In the wake of COVID-19, law firms may find that a remote workforce is cost-effective, equitable, inclusive, and diverse.
In the wake of a global pandemic, businesses around the globe have been forced to operate remotely until the need subsides. Forbes contributor Mark Cohen suggests, the swift global spread of COVID-19 is going to reveal itself to be a “seismic event,” which, in all likelihood, will cause a drastic and permanent shift in the way law firms operate.
Remote working has been widely adopted for years, but it’s only now that public health officials are urging all non-essential workers to stay home that the legal industry is forced to catch up. According to Gartner, 81% of legal departments have been unprepared for digitization and the legal industry remains resistant to technological change.
To find financial stability in these times, firms may find that shifting to more remote work-friendly policies will be essential long after shelter-in-place orders are lifted. And for good reason—firms purchase less office space, office supplies, and diminish commuting costs company-wide, which can significantly cut operation costs. As law firms continue to expand across the nation into more cost-effective cities, embracing digital communication and collaboration will only make this more efficient for firms.
But the benefits of adopting more agile work cultures aren’t only financial. Allowances for more remote work has proven to make teams more inclusive, equitable, and diverse. Research conducted by Remote.Co reveals that 29% of remote tech startup companies have women CEOs, presidents, or founders—as opposed to 19% of traditionally office-based companies and only 5% of Fortune-500 companies. In the legal industry, a 2017 study found that the representation of women decreases rapidly at post-associate levels—with only 26% of women sitting on the board of directors at law firms. The racial disparity is even more staggering: of that 26%, only 4% are women of color.
Poor retention of senior-level gender and racial minorities at law firms is often attributed to factors that more flexible work-from-home policies could alleviate—inequities of household responsibilities and racial macro- and micro-aggressions are more likely to occur in the daily, face-to-face workplace.
Given the stark gender and racial disparities at law firms nationwide, remote working could actually alleviate some of these issues. Now more than ever, firms have an incentive to diversify their employee base because diverse companies are proven to generate more revenue.
The world has been turned on its head during the COVID-19 global crisis, and the legal industry is no exception. But crossing over to more a virtual workplace, even if by necessity, may finally propel a law firm culture shift that could ultimately be for the better.