How Law Firms Have Faced The Challenge Of The Coronavirus Pandemic And Adapted For The Future
You would be hard pushed to name a sector that had not been forced to change the way they do business thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, just as you would have a very hard time finding anyone who had not had their lives altered dramatically in some way over the last twelve months. This been a historically hard time for everyone, personally and professionally, and even though things seem to be getting better here in the UK, we have all had to reconcile ourselves to the fact that things may not be going back to normal for quite some time.
However, when things get difficult, we find ways to adjust. We have shopped online, we have home-schooled, we have had weddings and birthday parties on video calls, and we have figured out how multiple members of the family can work from home at any one time. While the transition to the virtual world has been relatively easy for some businesses (and indeed, any companies who never had an office to work out of in the first place), it has been something more of an adjustment for firms that would be traditionally described as “person facing.”
Law firms across the country found themselves in a state of upheaval when the first national lockdown was ordered a year ago, and since then they have worked through several different lockdowns, waited for and abided by official government guidance, and reconciled themselves to the fact that they would have to find a way to do the vast majority of their work at home. The latter may be true of the majority of employed people in the UK, but there were specific challenges facing lawyers and people in the legal profession. Here are just a few of the ways that they have had to adapt and plan for the future.
Broadband Speed Is Important When That Work Call Is Not Just A Monday Meeting
It goes without saying that we all got a bit twitchy about how our broadband would hold up once we started spending 23 hours of every day at home, but this is one of those areas where the needs of a lawyer are a little bit different than most. While most work meetings are essentially recreations of the round-the-boardroom-table chats that you’d have in the office, where you strategize, explain to everyone what your jobs for the day are, and maybe even have a nice little catch-up about what you did the previous evening, people in the legal profession were worrying about whether their equipment and their internet speed could handle vital calls with clients and actual remote court hearings.
It’s one thing to endure a bit of glitchy video when you can follow it up with a message saying, “it’ll be done by lunchtime,” it’s quite another when you’re trying to reassure someone that you are on top of their case or when you’re trying to put that case forward. There is also an understandable concern about the client’s ability to communicate virtually and explaining to them that they need to make sure that they have a quiet, private space for any important video calls.
It’s fair to say that legal firms across the country have put a great deal of time and resources into making sure that their staff have all the necessary equipment they need to ensure as few glitches as possible. While things are starting to go back to normal and the return to the office is at hand, many law firms may continue to work from home where possible. If you’re at all worried about how your solicitor will be able to handle your case from home, don’t be afraid to ask.
There Has Been A Dramatic Increase In Certain Kinds Of Cases
One of the most upsetting facts about the nationwide lockdown is that the UK saw a distressing rise in domestic violence cases. There were plenty of warnings from charity and support groups, and the statistics proved them right almost straight away. We also saw statistics demonstrating just how brutal the pandemic has been on the mental health of young people, especially those who may have already been in vulnerable situations. With people instructed to stay at home and indoors by law, situations that were already volatile and violent only got worse, and traditional means of escape became impossible. The demand for spaces at women’s shelters became so extreme that these places were forced to turn vulnerable women away. For example, Solace Women’s Aid in London recorded a staggering 53% rise in referrals between January 2020 and January 2021.
What does this mean for law firms? Well, for one thing it means an increased demand in support for vulnerable people in need of protection and legal recourse. It requires an understanding of this incredibly difficult situation that the pandemic has forced these people into and being able to recommend courses of action at a time when there may not be as much support available as there would be at other times. Ashwood Solicitors, a team of solicitors in Manchester, for example, have Legal Aid Immigration Team that has been helping people who are struggling to cope, many of whom are in the UK on a marriage visa and feel like their legal options and opportunities for escape are limited.
Software Issues Weren’t Just About Video Calls
It’s one thing to worry about whether your broadband provider is going to be able to handle a video hearing, it’s quite another to realise that you are going to have to figure out how to make sure that all the sensitive, confidential information that you would normally keep on your computer in the office is now at home with you. At the start of the pandemic, we all worried about which of the video call platforms were vulnerable to being compromised, and it’s safe to say that the matters being discussed on those calls were generally a lot less sensitive.
Of course, many lawyers and attorneys have been taking their work home with them for years, but there has been a meteoric rise in cybercrime since the start of the pandemic, and law firms have absolutely been a target. There have been some alarming statistics over the last couple of months, many of which highlighted the fact that some law firms have not been taking their cybersecurity as seriously as they should have been. So, how have lawyers and people in the legal profession been countering this rising threat to the security of their and our information? Well, by implementing a good practice that has been second nature to people in sectors typically more prone to cyberattacks. We’re talking about making sure that they’re using a virtual private network when any client information is involved, making sure that they’re using password apps and two-factor (or indeed multifactor) authentication whenever they need to access anything sensitive, and making sure that records and emails are encrypted. On the firm’s side, we are seeing companies ensuring that their solicitors and employees are using secure, encrypted machines that they have provided for them, along with external storage devices (such as USBs) that are owned by the practice to make sure that there is a record of absolutely everything.