Earlier this month Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs told its bankers in the US and the UK that they should be ready to return to the office in June, as the two countries loosen restrictions in response to falling Covid-19 cases. In Asia, the bank’s offices are already nearly full with returnees.
Spring has arrived on the Northern hemisphere. Not just literally, but also in a figurative way. As mass vaccination programs are slowly picking up pace and the infection rates and hospital admissions are starting to drop, European countries are gradually awakening from a yearlong hibernation. Step by step societies and economies will be opening up over summer.
This process is commonly referred to as “getting back to normal”. People and businesses can’t wait for things to get back as they were before. The fundamental question however is whether we should want things to get back to what they were before? Perhaps it would be better not to get back to normal, but use the opportunity to become better. I suggest we go for ‘Normal 2.0’, a new, different and improved normal.
Businesses have got the message
As everyone who has tried to quit smoking or lose weight can testify, it is incredibly hard to break with old habits. Even if the habits are bad or harmful. It often takes a forceful disruptive event, like a heart attack or a coronary bypass, to stop smoking or permanently lose weight. Unsolicited we have all experienced such impactful disruption as Covid put our lives upside down. As Winston Churchill put it: “never waste a good crisis”.
Following the economic news, it is clear that businesses have got that message. Being under permanent scrutiny from investors and markets, most businesses have drawn valuable lessons from the pandemic and have made structural strategic changes in their operating model. Some have rigorously adapted their supply chains to become less dependent on one supplier or one region. Others are embracing robotics to become less dependent on humans for their output and production. Very few businesses are in fact going ‘back to normal’
The legal industry could be the odd one out. Talking to law firm leaders and following the international legal press, it seems that the legal industry aims to return to the old ‘Normal 1.0’ from before the pandemic. Sure, there is a lot of talk about ‘hybrid working’, meaning that lawyers will not be required to be at the office all the time every day of the week, but that’s about it.
So for the legal industry, where are the opportunities to make things better? The two most obvious areas fit for improvement seem to be working hours and training & development.
For a milk farmer, the main source of income are his cows, as they produce the milk the farmer can sell. Likewise for a law firm the associates are the revenue creating machine. Farmers want their cows to produce as much milk as possible and law firms are no different as it comes to billable hours. For the past year lawyers have been working like mad, as the boundaries between private time and work time got completely blurred. This might have been good for business, but is bad for mental health and general wellbeing. This is reflected by the numbers. The past 4 months more associates switched firm or left the profession, than in the whole of the year before.
Law firms are trying to combat burnouts and outflow by throwing money at it. Unfortunately that does not work. The solution is in smart automation, better project management and structural workload planning and allocation. We will be happy to elaborate and assist you with that.
I have been writing about this before: there is no viable future for lawyers that only excel in legal skills. The world in which lawyers operate has changed and keeps changing. Perhaps more than legal technicians, lawyers need to be business enablers and entrepreneurs. The former because that is what clients demand and the latter because being a lawyer ultimately means running a business.
Now that everyone is returning to the office, it seems the ideal moment to introduce Lifespan Learning and roll out a structured permanent training program for all your lawyers, young and old, to learn and develop on the ‘7 Core TGO Lawyer Development Dimensions©’. You will not only find that pretty soon you will make more money, but also that lawyers will get more motivated and that cohesion and collaboration across the firm will significantly increase. Lifespan Learning is also a great tool to attract talent and once onboard keep them from departing.
Normal is a missed opportunity
For the legal industry, 2020 has been a record year. Never before have partners made so much money. It is tempting to think that if you make a lot of money, you must be on the right track. If I make more money than you, than my method must be better, right? On top of that also 2021 has been incredibly busy so far, so why change a winning formula? Well, think twice: in order to keep being successful, you will need the best talent in the world. The firm with the best talent is the firm that will win. Right now is perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to switch to Lawyer 2.0
"everything must change for things to remain the same"
Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Italian writer)