Words I will forever ban from my vocabulary: “unprecedented”, “times”, “uncertain” and “changed”. In recent months, the legal world, among others, was forced into a 180 shift in most aspects of how we maintained our business. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many firms had to get techy, creative, or both to stay afloat when we saw the world change how it functions. While we have all been doing our best to maintain our social distanced work lives, we are faced with the new challenge of how to keep ourselves and our clients safe while keeping tabs on what and how the world will demand from us as legal service providers.
Since the pandemic hit us, our team seamlessly transitioned from working in-office to working remotely. To ensure we stayed on top of our workloads and got the help we needed, we started conducting daily huddles over Zoom to keep our lines of communication open. The transition to video conferences and limited meeting times felt like it pushed our productivity even higher at times, allowing us the room to take on more during times when we may have been travelling to and from meetings.
We wanted to make sure our clients understood where we were at as we went, so we started sending out updates to let them know how we planned on conducting business going forward and any news we thought was applicable. Our clients had a lot of hard questions and we wanted them to know we were all in this together. We wanted to help them navigate what to do with their landlord situations and how to move forward with their clients and employees.
What have these changes meant for the future of our business, or any business for that matter? I’ve spent a lot of time strategizing about what the future holds for the firm and my team, and here are my top five outlooks for the future:
1. If it’s good enough for Twitter, it’s good enough for us. We now have a permanent work from home policy at our office – some people are coming in everyday, some only two times a week, and some two times a month. We all remain accountable and trust each other to remain productive even when we don’t see each other in person. This will allow for flexibility on our teams, especially for parents and families.
2. I got my kids at home too. There is a general sense of empathy that we understand that each of us faces different circumstances (especially at home) and there is a general understanding that we’re all in this together and we respect that everybody’s family is different. All respected.
3. It’s going to get local and global. Time zone and geographical boundaries are eliminated with Zoom and Teams, so it’s easier to reach people from all over the globe, but there is also a personal connection to the community we quarantined with and to support the businesses you don’t want to lose in your neighbourhood. Communities are the pillars of resiliency and we can all contribute to it with our consumer choices.
4. Physical distance leads to contactless leads to automation. It’s here and it’s time to rethink how we don’t have to sit around that oak boardroom table in the lawyer’s office to get things done. It’s not the same world anymore.
5. Over-communication through digital and other means to creative positive relationships with each other when we can’t always see each other, creating a sense of trust, kindness, and feelings of connection.
These themes will certainly spill over into our post-COVID business plans, certainly for the next 90 days. Many clients have shared that they value the option to work with us virtually—while juggling busy schedules on and off Zoom, health issues, or other extenuating circumstances. So it’s important for all of us in this industry to remain adaptable and flexible. That is the biggest lesson we can learn.
As we have started shifting into Phases 2 and 3 of the BC Restart Plan, we are figuring out additional ways to slowly integrate clients into our physical lives while maintaining the utmost respect for the current situation. Though restrictions may be lifting slowly, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the state of the world and how to proceed. The observations we’ve made about our community and other businesses have stood as constant reminders for us to ensure that our lines of communication remain open and that we continually strive to meet our clients where they are—emotionally or physically.
Many of the accommodations made by businesses during COVID-19 are mostly likely here permanently. Services such as click and collect, contactless deliveries, and video conferencing as an alternative have been great for allowing parts of the economy to continue during shut-down and have been huge time savers in many ways. And many of us (me included) cannot imagine it any other way now.
Community has also been a large part of how everyone has remained so connected while being unable to be physically together. Seeing how people have been advocating for each other has been an inspiring and unexpected aspect of this adventure we’ve all been on. The understanding that we are truly all in this together has never been more important for our survival.
Regardless of where these last few months have taken you, it’s important to remind ourselves that this is not forever, but it is right now. COVID-19 has taught us that no matter how well we think our lives are planned, things can change without notice. We cannot control what life brings us, but we can control how we react to it.