The past month has seen the global legal industry undergo a once-in-a-generation transformation. From taking entire law firms remote, to grappling with electronic execution and paper-free workflows, doing legal work looks very different today to the way it looked only a month ago.
While it remains to be seen whether this transformation will outlive the COVID-19 pandemic, at Josef, we are already seeing glimmers of structural change. And at the very least, the seeds of technological possibility have been planted in the minds of a generation of lawyers.
For us too, this has been the most rapid transition in Josef’s short history. So, in this blog post, I’ll share some of our customers’ experiences, a few inspirational stories about how they are responding to the crisis, and how things have changed for the team at Josef.
The bad news first. Stories abound of law firms revising profit-per-partner forecasts, and furloughing operational staff who can’t work remotely. For some, the coming year is going to be hard, with the forecast downturn leading to less work across the firm.
But for others – and I’m thinking of one law firm innovation leader in particular – the pandemic represents an opportunity to push through organisation-wide transformation at a million miles an hour. In the words of that innovation leader: “In just one week, we achieved what we’ve been trying to do for years.”
That includes teaching everyone in the firm how to manage e-signature workflows, running new technology training sessions for 100s of people online and deploying the kinds of project management tools more often seen in technology companies.
While this is a difficult time for many, some of the firms we work with immediately saw the potential that easy-to-use automation technology could offer in this new remote world.
We have seen firms spinning up COVID-19 decision-making and advice tools on Josef in a matter of days that can provide legal services at scale. Others have been building document automation bots for clients who now need everything to be efficient, consistent and error-free.
Take the example of MinterEllison, the largest law firm in Australia, which has built a bot for their homepage that enables clients to find the latest relevant information about how COVID-19 will impact their business. This is an inspiring example of using user-centric automation technology to assist clients at scale.
Or, take Tompkins Wake, an innovation leader in New Zealand, which rapidly responded to the pandemic by building a suite of tools on Josef, from a force majeure clause-checker to a bot that helps businesses work out how New Zealand’s border closures affect them. As Philip Mohan, Partner, shared, “We need to think about how we can interact with clients in different ways.”
These firms recognise that even in dark times, there are opportunities to give back to our communities and set up businesses for the future.
Josef was already set up to operate remotely. So when the pandemic forced us to send the whole team home for the foreseeable future, we were well-prepared. From our internal communication channels to the ways we interact with our customers, this felt less like a transformation and more like a transition.
That said, we’ve taken this opportunity to examine the way that we work, and ask some of the hard questions about what we could be doing better, both internally and to deliver more value to our customers.
Our support services are a great example of this. We’ve seen increased usage and engagement with Josef over the past month, as some of our users spend more time at their computers or have additional time.
With increased usage comes an increase in demand for our support resources. So, we’ve responded by investing in our Help Centre, by creating more and better how-to-guides and videos, and updating the user experience to align better with our dashboard. And, along with many other companies, all training and presentations, some of which used to be conducted in person, is done via video conferences.
But perhaps the biggest change we’ve made at Josef is to open up to everyone all of the world-class training resources that we’ve developed in collaboration with the best and most innovative law firms and law schools in the world.
We launched our Designer and Builder Program so that anyone – not just customers! – can develop the skills that every lawyer will need coming out of this crisis: skills in legal design, workflow, process and document automation, and in how to launch digital legal products.
These are uncertain times and it’s a brave person who makes a prediction about what the future holds. Nevertheless, at Josef we are optimistic about the sparks that we see, how people are adapting, and how our customers are responding to the opportunities to help their communities, as well as their businesses.