Is Attention the New Oil in the Legal Sector?
With new ways of working bringing employee efficiency into focus, law firms must learn to better harness employee attention.
Katya Linossi, CEO and co-founder of ClearPeople, explores how firms can use technology and effective communication to enhance employee productivity and focus.
The pandemic has resulted in a necessary digital evolution within the legal sector – experiencing more technological advancement over the last year than in the previous decade.
The firms that take advantage of new solutions are able to rise above competitors and establish themselves as leaders in their sector. By using new solutions, firms can enhance many aspects of their day-to-day work, including employee attention, to continue developing during challenging times.
A simple yet significant example is the approach to working from home – something that is still relatively new for the sector. The forced requirement of immediate changes to habits has naturally caused significant disruption for many.
Whilst working away from the office, employees have never been more connected with the world, whilst also less connected with one another. With an increase of data and constant communication streams open between colleagues and clients, an unconsidered issue for many is how employees are at risk of being overwhelmed and unable to remain as productive as they were.
The opportunity is to utilise new innovations in work effectively. Technology has the ability to enhance employee attention by enabling greater access to knowledge and data through simple systems like the cloud, but it must be understood and structured effectively.
Whilst working away from the office, employees have never been more connected with the world, whilst also less connected with one another.
Having worked closely with the legal sector for almost seventeen years, I’ve witnessed the success and failures of firms exploring new solutions. The obstacle is often simply understanding what is required by focusing on your users and how to best implement these solutions. With the pandemic, everyone was forced into making these decisions immediately, without the ability to truly understand or analyse their impact on productivity. It’s clear that we’ll be working remotely for the foreseeable future, so now is the time to truly engage with the solutions available to the legal sector.
Using technology to enhance employee attention
Working from home has become the norm for most industries, but some firms were initially reluctant to utilise cloud systems due to security concerns. Firms have used temporary workarounds such as VPNs or hybrid-cloud logins, allowing access to their data in the short-term.
Patchwork solutions like this can cause more issues than they solve and place significant challenges on the most basic tasks. It is therefore essential for law firms to provide employees with simple access to the tools and information that they need.
Examples like these demonstrate why a fully digital workspace is the solution to overcoming the burden of remote work. A “digital workspace” is not just an intranet or ‘comms’ platform, but a collection of evolving technologies, acting as a hub for employees so that they have instant and secure access to everything they need to get work done.
Organisations who have taken this leap and have invested in digital workspaces have realised it is easy to make the most of this cloud infrastructure platform. This ability to break down barriers to knowledge sharing and data silos convinced firms like Weightman’s – a top 45 UK law firm – to commit to full digitalisation.
It is essential for law firms to provide employees with simple access to the tools and information that they need.
Weightman’s IT director Kevin Brown explained: “We really wanted to remove the firm-wide reliance on network shares, duplications and out-of-date documents. Since switching to a fully digital workspace, it has allowed us to manage our documents more easily and make them more useful and accessible within our teams.”
Providing employees with the right information at the right time ultimately helps to focus employees’ attention when it is needed the most.
The right amount of communication is the key to attention
Attention is not just about the ability to focus on work, but also about the engagement of employees. Efficient communication helps to channel focus, as well as empower colleagues through knowledge sharing.
Although some firms have moved to a more modern approach, many law firms have been slow to adapt and are still using legacy approaches, such as emails, to communicate with each other. This is a method that many want to change but may not know how.
By using a digital workspace, firms can enhance the collaboration between colleagues by fostering more connections from anywhere in the world – something we have seen be particularly helpful for international firms. By opening up communication channels, firms can drive the collaborative culture required for a disparate team to succeed and enhance productivity.
It is important to note that there is a balance between too much and too little communication and knowledge. Individuals either have limited knowledge, leaving them unable to act, or too much, delaying any progress due to information overload. Distracting employees from their work has a massive impact on key relationships, especially when they need to be maintained for the long term. Firms, therefore, need to create boundaries and specific channels of communication for queries, general chat and clients. Employers should also encourage their staff to turn off notifications when their work requires high attention to detail and focus.
Looking forward, law firms have an opportunity to assess how they can tie these communication streams together when returning to the office, with a ‘hybrid’ model of working likely to become the norm for most firms. Law firms who support their employees in these transitions, and who are at the forefront of change, will make work accessible for all by creating a flexible working environment. By opening these doors to skilled workers, such as working mothers, firms will be able to attract new talent for future generations – ultimately leading to long term success and profitability.
Attention is scarce and the mindset around working from home needs to change. The industry needs to understand that previous systems that were used to work pre-pandemic are no longer relevant. Firms need to accept that taking the time to assess their habits and make the leap to a digital transition is essential to rise above their competition. One approach to do this is simple – by adopting the correct digital strategies to enhance worker’s attention, they will ultimately help to foster greater productivity.
As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: “Data is plentiful. Attention is scarce, and we’ll never get more of it.”