May 01, 2021 May/June 2021

Editor's Note: Liberation is Imminent

Picking Up the Pieces

Lance G. Johnson

I used to think of a pivot as something a door did or a move in basketball. Then 2020 happened. The ability to pivot was essential to adjust to new, safe, social activities and local movement restrictions while also continuing to move client matters forward. I am certain my experience was shared by others. The routine of a typical day in the office came to a hard stop: pivot to remote. Courts closed: fire up the webcam and portable lights for the hearing. New day, new issue, try something new. The goal was to stay operational despite the changes to the outside world. Managers and firm leaders had to find new ways to keep moving forward.

As mass vaccination becomes a reality, I sense a refreshing optimism that normal is on the near horizon. But what will that look like? In a perverse sense, this sort of trauma may have been just what the legal industry needed to force the better use of technology to deliver services and dispute resolutions for less cost and greater convenience.

As a very real matter, all the practice changes and the speed with which they had to be adopted may have traumatized you or others in your team in a variety of ways, whether or not you are aware of it. Laura Mahr provides some helpful guidance on managing these effects in her article, “The Mental Health Factor: Accounting for the Emotional Toll of the Pandemic.”

The reports of BigLaw bonuses and salary restoration suggest that expectations of a downturn in business were unfounded. Anecdotal evidence coming my way suggests that client needs for legal services increased in most areas of law. This may require increased professional staffing to meet the demand. We have an article on that. See Barbara Mendel Mayden’s piece, “Law Firm Recruitment and Retention in the Age of COVID-19.”

For many firms, the need for management of remotely connected teams is probably here to stay. The reduction in overhead for office space and increases in employee satisfaction from the option of remote access will probably cause a reconsideration of the traditional approach toward office space. Working teams of mixed locations will become routine and present their own challenges. (See “Managing a Hybrid Workforce” by Matthew Driggs and Amber Southern.)

Remote connection and videoconferencing technologies have allowed the legal infrastructure to continue operating with some adjustments. Based on our panel article curated by Dave S. Christensen, “Managing Relationships and Operations in the New Normal,” those adjustments were based on already nascent practices and are likely to become routine.

Along with the adjustments, videoconference also pres­ents new opportunities for lawyers to shape their message and the firm’s perception by attention to the details. (See the article by Catherine Sanders Reach, “Time to Manage Videoconferencing.”)

And finally, in “For the Times, They Are A-Changin’,” Roberta Tepper shares how allowing nonlawyer investment would allow firms to attract the best possible talent, incentivized by the ability to have an equity interest in the firm and its future success.

More true than ever, change is a constant factor in business. This last year has been a poster child for change in legal services.

What new practices will you keep from the last year? Is an enhanced hybrid your new model? Will you nationally spread by way of remotely connected teams? Maybe you’ll have a firm standard for background image for client teleconferences. Drop me a note (Lance@lgjlegal.com) with the top three changes you will make going forward in your practice, firm, agency or court that were prompted by 2020. I’ll report back and let you know the results.

Lance G. Johnson

Owner

Lance G. Johnson is the owner of Johnson Legal PLLC in Fairfax, Virginia, and is currently the editor-in-chief of Law Practice magazine. lance@lgjlegal.com

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