What Law Firms Can Learn from the Remote Work Experience

The recent rapid shift to remote work hasn’t been equally easy for all industries. Law firms have to think about stringent security requirements to safeguard client privacy while also creating a system that enables the collaboration and document sharing necessary within the profession. The long-term impact of remote work is still unclear, though many organizations have seen greater employee productivity. This is likely due to a quieter home environment and the fact that zero commute time equals more time available for work. As remote work demonstrates this and other benefits, law firm leaders must consider ways to encourage ongoing productivity and collaboration into the future.

Though the nation remains at various levels of lockdown, once restrictions are lifted, many executives plan to continue support for remote work in many areas of their business. The implications are far-reaching. With fewer people in the office, company floorplans can be reimagined with fewer desks. Commercial real estate will likely feel the impact as organizations consider downsizing their office space to save on costs. But before these changes can happen, companies must find the right combination of tools and culture to truly embrace remote collaboration and ensure ongoing employee productivity – wherever they work.

Many law firms’ IT organizations understandably tried to leverage their existing technologies, like VPNs or on-premises VDI, to provide access to additional users in the rush to accommodate the remote work mandate. But these technologies were designed to address specific workloads, and they don’t scale effectively – resulting in poor performance for end users. Increasing investment to expand these technologies doesn’t make sense in the long term, when it’s likely some percentage of the workforce will return to the office. IT leaders are also re-evaluating remote work in the context of longer-term IP security concerns and data management challenges.

Finding a new way

One significant issue that arises for distributed teams is real-time collaboration. Whether employees work from home, the firm’s headquarters, a branch office or a client site, the reality is that people are more mobile. They need to be able to work anywhere and collaborate effectively with their teams. The old-school way of replicating multi-terabytes of data across multiple branch offices for geographically dispersed teams is prohibitively expensive and unsustainable. However, there are some key best practices that organizations can implement to create a common data environment that will enable new levels of collaboration, productivity and agility.

The Age of Cloud Desktops

One best practice is to implement cloud desktops, which allow users to access their desktop, files and business apps in the cloud, from a variety of devices. Cloud desktops drive the kind of transformation that creates new possibilities for growth. They give companies greater agility to respond to new opportunities while providing exceptional performance – sometimes better than a physical desktop.

Whether people use them as their “everyday” desktop or whether they are activated quickly for use during a business disruption, cloud desktops make supporting remote work easy. They also improve collaboration within firms and across teams, improving productivity, work product quality and client outcomes. This all adds up to a powerful transformation that creates the potential for new opportunities, competitive advantage and business growth.

Some DIY approaches to remote desktops can be less reliable, and the performance can be dissatisfying for users, so it’s wise to choose carefully and take a long-term view. A great aspect of cloud desktops is that implementing them now is more than just a short-term strategy to get you through the current pandemic. The most important thing for law firms’ IT teams to learn as they navigate their way through this current crisis is that cloud desktops represent a new and better way to manage their “everyday” desktops and workstations.

An additional benefit to deploying cloud desktops is that, both for today and for whatever lies ahead, they improve your overall business continuity and disaster recovery execution. Organizations can create pools of “standby” cloud desktops that are always kept up to date but are not activated until the IT team deems it necessary.

Ready for what’s next

As the pandemic has forced workers to remote locations and law firms to find solutions to support them, several things have become clear. First, the myth that employees can’t be as productive from home has been busted. In fact, some research has shown that they are often more productive when working remotely. However, in order for this to prove true, legal practices need to provide the required infrastructure and collaboration tools.

Even before the world went on lockdown, law firms and other organizations found that legacy VDI and VPN technologies cannot provide the performance and ease of use needed to create an always-available, virtual desktop experience – at least, not without greater IT complexity or cost. On the other hand, cloud desktops have the capacity for not only high performance and agility but, if configured properly, better security as well. This set-up creates a tactical advantage whereby one law firm’s employees work steadily without delays or interruptions, serving their clients and maintaining or increasing billable hours, while another firm struggles to find an emergency technology fix. As firms look to build a sustainable, profitable business going forward, technology like cloud desktops can provide a valuable foundation.

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