Law firms use collaboration to shape future
The pandemic has triggered a collaborative learning boom, with law firms looking to future-proof their organisations by embracing strategies designed to drive differentiation and deliver high performance.
According to findings from non-profit legal network LawNet, SME law firms have used the pandemic to build online relationships and learn new skills, in readiness for maximising opportunities in 2022.
In a display of fast-moving adaptability for the sector, firms now rank online collaboration as highly as they previously scored real-life opportunities for learning, networking and accessing insight and expertise, when compared with the network’s pre-pandemic research.
“There’s been a significant and transformative shift. The circumstances enforced by the pandemic meant firms had to move their communication and interactions online, but we have seen firms truly embracing the digital opportunity, rather than treating it as a fall-back,” explained LawNet’s member engagement and strategy director Helen Hamilton-Shaw.
“As well as feedback from the regular research we undertake with firms to assess how they value our range of benefits and support, we can see similar trends in the data from our virtual collaboration forum and our development programme.”
The network moved its entire professional and personal skills development programme online at the start of the pandemic in 2020, recording a doubling in take-up for the wholly digital offering, which includes on-demand recordings of all sessions.
The virtual collaboration forum was set up at the start of the pandemic as an alternative to in-person networking groups centred on leadership, people, clients and operations. The 70+ firms taking part were able to drive the agenda for each strand by up-voting topics that would bring in experts to deconstruct subject matter and stimulate debate between firms. “We saw a real hunger for sharing and learning from the outset, and for significant, heavyweight topics to be tackled,” added Hamilton-Shaw.
With each forum over-subscribed, the events were recorded and translated into digital action plans with supporting guidance and further reading. Now, the network has brought these together with other key learning from the last year to publish LawNet Insights : Setting a course to the future
“The cost of the Covid-19 pandemic is impossible to calculate, in terms of both the human tragedy and the economic impact which will last through generations, but the crisis has been a force for some unexpected positive outcomes in the legal sector,” said Chris Marston, chief executive of LawNet.
“It’s our job to keep law firms abreast of leading-edge thinking, but it was hard to anticipate how they would respond to the pandemic. It’s been humbling to observe member firms demonstrate that they can be agile and adaptive, empathetic with both staff and clients, while implementing accelerated change programmes.”
LawNet’s research assessed the value of different benefits for firms across four turnover bands ranging from under £3m to over £10m. While all firms reported value in online collaboration, those in the range of £3-6m turnover reported the highest value from sharing with each other and learning together.
As well as structured networking and learning opportunities, all firms reported prioritising opportunities for critical friend and personal mentoring relationships with non-competing peers.
When asked to value other benefits of collaboration, firms rated group purchasing of specialist, high-ticket items such as professional indemnity insurance, and externally-managed quality and compliance systems, as most valuable.