Even before the pandemic struck, a lot of the more progressive chambers were already some way down the road of digital transformation. That direction of travel was well-established.
However, COVID-19 has clearly been a huge accelerant of transformation. Whether they wanted to or not, barristers and clerks alike had no choice but to leave their traditional premises and work from home. Resultantly they embraced a lot of technology that perhaps previously some had only toyed with. They’re now more digitally enabled than they would ever have expected to be. The critical question now is: do they go forward with it, or revert to the old model?
There’s already evidence that some chambers have decided to go forward. For example, supported by the right software, a handful are relocating into smaller, more utilitarian, managed spaces. This recognises that there’s no compelling reason to retain expensive real estate for everyone when remote work has proved viable and a hot-desking model is much more cost-effective.
Another very visible manifestation of digital transformation is found in the chambers that are getting closer and closer to being paper-free. Given the extraordinary volume of paper that traditional chambers handle on a daily basis – it won’t surprise you to learn that one set we work with is saving £350k per annum as a result of shedding its paper, copying, storage, courier and shredding costs. Again, this is enabled by the right digital technology. But what exactly does digital transformation involve, and why’s it now such a good idea?
These days, the adoption of digital is actually remarkably painless and cost-effective. Because most applications are cloud-based, users merely need access to the web and a login. Since there’s no infrastructure to host, there’s no capital cost – only a per-user monthly subscription. Moreover, most of today’s software is so intuitive that training costs are minimal.
As to why it’s a good idea, the benefits are stacked pretty high. For example, software can automate billing and administration; provide a synchronising diary function; streamline time capture and entry; and provide financial dashboards and reporting for chambers management. Crucially, it enables solicitors to securely upload case files that barristers can access instantly, compliantly, and from anywhere, at any time, using any device.
For chambers it means that the admin burden is much lighter. It significantly reduces costs, plus staff time is freed up for people to focus on higher value tasks. For barristers, it considerably increases their productivity, plus users find that they’re also logging around 10% more time.
A significant advantage is that it’s better for business because it improves client service. Solicitors are more likely to instruct chambers that offer the facility of uploading files, rather than wasting their time with copying and couriers. They’d also rather work with chambers that provide a faster, cheaper and more collaborative service. Plus, less paper and no couriers reduce everyone’s carbon footprint – so it’s better for the environment.
Digital transformation will also likely help chambers to future-proof and to secure a competitive advantage that might be critical in the months and years to come.
We end up asking not if chambers should go forward with digital transformation; but rather, can they afford not to?
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