I have to confess that I have been surprised by the ease with which many large law firms transitioned to working from home. In various contexts over the past few months, I have spoken with law firm leaders who described transitions that were fairly seamless and that were pulled off within a relatively short time frame.

But what hasn’t surprised me is the common thread among these firms, which is that they all had in place a strong, technology-driven operational base. It is only common sense that firms that had already invested in leveraging technology would be most prepared for a crisis that made us almost totally dependent on technology.

The latest example of this comes from a case study published today by the workflow technology company BigHand about the global law firm DLA Piper.

Last month, I wrote about another BigHand case study involving the law firm Baker Donelson. In that case, the firm had been in just the early stages of what was planned to be a gradual rollout of BigHand Now, the company’s legal workflow application.

But when the coronavirus crisis hit, and it became clear to the firm that its attorneys and staff would have to work from home, it accelerated the roll-out in order to help minimize disruption to staff workflows.

In this new case study involving DLA Piper, the firm had already implemented the BigHand Now technology in 2018 to all 28 of its U.S. offices. But the firm credits the technology with helping to ease the way for it to completely transition to working from home within 36 hours.

Even though the firm’s administrative and support staff were using the technology to manage the flow of work assignments, not all attorneys were. That meant that when the time came to require everyone to work from home, the firm needed to get the attorneys up to speed.

“When COVID-19 started to become more widespread, we realized the best option to protect the health and safety of our workforce was to move to 100% remote work,” Norma Spearman, chief legal support officer at DLA Piper, says in the case study.

“As part of that transition, we tapped into each of our assistants and had them reach out to each attorney to ensure they had BigHand Now downloaded on to their computers, and walk them through how easy it is to use the tool, before they left the office.”

What BigHand Now does is facilitate management of tasks within a firm. Attorneys can use it to assign work to administrative support staff. For support staff, it serves as a single repository of all pending work and provides the ability to manage and prioritize assignments from within a single interface.

For Sonji Le Blanc, senior manager for legal support services at DLA Piper, it avoids the problem of work getting lost in the email, as well as the problem of managing staff capacities among a dispersed workforce.

“The beauty of BigHand is that anyone with the relevant skills can pick up and complete work in a timely fashion,” Le Blanc says. “However, people are now also communicating and talking to each other in ways they never did before, asking each other how a certain task was done, and asking for help. The distance has made them closer in terms of reaching out to each other.”

You can read the complete case study here.

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Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal…

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division. At LexBlog, he oversees LexBlog.com, the global legal news and commentary network.