by Avaneesh Marwaha, July 13, 2017 issue of Law and Technology Today
Have you heard the buzz? Artificial intelligence is taking the legal world by storm—and lawyers are embracing the change, despite their traditional resistance to technology.
In today’s world, data is growing explosively. While that massive store of data contains correspondingly voluminous and useful information—especially for the practice of law—it also takes massive time to analyze. And then there’s the monotony, boredom, and frustration felt by humans who are trying to plow through a Sisyphean task, and the ever-increasing need for speed in response to client, court, and regulatory agency demands. Together, these challenges add up to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to maintaining a smart, functional legal practice—at least for mere mortals who occasionally have to stop to eat and sleep.
Thankfully, computers are evolving just as quickly as the data boom, and they’re here to save us from ourselves. Artificial intelligence, or AI, refers to computer software and systems that don’t just do tasks they’ve been programmed for in advance—they actually learn as they go, improving their performance through feedback. These programs can quickly learn to complete data-intensive tasks that were previously relegated to bored and weary humans. By recognizing patterns in the relationships between words or data points, computers learn how to identify relevant information, recognize mistakes, and spot inconsistencies—all faster, and usually better, than humans do.
What does all this mean for lawyers? The primary areas where AI is being applied in the law, so far, include the following broad categories: …………………………….Read More
It’s no secret that multigenerational issues are permeating the legal landscape at warp speed, calling attention to critical factors that impact the future of law firm cultures and brands. Yet, recruitment, retention and succession planning, as some fundamental examples, are not just exclusive to the business of law. They are permeating into law firm office design, transforming how interior spaces are harmonizing with age diversity and the evolution of each generation’s needs and desires in the modern workplace.
Planning for change, often a dreaded word, is a core characteristic of law firm design today. This means that office space must remain agile. A constant rebalance of “law and order” as it pertains to interior spaces must be available to appeal to the current workforce, from baby boomers to millennials, while preparing for tomorrow.
There is no doubt that real estate is a significant investment for law firms. This requires careful design considerations and strategy to ensure spaces are best utilized for client interface, collaboration and the accommodation of growth. But more importantly, keeping law firm employees satisfied in their daily environment, especially for those spending countless waking hours in the office, needs to be a relevant goal in interior design presentation.
Whether on the brink of retirement or passing the bar exam, attorneys in any stage of their careers have, likely, a clear-defined definition of the optimal workspace. To allow for law firms and its professionals to thrive, partners should be open minded to re-imagining the type of interior layouts required for this multi-generational audience.
The first steps proven to be effective to maintain relevancy in designing for all ages is to appoint a “redesign committee” of firm attorneys committed to serving as a representative of their respective age groups. These committees ignite much-needed conversations about office space improvements. They also reveal interesting changes that are impacting the legal profession, such as the willingness to establish open spaces and collaborative areas for employees to gather informally.
Each age group of attorneys has demonstrated a trend toward patterns that appeal to their generation.
The breakdown of specific design requests shows that baby boomers still function in a hierarchal structure in law firm office space. That means ranking of seniority often exists, affording seasoned firm members the traditional “corner office” with views and drywall. Their careers were established before the open workspace floor plans, thus, they still seek calm and private spaces to work, such as closed offices and small rooms that function separately from other team members. Libraries that house printed books and magazines for industry resources are utilized, although a clear majority of attorneys are integrating forms of technology into daily activity to foster better communication. Custom millwork, paneling, leather and integration of traditional furnishings are prevalent, even if mixed with contemporary designs found through an entire law office.
Law firms that are embracing modern design and style support a more communal and inclusive work environment. Design features such as glass-fronted offices and conference rooms inspire natural light to enter once darker workspaces. For Gen X, the addition of these elements can also help illicit mentoring of associates and incite communication of firm goals. Private offices are now more welcoming with the use of flexible furniture and seating areas that often look similar to a home living room. Hospitality is a key cornerstone to making a multigenerational team feel at ease in this type of environment. Offices then have multiple uses, to hold meetings or invite clients in a more personalized setting. With this generation being more open to change, the frequented engagement in conference calls also provokes a desire for phone booths and moveable walls. Their mentality focuses both on pleasing the former age group and those younger.
Gen Y or millennials choose collaborative spaces, where they can experience a sense of freedom while being a part of the firm. In fact, they are the least bit concerned about the traditional role of the office. Technology takes a dominant role within their space; it is important in every sense, from touchpad capabilities and ease of access to materials. Bolder and brighter colors, carpeting, wall coverings and textures are preferred, with a splash of nature incorporated. Coffee, food pantries available at their discretion and break areas provide more laid-back meeting locations and spaces where work can be done via laptop or tablet. They think “out of the box” and custom environments make law firm offices stand apart in their design.
Many attorneys seek to remain nimble to technology and the changing scope of office space design. It is important to share a common perspective that collective efforts are needed from all age groups to impact the bottom-line.
Each law firm has a distinctive identify and its own set of needs. When implementing design changes, the process should start with an understanding of how a firm operates for the space design to completely aligned with its identity. When a design plan works for a law office, it generates a true organizational advantage. It is a powerful tool to reinforce the brand and culture.
Even with forward movement taking place, law office space allocation indicates that 60 percent of interior design is still comprised of traditional meeting rooms and offices. Given the confidential nature of legal work, there will always be limitations to how far firms can go to alter the composition of space. And, the “private” office is more likely to remain a necessity for some lawyers.
Yet, integration of technology will be complemented by significantly smaller dimensions in real estate, operations that foster collaboration, and flexible layouts. Creating more relaxed areas that encourage impromptu meetings, and space for smaller work groups and virtual gatherings is essential. Strategy and design behind collaborative areas is critical for any successful law firm.
To seamlessly move into the law office of tomorrow, the key is to create a flexible environment that is forward thinking, so the legal workplace can adapt and support the needs for the firm of the future.
By Allison Deerr, posted 8/1/2017 in ABA Journal
With an emerging workforce focused on career paths offering better work-life balance, BigLaw firms are changing the ways they attract new talent and meet the demands of the modern professional. One of the newest perks: the virtual office. But in an industry reliant on face-to-face communication and notorious for a culture of working long hours, the change in remote work policies for lawyers has been a gradual one, marked by firms wetting their feet with regional beta tests before rolling out companywide initiatives.
After its own successful beta test, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius announced plans this year to allow its associates in the U.S. and the U.K. to work remotely up to two days a week. Jackson Lewis and Baker McKenzie have also launched new flexible work programs. In a press release, Jackson Lewis describes its remote work program as a “win-win” that will help the firm continue to attract and retain top talent “without sacrificing productivity, responsiveness or engagement.”
Top on the list of concerns for firms considering remote work programs are cybersecurity and productivity. Steve Falkin, managing director of IT strategy at HBR Consulting in Chicago, helps firms create flexible work cultures through mobility solutions and secure remote access. According to Falkin, technology can solve many of the barriers that might have prevented firms from embracing remote work in the past.
“Today’s lawyers have varying work styles, and technology should support that to the greatest extent possible,” Falkin says. “Allowing lawyers to have flexibility in the type of devices used to access firm systems—and ensuring they can work at times and in the manner that best fits their lifestyle—is key.”
Baker McKenzie already had technology in place to allow for flexible work arrangements before launching its new program, bAgile. Peter May, chief talent officer, says the firm hopes a more formalized program will ensure its flexible work options are available to everyone—not just the people who were already utilizing them. “We … wanted to create a more formal and comprehensive framework that went beyond remote working. This is about educating our people about what’s possible,” May says.
Some firms have expanded their remote programs to include staff. Sarah Leonard is a legal assistant participating in an “agile work program” offered by a large global law firm in Washington, D.C. She says she started utilizing her firm’s flexible work program in December because the commute from her home in Southern Maryland was “extremely taxing.” Leonard now works one day a week from home using a laptop provided by the firm and a virtual private network.
When she started at the firm, Leonard says, the agile program was just being implemented for nonattorney staffers. “Presently, a large majority of attorney assistants take advantage of the program in some fashion, either by working from home, working custom hours or working longer hours and having a day off. This schedule has positively benefited me both financially and emotionally,” she adds. “One day a week I’m able to wake up, walk across the hall to my office and take my dog to work.”
In the most recent survey by the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, a D.C. think tank, 26 of the 28 participating law firms had formal flexibility policies. But despite this fact, the survey found many attorneys may perceive flexible work options to be detrimental to their long-term career advancement, with only 1 percent of equity partners and 5 percent of associates utilizing such programs.
Despite the number of firm lawyers actually taking advantage of flexible work programs, such policies may still help firms attract new talent. A PwC study in partnership with the University of Southern California and the London Business School showed work-life balance to be a top priority of millennials. PwC’s NextGen reported 64 percent saying they would like to occasionally work from home, and 15 percent of men and 21 percent of women saying they would give up some of their pay and slow the pace of promotion in exchange for working fewer hours.
This article was first published in the August 2017 ABA Journal magazine with the headline “Dialing It In: BigLaw embraces the remote work trend.”
Will lawyers even need office space? Well of course they will! It’s just going to be different then it has been for the last 100 years.
Lawyers are working online and in the cloud, for virtual firms and in unconventional ways from unconventional places. We are experiencing the rise of the “stay at home attorney”. Look at Taylor English Duma, which now works out of 90,000 square feet in a suburban Atlanta office park and has plans to hire partners all across the country. Their lawyers will work from home and plug into the firm’s existing “hub” in Atlanta. The net result is that they are getting more attorneys into the workforce, stay at home parents, caregivers or those that just can’t or don’t want to commute to an urban law office location. However, we can’t forget about the 90,000 sf office that TED has in Atlanta, which is sure to grow and of course be necessary to replicate regionally.
Many law firms are splitting off their administrative space into lower cost locations. Whether it’s across the street or across the country or across the world they are finding that there is no need to have the administrative group in high priced, client facing space. Instead, law firms have been are opting for establishing service hubs in central regional locations where they have been receiving economic development incentives to bring jobs to the area. In 2016 Hogan Lovells established a global business services center in Louisville, Kentucky and received $4 million in tax incentives from the state.
New to the alternative officing plan for law firms is WeWork’s new enterprise program which provides an interesting offering for law firms. More about that in a future post.
With all this Watson, Artificial Intelligence talk why do we even need human lawyers at all? Robbie the Robot will work 24 hours a day, without a lunch break or coffee break and maybe only the occasional oiling. They certainly don’t need places to keep paper. It’s all in the cloud, archived and backed up in some far away secure location. Nobody needs file rooms, law libraries, file cabinets, book shelves or storage space. Does anyone want a perfectly good rolling file cabinet system? Cheap?
All of these things are rapidly changing the space profile for the law firm of the future!