• Jade Strain

From Office To Online – Why Innovation Is Necessary For Small Firms

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Recently our Founding Partner Avinder Laroya, took part in a Law Society Gazette Roundtable. The subject ‘From high street to cloud’ highlighted three key areas that small businesses must be aware of if they want to succeed through the Pandemic and beyond.

Going Online

Although many businesses had online elements already, the Pandemic has forced thousands of companies to move to a completely web-based system. Leading many employers to worry not only about sourcing the correct software, but about the transition period for teams. This can be an intimidating time, using unknown platforms and changing staff culture can be a big move in a small amount of time, regardless of the age of the workforce. For many however, the fear is often bigger than the move itself, which is perhaps why so many avoid it for so long.

For those companies that have already moved online, one note was the increased camaraderie that many businesses felt within their employee teams as a result. Being out of the office and with the absence of the ‘water cooler’ conversation keenly felt, individuals were checking in on each other’s situations in a more personable way that being out of the corporate office environment allows for. Networks are being built for small teams and sole-practitioners to provide support and advice. It could be argued that this would have been incredibly productive pre-Pandemic, however, this is the first time that many individuals are faced with a collective problem which arguably brings people closer on a personal level.

Fellow participant Arun Chauhan pointed out: having people work remotely… is all about trust’. He describes trust as a ‘cultural piece’”, adding: “It’s helped us get through in a better fashion than we may have done otherwise.” Avinder also agrees with this sentiment, pointing out that the first concern is always for the client and how to provide the best service possible regardless of location; “The clients don't need to know where I am as long as they can reach me, that’s the point of technology”.

As Avinder also points out, it’s important not to become complacent after making the change to go online, there is a continual evolving process that needs to take place within to match the clients’ needs. When discussing the Pandemic she noted; “what we did see is changes to our clients. Obviously, they are in traditional businesses, they are either in retail units, office spaces. However, because we deal with litigation and other areas, our focus really became about pivoting our services to the changes, in particular the regulatory changes that were going on, to make sure that the services we were providing were fit for the ever-increasing challenges that businesses are facing.”

New Technology

There are countless online solutions for businesses, things such as dictation services and video calls have both seen a sharp rise in use since Covid. For many, including Roundtable participant and Law Society President Nicholas Fluck, the switch was surprisingly simple, “The adoption of some key technology came overnight, he says. ‘We upgraded our digital dictation system so that we could do that without having to have a server in the office, so we do digital dictation on the web now. That was blissfully easy, actually. I dreaded it when we started. And we’ve got people now using mobile phones who didn’t think that mobile phones could do anything else apart from make phone calls, to dictate their stuff.”

Avinder also pointed out that Serenity Law, which was created as a virtual law firm, has already faced the challenges of deciding whether to use ‘off-the-shelf or create-your-own technology’. There are laws and regulations in every sector that must be adhered to which can sometimes feel stifling, however this is why it is so important to continually monitor these regulations as well as to be hungry for more technology. Better cloud based systems, online document portals and HD video calls will push you forward as a business, for instance at Serenity Law we use Clio to manage our cases in the cloud and to securely share files with clients.

Online Issues

Whilst going online can be a life-saver for many businesses, it also comes with its own risk, Avinder notes “In particular, security, cybercrime and data protection” can bring their own issues. Fellow participant Paul Bennett also agreed with this sentiment pointing out that issues such as GDPR risk could be elevated by individuals working from home and lapsing on good habits in terms of data. Switching to Cloud systems can also bring up data queries for both you and your clients. It is always best to check before signing up to any new service that it complies with your security policy.

There is also the risk of the clients and partners that firms work with regularly can have difficult and outdated systems that can delay certain processes. Though with the current economic climate and more and more services going online, the update needed on many sites and platforms will become inevitable.

As conclusion, Avinder noted that the online working needs to be evaluated on a business-by-business case, “what kind of environment do your workers work in, do they have dedicated home office spaces. You know, it’s not healthy long term to be sitting at the kitchen table because that's not very good for the posture and it's not good for the morale. So, there are many things you need to consider when growing a business on a virtual basis, and so I generally look at the tech sector for inspiration and as a model as to how to grow and develop the business.”

Avinder is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Serenity Law, a Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (MCIArb) and a CEDR Mediator. Avinder is passionate in delivering cost-effective solutions to businesses which reflect the contemporary environment in which they operate.

To read the full Roundtable article click here.