Workplace Strategy

Legal Workplaces: Precedence Upended

Yesterday’s legal workplace—built on decades of metrics and precedence—has had to rapidly evolve to meet the work process and workspace needs of today’s attorneys and their business.

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The pandemic brought with it an unfamiliar order of work and environment for all sectors; workplaces are experiencing a paradigm shift. Yesterday’s legal workplace—built on decades of metrics and precedence—has had to rapidly evolve to meet the work process and workspace needs of today’s attorneys and their business. Conversations around today’s legal workplace—considering months of new work processes from varied settings—recognize that workplace re-engagement will likely not arise from legal benchmarks and standards of the past.

Three evolving themes are foundational to the paradigm shift towards flexibility and digital connection:

  1. Video and Virtual Collaboration: Prior to March 2020, video calls were unusual in the legal business cadence; however, today, they are a mainstream form of business communications. This communication process has had a remarkable influence on how, and where, attorneys work, bridging gaps and integrating communication across all groups—generational, locational and vocational. 

  2. Work From Anywhere: At the onset of the pandemic, some law firms invested in technology to support ‘Work From Anywhere’ (WFA). Technology integration—which occurred at lightning speed and is now considered a standard business practice—has enabled agile workforces across the legal sector. Attorneys and support staff are able to work from anywhere, supported by the distribution and access to technology, which has resulted in the acceptance of varying hybrid work models in the industry.

  3. Adopting Digital Solutions: While digital work solutions have been evolving for more than a decade, the pandemic shifted many organizations towards full adoption. For attorneys, the digital model has simplified the documentation process—as materials are saved on laptops and fewer hard copies are being produced or maintained—and proven to be more efficient than managing Bankers Boxes full of briefs and case files. Metrics for filing linear inches and file cabinets per attorney are drastically diminishing, as is the need for case rooms, file rooms and records rooms.

Considerations for Law Firms

Law firms—both large and small—across the U.S. are curious about exploring innovative workplace strategies to align their cultures and businesses to today’s dynamic and evolving workforce. Unique and tailored for each law firm, strategies and metrics are framed by some of the following considerations:

  • Why dedicate and pay for office space that is sitting empty for some portion of the week?

  • If attorneys work remotely, should there be a hybrid approach of assigned, unassigned and shared offices? What should be the seat-sharing ratio?

  • Should office attendance or seniority drive office assignments?

  • Should there be consideration and acceptance of moving to a universal size office to support a variety of office assignments and flexibility?

  • What space types are needed to support interaction, collaboration and new employee experiences in the office?

  • What amenities can be provided to enhance the in-office experience for employees and clients?

For the modern legal workplace, one size does not fit all and business models are rapidly evolving. Legal workplace benchmarks are being re-written, if not discounted entirely, as the barometer for workplace strategy and design. Forward-looking legal firms—having emerged from recent experiences of a changed workplace—will continue to make decisions that reshape their workplaces.

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