What challenges will 2021 bring?

It’s been an awful year. Firms were forced to adapt to the threat of COVID19 and suddenly we were all either working from home, furloughed, or facing redundancy. There have undoubtedly been individual and collective challenges across many fronts, but the pandemic has also provided an opportunity to fast track positive changes.

We predict that the top priorities of firms in 2021 will be reducing costs, the improved use of technology to streamline processes, more innovative ways to provide services to clients, and an increased focus on work/life balance for employees. 

Increasingly, clients will want law firms to deliver cost effective services, often at fixed prices, but at the same time retain highly experienced professionals able to address their most challenging needs. 

To succeed, firms must continually improve their own service delivery methods to surpass client expectations and increase client value, whilst improving profitability and lowering costs. 

Everyone in the firm, from the partners down must continually seek better ways to deliver services.

This means implementing more efficient resourcing, and workflow processes. Firms that are successful at this will differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, utilise their resources more profitability, and lock in client loyalty.   

Service delivery innovation enhances a firm’s ability to lock in client loyalty through easier buying processes, clearer communication, and an increased ability to meet client needs. The result is that clients will prefer to stay with existing legal service providers. 

Retention of clients is of course the lifeblood of any business; however, the retention of a talented workforce is critical to client service delivery. Remote working opens up opportunities to engage new talent and adopt more agile working practices. 

A forward-thinking employer would be wise to accommodate some employees who want to permanently work from home. They will become more attractive employers, better able to build a resilient workforce. It is unlikely that firms will move to a predominantly home working model, however working from home one or two days a week may become common practice and an opportunity to engage with lawyers who for various personal reasons want to avoid commuting.

There will be pressure to reduce office accommodation and associated costs, even as firms gradually transition out of lockdown with a semi return to office working. Hot desking will become more prevalent provided strict sanitation measures are in place to protect employee safety. 

Firms will need to consider whether some practice areas are economically viable, and whether a more flexible resourcing model to cope with fluctuations in demand for services may be necessary. 

It is inevitable that firms will need to invest in upskilling the digital competencies of their workforce, as video meetings shift from a novelty to the norm. Training in how to conduct multi party meetings effectively, and the use of branded greenscreen backgrounds will project a more professional image. Firms may also need to invest in ensuring their employees have reliable broadband, which remains an issue for some living in more remote parts of Suffolk. 

Firms who plan ahead will meet these challenges head on and uncover new opportunities in 2021.

Kimberley Williams

©Williams Wroe

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