The Sethi Partnership Solicitors, an established law firm located in an iconic Grade II listed Barn House in Eastcote experienced a roller coaster ride of trials and tribulations the past 3 decades, from recessions to the most recent Covid pandemic. They say things happen in 3’s, and having experienced 2 previous recessions, the pandemic was by far the worst to overcome.
The concept of a traditional high street law firm operating daily 9-5pm with face-to-face appointments was prevalent pre-pandemic. With the world almost coming to a standstill in March 2020, the lockdowns and the general shift caused by the pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of a dispersed workforce with a flexible footprint to accommodate work from anywhere.
Business minded owners (like us) across the country faced the same challenges and were forced to re-think and adopt creative ways to change their operating model by deploying technology to be the infrastructure for the business we are about to become, whilst keeping the clients’ interests at heart.
Our survival guide during the pandemic:
1) During the pandemic, our office remained open for business with social distancing measures in place making it safe for clients and our staff via our ‘outdoor office’. Whilst people were forced to witness signatures of important documents such as Will over garden fences, car bonnets or standing at a safe distance on the driveway, our clients were delighted and relieved that they could still meet their Solicitor and safely meet with their lawyers whilst maintaining social distancing.
2) Our Team were given the flexibility to work remotely and manage their own time in re-creating work/life balance in a home setting. It was important to trust employees and be transparent with remote working by offering a flexible approach which not only empowered employees to maintain high quality service with clients but also improved productivity. Our team and clients were happy.
3) Cloud technology enabled reliable remote access to integrated systems and powerful case management platforms which in turn empowered everyone to work from the same, up-to-date version of a matter wherever they are with the minimum infrastructure cost and commitment.
4) We were transparent with communication to ensure remote and office-based employees remained equal.
5) Deep engagement during hybrid working – Having a tight-knit working relationship with employees drove deep engagement and highlighted the value of close working relationships to encourage productivity during remote working.
6) Stepped away from traditional marketing initiatives and focused more on digital marketing to include online reviews. Being discoverable and searchable on the internet was paramount. The pandemic showed that clients were happy to access legal services digitally without coming to the office and turned to the web, especially online reviews when selecting a lawyer.
Now, with covid vaccinations well on the way, we are headed towards the early stages of the ‘new normal’ and need to rethink not only our workplace strategy but also determine the direction we are headed to with digital transformation.
For the workforce strategy, that is easy, it is obvious many present and future employees would prefer flexibility, and the pandemic demonstrated its’ possibility. Remote working offers many benefits, such as reducing carbon footprint, having more productive staff, reduced stress levels and better work life balances. However, we found other employees found it harder to stay focused, felt disconnected to the workplace and missed seeing their colleagues face-to-face. We also found clients preferred to meet their lawyer face to face when dealing with sensitive matters.
At the end of the day one size never fits all in the workplace – we are encouraging staff to return to the office on a regular basis to keep that connection with other employees and clients. We are a ‘high street’ law firm and that means being available face to face to cater for client needs, so you must do what works for your business to survive.
The legal profession has relied on precedents and traditions. However, solicitors have had to adapt to technological developments to get things done quickly, purely because clients now expect this and in fact are demanding this. To keep pace with competitors means embracing digital innovations such as developing phone apps, working towards a paperless office, electronic signing, video conferencing thus allowing us to focus on the added value of our expertise.
Nowadays, Artificial Intelligence is taking over, making it necessary to keep up with, for example, voice control recognition like the Amazon Alexa; controlling your ‘smart’ home, keeping you connected and organized. My point is that you do not have to invest in the most modern cutting-edge technology but make smarter decisions to invest in proven toolkits that are durable and have longevity.
Rest assured, the practice of law still requires the ‘human touch’ and cannot be replaced by a pixel. Our firm has touched approximately 30,000 lives in the past few decades and aspires to continue with this legacy. There is no doubt technology is the recipe for a firm’s success and to solidify and evolve our mindset. With the nature of economic changes, cloud technology, robust case management systems and true integration can make anything possible!