This article was originally published in Law Journal Newsletters, here.

 

The legal industry transformation continues in response to new ways of working, real estate priorities, and talent pressures. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the industry in many ways, pushing law firms to rapidly adopt remote work solutions, digital transformation, and cost cutting measures. While some adjustments proved effective, most industry leaders are prioritizing higher office attendance as a measure for future success.

 

According to a report by CBRE, most firms report office utilization exceeding 50% with in office policies requiring attendance 3+ days per week., However, firm leaders would like to see higher attendance going forward. To achieve the desired result, firms are reevaluating their operation strategies. Executives are eager to align the benefits of in-office work with workplace experience. This includes maximizing space and revitalizing operations by bringing administrative, word processing, and billing services back onsite.

 

By relocating these services onsite, law firms benefit from several advantages, such as:

  • Improved efficiency and productivity by streamlining workflows and communication.
  • Improving efficiency and productivity by streamlining workflows and communication
  • Enhancing client satisfaction and retention by delivering faster and more accurate services
  • Increasing flexibility and scalability by adjusting to changing demands and volumes
  • Optimizing space utilization by creating multi-functional and collaborative areas
  • Boosting employee morale and engagement by fostering a sense of belonging and teamwork

 

In exploring the trend of bringing support services back onsite to law offices, it is important to analyze benefits, challenges, and best practice recommendations for firms considering this option.

 

Trend Analysis

Administrative, word processing, and billing services are essential to the smooth operation and profitability of law firms. Initially, firms relied on in-house staff for these tasks, ensuring quality, security, and compliance. However, the rise of globalization, technology, and competition led to the outsourcing and offshoring of these services to third-party providers who offered lower cost, 24/7 availability and access to a larger talent pool. This enabled law firms to focus on their core competencies and reduce their fixed expenses.

 

However, offsite models came with some drawbacks, such as:

  • Loss of control and visibility over the quality, security, and compliance of the services
  • Increased risk of data breaches, errors, and litigation
  • Reduced efficiency and productivity due to communication gaps, cultural differences, and time zones
  • Decreased client satisfaction and retention due to delays, inaccuracies, and lack of personalization.
  • Diminished employee morale and engagement

 

These challenges were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed vulnerabilities and inefficiencies of offsite models. The pandemic highlighted the importance of agility, resilience, and innovation for law firms, who had to adapt to the changing needs and expectations of their clients and employees.

 

As a result, many firms have decided to bring support services back to their offices. This decision has been influenced by opportunities to optimize the use and value of real estate and to address some of the pain points of offsite models and to create a more attractive onsite working environment for attorneys.

 

Talent attraction and retention is the most important driver of real estate decisions for law firms. Workplace experience, including spaces, services, and experiences that support fee earner and employee needs is recognized as crucial to success. A practical strategy for relieving talent pressures is leveraging office space and resolving operational and logistical challenges by restoring onsite support services that were previously sent offsite and offshore.

 

According to CBRE, 54% of firms require colleagues to work in the office a minimum number of days per week and 83% of firms would prefer more in-office working. Law firm leaders are in favor of approaches that encourage time in the office and emphasize the importance of social and professional opportunities. The office provides better support for intangible benefits such as mentorship, relationship building, access to resources, and collaboration on substantive work.

 

Benefits and Challenges

Bringing support services back onsite to law offices can offer several benefits for law firms such as improving efficiency and productivity, enhancing client satisfaction and retention, and of course space utilization.

 

An onsite support model can improve the speed and quality of their support services through streamlined workflows and communication. By having their support staff onsite, law firms can facilitate collaboration, coordination and feedback, and avoid the delays and misunderstandings that can arise from offsite models. Additionally, by having their support staff work in the same time zone and environment as their lawyers and clients, law firms can enhance their responsiveness and flexibility.

 

As a result of delivering faster and more accurate services, law firms can increase their client satisfaction and retention. By having their support staff onsite, law firms can ensure that their services are tailored to the specific needs and preferences of their clients, and that they comply with the highest standards of quality, security and compliance. Furthermore, by having their support staff interact with their clients, law firms can build trust, loyalty and rapport, and create a more personalized and humanized experience.

 

At the same time, creating multi-functional and collaborative areas, law firms can optimize their space utilization and generate value from their redundant real estate. By bringing back support services onsite, law firms can transform their excess office space into productive and efficient workspaces, where their support staff can perform various tasks and functions. Additionally, by creating multi-functional and collaborative areas, law firms can foster a more inclusive and diverse culture, where their support staff can interact and learn from their lawyers and clients.

 

And finally, by fostering a sense of belonging and teamwork, law firms can boost their employee morale and engagement. By bringing back support services onsite, law firms can show their appreciation and recognition for their support staff, who are often undervalued and overlooked. Moreover, by providing their support staff with onsite training, development and career opportunities, law firms can enhance their skills, motivation and retention.

 

Best Practices and Recommendations

Before bringing back support services onsite, law firms should conduct a thorough and objective cost-benefit analysis, which compares the costs and benefits of onsite, outsourcing and offshoring models.

 

The analysis should consider both the financial and non-financial factors, such as quality, security, compliance, efficiency, productivity, client satisfaction, employee morale, flexibility, scalability and space utilization.

 

The analysis should also take into account the current and future trends and scenarios, such as the impact of the pandemic, the recovery of the market, the evolution of technology and the expectations of the staff and clients.

 

Agile and nimble outsourcing partners are challenging the status quo with progressive onsite support solutions, designed to reduce operating cost, improve efficiency, and enhance overall satisfaction while limiting remote work challenges, offsite infrastructure expenses, and in-house management requirements.

 

Conclusion

The trend of bringing support services back onsite continues to gain momentum in the legal industry as a strategic response to evolving needs. Firms are looking to optimize benefits, mitigate risks, and foster innovation.

 

Therefore, law firms should conduct a cost-benefit analysis, and consider partnering with providers that develop customized onsite models and have proven talent strategies and solutions that ensure the success and sustainability of their onsite support services.