Being a successful lawyer today poses the challenge of having to travel around the country, or indeed the world, while remaining responsive to your clients' needs. So, is mobile working a viable solution? What are the benefits and opportunities? How far have we really come today? And what can we do to raise the bar even further?
In simple terms, mobile working lets you work as effectively outside the office as you can from your desk. In many law firms, this may just mean being able to stay in touch with clients and colleagues, but although this is important, the potential of mobile working is far greater than simple voice calls.
Imagine being able to seamlessly access your email, calendar, contacts, and even business critical information on your company network, while on the move. This access would allow you to stay informed, but the real vision is the ability to act upon that information – respond to emails, finalise reports and reply to voicemails all at the touch of a button.
If mobile working has the potential to provide so many benefits, you may ask why it isn't the norm across the law industry today? Somewhat surprisingly, this cautious approach is not down to cost implications or lack of robust technology. Rather, it is about misperception. There is an overwhelming amount of information available about mobile technology, but much of it is contradictory and unreliable. Education and collaboration are needed in order to demonstrate the benefits available from the next phase of mobile working.
Before embarking on a mobile working project, it is crucial to understand the motives and needs of everyone involved. Each situation is very different – a financial legal adviser might need real time access to stock information, whereas lawyers involved in real estate could be more focused on the transfer of large documents and electronic signatures. These differences should not be underestimated.
Some mobile working projects do not make the grade because of poor planning or the failure to get buy-in from key influencers at the beginning of the project.
Who will use the devices? How will they be used? How technologically savvy are the users? What is the key driver behind a move towards mobile working? How will this new technology be integrated into the current infrastructure? These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered in each situation in order to make mobile working a success in reality.
Mobile working removes traditional barriers associated with the workplace and the benefits are significant. DLA's infrastructure development manager Dene Rowe says: “Technology plays an important role in the productivity of our lawyers. They're hard working individuals and our mobility programme allows them real flexibility in their work. The hour spent reviewing a document on a train or catching up on emails in a taxi on the way to court means that our lawyers are able to make the most of their working day. In turn, this helps them reach a healthy work-life balance.”
The real benefit, however, doesn't stop with the lawyers themselves – it is then passed on to clients. Rowe says: “The most important thing in any law firm is the relationships with clients and the ability to consistently deliver an excellent service. Much of the work in the legal profession is time sensitive; calls have to be taken and emails responded to immediately. With mobile working, lawyers now have the freedom to leave the office. They can dash out of the office at a moment's notice, safe in the knowledge that they can be reached in an emergency and will be equipped with all the information needed to respond shrewdly.”
The impact of technology on the legal profession has been, and continues to be, groundbreaking. The vision of fully mobilised individuals, teams and enterprises is a very real possibility and the benefits on offer make raising the bar a real priority.
Richard Hanscott is the vice-president of business solutions at Orange UK