The legal field is undergoing a shock to the system because of COVID-19 and the quarantine orders that have come with it. This unprecedented situation has lawyers pivoting to conducting virtual meetings, hearings, and even court appearances. Federal and state courts have closed and sent employees home to work, creating delays and backlogs that will continue even after they return to office and trials resume. And for the first time in its 231-year history, the U.S. Supreme Court is broadcasting oral arguments and live-streaming them on the internet.
Moving to a work-from-home environment is clearly a disruption for organizations, but spans far beyond just working from home amid a pandemic. Macro trends in the industry, specifically fewer individual practitioners working independently, spell a new reality. The American Bar Association’s 2019 report, “A Profile of the Legal Profession,” showed that solo practitioners are becoming a dying breed. Nearly half of graduating attorneys in 2018 landed at law firms, and only 1% went to work on their own, compared to 40% who joined law firms and 2% who became solo practitioners in 2012. The coronavirus simply accelerated what we already knew needed to happen: legal teams need and deserve better technology to collaborate and the flexibility to conduct their legal work anywhere.
The Increased Importance of Legal Collaboration
While autonomy is still an essential part of the legal profession, it’s decreasing in importance as more attorneys work in team environments that offer a diversity of experience and expertise and rely on open communication. Heidi Gardner, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School and author of “Smart Collaboration,” found that the more disciplines involved in client engagement at professional services firms, the greater the client’s average annual revenue. Her research shows that as more practice groups at a global law firm collaborate to serve a client, the client’s average annual revenue increases over and above what each practice would have earned from selling discrete services.
Law is inherently collaborative and needs to be even more so in today’s technology-driven environment. Law firms, state attorneys general, and massive global multinational corporate legal teams all face increasing complexity and collaborative work during the pandemic. Litigation risk requires recruiting deeply skilled specialists who are at the top of their practice areas, such as trial lawyers, appellate lawyers, regulatory specialists, and international specialists.
Cloud-Based Tools Make Remote Collaboration Possible
Large, complex multi-party litigation involves a massive number of counsel due to the need for both local expertise and highly-trained specialists. We’ve noticed this firsthand on our ediscovery platform, where we’ve seen an instance of litigation with more than 800 collaborators. Teams today are working entirely remotely, relying on cloud tools to keep them connected and productive.
Cloud-based software enables individuals and groups to edit documents simultaneously, brainstorm via video conference and exchange notes and ideas, all from the location of their choice. Law researchers in different regions can read, compile evidence and timelines, and see each other’s work immediately to annotate and draft work products together. Additionally, lawyers can review and share new information in real-time instead of waiting weeks to see what others on the team have found.
Interested in finding out what legal professionals need to know to make remote collaboration work for them and their organizations? Check out our ebook “How Collaboration Will Aid Legal Professionals in a Post-Pandemic World” to find out.