In this new landscape, legal organizations need to rethink what systems they’re using to accomplish their knowledge work. If they simply take the same approach as in the “prehybrid” days, they will compromise their ability to continue delivering superior outcomes.
THE HYBRID WORK EFFECT
As any lawyer or legal professional can tell you, their work requires judgment and creativity in achieving some sort of high-value goal or outcome, whether that’s minimizing risk in a contract or negotiating the best possible agreement.
The work involves interpretation of complex laws and rules and consultation with senior staff or experts who have relevant experience. There may be best practices in how to carry out the work, but those are a starting point, not a how-to guide.
A hybrid work environment throws some sand in the gears for this type of collaborative and knowledge-centric work. Since people come into the office on different days — if they come in at all — there aren’t as many opportunities to pop your head over the cubicle wall or step into someone’s office to ask a question, hold an ad hoc meeting or get a quick project update.
Certainly, a range of different tools have sprouted up to help close this gap — rare is the legal professional who isn’t familiar at this point with collaboration tools like Zoom, Slack or Teams, or project management tools like Hive or Asana — but these tools come with their own challenges. For starters, professionals now need to constantly monitor multiple tools and multiple channels within those tools simply to stay on top of things.
Then there are the concerns around privacy, security and governance now that work is no longer conducted within the four walls of the office. As tools proliferate, there are new risks to deal with around the sensitive content being managed by those tools, whether that means controlling access or ensuring compliance with new regulations like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Addressing these challenges is key for legal organizations to successfully engage in knowledge work and collaboration in today’s hybrid environment.
GAINING VALUE AND SECURITY
One of the biggest ways that technology can support successful knowledge work and collaboration in a hybrid work environment is by integrating disparate forms of content or knowledge — documents, emails, transcripts, etc. — into a “single source of truth.” This leads to a knowledge work platform approach where case management or document management forms the core, but email, collaboration, knowledge management and other elements are also tightly integrated.
The advantages of this integrated approach can be seen across multiple hybrid work scenarios. Legal professionals need to be able to draw upon the collective intelligence of the organization — which is both its best people and best previous work product — in order to do their best work. By analyzing the historical content, messages and other knowledge assets in a single source of truth, today’s knowledge work platforms can actively surface both organizational knowledge and expertise.
“The advantages of this integrated approach can be seen across multiple hybrid work scenarios. Legal professionals need to be able to draw upon the collective intelligence of the organization — which is both its best people and best previous work product — in order to do their best work.”
By enriching this content through advanced technologies like social graph, AI-based classification, statistics and more, a knowledge work platform enables deeper and more relevant searching, which produces results with less “noise” and greater relevance. This ultimately improves the quality and consistency of a firm’s work product. For example, by analyzing each user’s connection to and interaction with documents and emails, the system can identify who the most qualified experts are for given topics. Billing data — as well as case data from Thomson, Lexis or Practical Law — can also be integrated to enable even deeper searching and analysis.
Integrated matter-centric checklists are another innovation that can aid knowledge work in a hybrid environment. A case or matter checklist can be thought of as a best-practice template for a specific transaction or litigation type. It has the advantage of being able to be shared around the globe, ensuring that all teams follow firm best practices and client service is consistent even if no one is in the office. Checklists answer the question “where are we with X?” by providing a single dashboard of all tasks and statuses, keeping everyone in the know with minimal disruption, thereby closing a key hybrid work gap.
For all of the above, security and governance are paramount. A knowledge work platform that seamlessly integrates security policies and ethical walls creates an integrated “need-to-know” security environment that allows content to be shared in a safe and protected manner. In this way, greater knowledge sharing occurs while ensuring that only those with proper permissions find, access or see restricted content.
Additionally, secure work from anywhere is now a fundamental need in business, and an integrated platform enables much more comprehensive governance and security on mobile devices and popular tablets, addressing an intrinsic security challenge that comes with the hybrid work environment.
When it comes to the knowledge work that legal organizations revolve around, the proper systems and technology are crucial if legal professionals are to continue effectively collaborating with one another in the hybrid environment.
More than ever, successful collaboration requires a safe, mobile-enabled platform that securely connects people who are physically disconnected and taps into the firm’s collective intelligence to make it available to everyone at any time. Firms that address these issues will gain a competitive advantage and succeed in this new world, at the expense of those that do not.