Posted by Brian Rogers, regulatory director for digital learning and compliance at Legal Futures Associate The Access Group
When we come out of the current crisis period, and we will, you will need to be ready to take on the challenges that a post-coronavirus world will present, one of which will be how you can operate more effectively online.
The current lockdown has forced many firms to work remotely, and this has given those that were already looking to make their operations more efficient the impetus to move faster in this direction, and those that had not really considered different ways of working an insight into how operating remotely could bring significant benefits, such as reducing office/overhead costs, increasing operational efficiency, enhancing online presence, etc.
What are the five steps you can take to help you meet the challenges of the future?
The lockdown has already shown that working remotely can work well as long as the appropriate technology is used and operating procedures are engaged; subject to these being maintained and enhanced as risks dictate, there is no reason why remote working can’t be maintained going forward.
To ensure effective remote working, you need to make sure that staff are fully aware of what is expected of them, are provided with the appropriate equipment and resources to do their jobs effectively and compliantly, and are fully supported in relation to mental health issues, meaning they don’t feel isolated or unable to seek advice/guidance as and when they need it, for example.
A key to effective remote working is a move to a completely paperless operation; this can be achieved by operating through a centralised case management and accounting system, with any incoming hardcopy documents being scanned into client e-files. Online client due diligence systems and external document portals, like HM Land Registry and HM Revenue & Customs, would need to be integrated into case management systems where possible.
Online marketing is now the way to go forward, especially with the Competition & Marketing Authority’s push to open up the legal market with more transparency over services and costs, and use online comparison websites.
With consumers being confined to their homes, and the availability of hardcopy publicity material being heavily restricted, many will be turning to search engines to find the legal service providers they need.
There are some key aspects of online marketing that you need to be aware of – such as pay per click, search engine optimisation and social media – and you should seek specialist advice on how to make the most of these to ensure the online marketing you carry out brings you the maximum benefits.
Ensuring your firm meets its regulatory and compliance obligations will be an important part of any new operating regime, especially in relation to supervision and competency, as it is failures in these areas that could lead to complaints, negligence claims, breaches, and so on.
Having the ability to manage compliance issues remotely will provide you and your regulators with the comfort it is doing the right things, for example auditing files, managing undertakings, and handling complaints, claims and money laundering reports.
Employing a centralised online compliance system will allow you to give all your staff appropriate access to the parts of the system they need, subject to having the appropriate permissions, allowing them to feed in details of any complaints received, for example, with the system sending an alert to the complaints-handling partner so they can take appropriate action.
The centralised nature of this type of system allows your firm’s senior management team and compliance officers to review all compliance management information at the touch of a button.
However you operate in the future, you must ensure that the service you provide is competent and that all your staff are trained to a level that is appropriate for their roles; remote working does not stop you from doing this if you employ online e-learning and learning management systems (LMS).
Online LMS facilities allow you and your staff to plan, monitor and evidence training, with e-learning systems then providing the training that has been agreed.
You can also provide staff with access to online research facilities that allow them to search for information on case law, precedents, etc, so the information they use is up-to date.
Managing HR matters is a key area for your senior management team and therefore maintaining accurate HR records is crucial; with staff working from home, utilising an effective online HR system would be a great asset, especially as it can be accessed, with appropriate permissions, by anyone working from any remote location.
As a consequence of Covid-19, the way law firms do business in future is going to significantly change, and you need to take proactive steps to ensure how you operate is appropriate for the post-Covid19 world; consumers are now seeing how they can consume legal services online, and how lawyers can supply these without the need for an office, so not being able to meet these new demands could leave your firm trailing behind your more forward thinking competitors.
We can help you to move to a more efficient way of working by providing a number of products/services that can be used online.