Gearing Up for 2021: What to Expect in the New Normal

Twenty-twenty caught everyone by surprise, drastically upending routines and expectations. While there are things we can’t wait to return to – travel, concerts, in-person networking events – some of the changes are here to stay. We’re moving into 2021 still in pandemic mode, but even after social distancing is no longer required, certain components of law firm operations seem unlikely to return to what they were.

Get ready for a new year and the new normal.

Working from Home Is Here to Stay

While we’ll return to the office in some capacity, most businesses – including law firms – seem poised to move forward with a combination of office and remote working.

Why? One reason is simply cost. Pandemic living has shifted expectations, creating or exposing new budget inefficiencies. In the past, it made sense for firms to impress clients with beautifully-decorated downtown offices, but those cost a lot of money. And while those spaces are still impressive and lovely to work from, clients no longer bring the same level of expectation – in fact, some clients may prefer to work with a firm from the comfort of their own home.

And while everyone with young children knows just how challenging working from home can be, under circumstances where schools are open, many employees will likely prefer the flexibility of working from home a couple of days a week.

Technology Is More Essential Than Ever

In order to work from home successfully, firms need to have their tech dialed. Last spring, remote-friendly, cloud-based technology gave a huge boost to some law firms by allowing their employees to work from anywhere. And that boost hasn’t gone away – especially now that clients have come to count on firms having the technology to coordinate remotely.

Today, having the right tech is not so different from having the right downtown office. Clients may not see the nuts and bolts, but they absolutely notice if you have a secure, cloud-based portal for sharing documents and messages or if they can pay their retainer fees online.

And just like those prime skyline views, everyone who works in the firm feels the difference tech makes, too.

Support Systems Make A Difference

Hand-in-hand with technology are support systems and how they affect workflows and task completion. In a physical office setting, firms could overlook certain redundancies – like entering information from a piece of paper into two separate software systems. It was just part of a day at the office.

But the shift to working from home has made us reexamine every task – and realize how much time is lost in doing things twice. 

For instance, streamlining processes by sending out bulk invoices or setting up automated reminders for retainer renewal can save a noticeable amount of time. That’s felt when you have more energy for productivity elsewhere.

Online Presence Continues to Matter

More than ever before, the pandemic has forced people to rely on the internet to find services – and to use websites and media in the vetting process. Perhaps because law is a profession steeped in tradition, law firms have been slower to embrace new technologies than other businesses. And that worked.

But we’ve seen a decisive societal push toward increased internet use that doesn’t show any signs of reversal. Instead of meeting lawyers in person at their beautiful offices, clients are looking them up online – where first impressions are made based on landing pages and lawyer bios.

What’s more, even finding a firm’s website may be affected by whether or not the firm has media or blogs that promote search engine optimization and boost it to the top of the search list.

Preparing for the Unpredictable

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how unpredictable life can be. While we can’t anticipate the next sweeping, worldwide change, we do know that flexibility was heavily rewarded this year.

And the year’s end is a great time to examine processes and make changes for a more profitable and productive year ahead. Take some time to consider your use of office space and how you’d like to balance office-based and remote working moving forward. Update your website – and make sure you have the right tech to appeal to clients and properly support your law firm!

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