Support Service Flexibility in Legal

Today, our business climate has been forced to make drastic changes and has required businesses to pivot to remote working environments, relying on facilities or office services to “hold down the fort” while others work from home.  Our take: it is imperative to have a highly effective support staff within an organization with the ability to cross-train and ensure process standardization allows a firm the ability to be flexible during turbulent times, while being assured that the fort is indeed being held down.

In multiple industries, organizations are provided a unique opportunity to look at their current operations and evaluate them for a new future state.  The cost of maintaining offices can be quite expensive.  With the effects of COVID-19, many organizations had to go into a survival mode in order to remain in business.  Identifying remote work opportunities, while at the same time providing solutions for live, in person service as well.  The conclusion is: it can be done.  You can do it effectively and save the organization money, while not sacrificing service to your clients.

When you look at what the office environment provides your organization and how it affects your clients, you can find a path that best fits your firm’s individual needs.  Typically, your clients do not see much more than the lobby with a receptionist, have access to a restroom, and a conference room to meet with their attorney.  Behind the “employee only” doors, you typically have offices for the attorneys and paralegals, office administrative staff, cubicles or offices for legal assistants, access to legal publications, and access to hard copy files.

The space behind the employee only doors can be significantly reduced by allowing attorney’s and paralegals to work from home.  This can be extended to legal assistants and the office administrative staff as well, however there will need to be additional oversight and monitoring of non-billable staff to ensure productivity.  When needed and scheduled, attorneys and paralegals can come into the office and meet with clients face to face.  Access to most legal publications can be found online, but rare occasions when the information is not available online, a small library can be maintained.  You may have a few workrooms (open offices) for individuals needing to work at the office for the day.  The footprint of the office itself can be reduced by as much as sixty to seventy-five percent.

The importance of having a trusted partner providing key services for a firm is imperative for continued operations in this manner.  With the onset of COVID and office closures, processing back-end documents, both hard copy and digital, are essential.  A facilities management partner can provide all of the necessary in office support needed, including reception coverage, copy and/or service center coverage, courier, mail and hospitality services.  Hard copy documents (including inbound mail) can be digitized and placed in a secure document management system that can be accessed by the attorneys and paralegals to work the case.  The facilities management partner may also provide Legal Assistants to support the attorney’s, providing ample coverage for all billable staff at a fixed rate, with no lapse in coverage for illness or absences.

Functionality is important and having a system in place to continually support the initiatives of the firm is paramount.  While these services continue to show reliance and credibility, it is also important to step back and look at areas for process improvement to identify what is a core business need vs. a wish list or “nice to have”.  Once the firm is able to identify the core needs to provide outstanding service to their clients, you can begin to build the framework of the new office operations model and also identify the best fit to perform each role or function (whether in-house or partner managed).  Each firm has their own preferences for how they operate, but each must also recognize the importance of taking that step back and assessing what the future state looks like for them and how they can take ideas from other industries to solidify a permanent hybrid approach to onsite operations vs. remote/work from home.

When something like COVID-19 takes place, it really shows the flexibility and support that your service provider is bringing to the table.  OMG’s goal is to help firms realize that a continual evaluation and productivity focus will open eyes regarding process improvement and functionality, as no firm is the same as the next.

Patrick Harrison
Onsite Management Group

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