Episode 32: Reimagining Legal Work and Collaboration at Kroll

Mike Ferrara hs
Mike Ferrara05/12/2021

The pandemic has disrupted the legal field, forcing lawyers and their colleagues to change the way they work practically overnight. The field has been slow to adopt digital transformations, but the pandemic has accelerated the need to adapt. As a result, many digital changes are here to stay, including virtual court proceedings and collaboration tools.

This episode of the #shifthappens podcast features Mike Ferrara, a Director for Legal Management Consulting at Kroll, discussing how the pandemic has changed collaboration needs for the legal industry. Ferrara has more than 15 years of experience in information lifecycle management and data privacy, managing strategic technology projects for organizations in various industries, including financial services, tax, retail, entertainment, automotive, and oil and gas. His work focuses on overcoming information governance challenges through better processes and using modern workplace technologies. Ferrara also has extensive experience with legal document records management, matter management, and contract lifecycle management. Ferrara explains how the pandemic has forced the legal industry to shift to remote work, causing the use of modern technologies to manage documents and communicate with clients.

The conversation highlights the differences between law firms, corporate law departments, and alternative legal service providers in terms of how they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and how they have adapted to the changes brought about by it. Law firms were particularly affected by the pandemic, with courts closing and client work being put on hold. Many firms had to furlough staff and cut partner pay. While law firms have spent time modernizing, the issue of how lawyers collaborate with each other and with their clients is still a challenge. In contrast, corporate legal departments are a function of an enterprise and are pulled along by the tech and cultural changes happening naturally within the organization. The adoption of technology and collaboration practices is different in-house than in law firms, which can be more traditional and insular. The catching up that law firms need to do is primarily cultural, and there has been resistance to platform-agnostic approaches such as SharePoint in the past. However, the tech is now available, and cloud-based solutions have caused a shift in the way everyone works, which presents an opportunity for law firms to modernize further.

The shift to remote working was sudden and firms had to quickly adopt technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to enable remote proceedings. Teams is the most talked-about product in the industry and firms are exploring how to use it beyond video calls for chat and collaboration. However, governance and compliance are the biggest concerns, especially for highly regulated industries. Legal work is matter-centric, and content surrounding a matter must be containerized and managed in a defined manner. As legal entities start using Teams, they are facing challenges in managing content lifecycle and they need better tools to automate it. Third-party tools and homegrown tools can complement what Microsoft offers to meet the organization's needs. However, it is essential to balance empowering people and ensuring compliance with policies around confidentiality, compliance, and retention of data. Firms are exploring how to apply retention policies on chats and collaboration aspects of Teams. The legal industry requires better tools to manage governance and compliance in Teams and automate the content lifecycle so that nothing is missed. Legal technology is mature, and platforms like Teams need to keep things secure and compliant.

Ferrara then discussed the impact of Microsoft 365 on legal processes and how the shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of cloud-based technologies. He shared the benefits of Microsoft 365, which include increased efficiency, collaboration, reducing clutter and saving time. He also touched on the cultural shift needed to convince lawyers to adopt these modern technologies and embrace digital transformation. Ferrara suggested finding inefficiencies in current processes and using technology to improve upon them, leading to quick wins and making lawyers more efficient. As everyone looks ahead to a post-pandemic world, Ferrara explained while traditional aspects of legal services may return, the industry has been forced to rethink how they provide services and support clients, and the use of cloud-based technologies is likely here to stay.

Ferrara highlighted that many firms are embracing remote work as the future, and there is high demand for it among legal professionals. While partners and leadership may not work from home all the time, support administration, help desk, and other roles could benefit from remote work options. With people moving away from urban centers, legal firms need to adopt modern technologies to attract the best talent from different regions. He also emphasized that collaboration and partnership are essential for delivering services to clients. Cloud technologies have not only transformed the way businesses operate but also redefined the role of IT professionals as true partners who enable organizations to function effectively. Ferrara stressed the importance of providing solutions that help lawyers save time and get out of their inbox.

The legal industry still has a long way to go in improving governance that supports its specific needs, but the progress made so far is worth celebrating. An efficient and highly connected legal system benefits everyone, giving teams the bandwidth to meet client needs while keeping their data and physical health safe.

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