people do experience that fatigue,” the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Phyllis O’Connor told CTV. “It’s worn extremely thin on people. We don’t know when all these precautions and all of this is going to end. We’re hoping it’s soon because of the vaccines but that uncertainty really weighs heavy on people in terms of their mental ability to be able to deal with it.”
Learning to adapt is an important step in finding success in the post-COVID world. While life may eventually return to normal it is doubtful some of the old ways of practising law will remain. Change necessitated by the shutdowns, such as video conferencing, have brought the profession into the 21st century. Many lawyers not only welcome that change, but see the advantages of technological innovation.
“This could be a great time for legal innovation and there are plenty of smart lawyers and tech people who are looking to enhance how we do things,” one lawyer points out.
Firms across the country that had been diligently seeking ways to embrace emerging technology for years were able to transition smoothly to a new working model when the shutdowns began.
Many have taken advantage of the wealth of software available to them, including Filevine, a cloud-based customizable file management software platform that features enhanced security measures. The program allows users to readily access “virtual” filing cabinets from any secure location, enabling staff to access all their cases and documents.
VineSign allows for remote electronic signatures while Tracument provides remote fax and securely send and mail capabilities.
Platforms such as Zoom and Webex provide teleconferencing that is convenient and cost-effective. Some lawyers say it can also help put a client at ease, allowing them to give statements in the comfort of their homes instead of in the formal setting of a law office.
There are still lawyers resistant to the move to videoconferencing, who say it is important to appear in person with their client. However, in a recent ruling, Ontario Superior Court Justice Frederick L. Myers dismissed that argument. “We no longer record evidence using quill and ink,” he wrote in his judgment. “We now have the technological ability to communicate remotely effectively. Using it is more efficient and far less costly than personal attendance. We should not be going back.”
Technology forced upon the profession by the coronavirus pandemic seems here to stay. Legal professionals who fail to keep up with the times do so at their peril.
Wentworth Strategy Group often partners with industry colleagues like DNovo Group to deliver holistic services for clients. To discuss evolving your business strategy in the face of change, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation.
To learn more about marketing innovation for law firms and embracing the use of technology in the legal field, reach out to Shamil Shamilov at email@example.com.