Practice Management

What's the current state of remote and hybrid work in law firms?

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Ari Kaplan

Ari Kaplan. (Photo by Tori Soper)

Ari Kaplan recently spoke with Alaa Pasha, the CEO of Maptician, a cloud-based workplace management software company and an end-to-end solution for law firm hybrid operations.

They discussed the current state of remote and hybrid work in law firms, strategies that firms are using to maximize their workspaces, mistakes that they are making in managing and training their teams, and the future of firm operations given the rise of generative artificial intelligence.

Ari Kaplan: Tell us about your background and your role at Maptician.

Alaa Pasha: I have been a technology executive building business-to-business tools in multiple industries for over 20 years. I came to Maptician about two years ago, and as the CEO, I am responsible for setting the company’s strategy and direction, including our focus on supporting law firms.

Ari Kaplan: Maptician won ALM’s 2024 Legalweek Leaders in Tech Award in the Tech-Enabled Hybrid Work Environment category. How would you characterize the current state of remote and hybrid work in law firms?

Alaa Pasha: This category recognizes companies that are making it possible for law firms to enable or change their culture through technology by empowering their employees to perform some of their work outside the office regularly. We submitted a case study with a law firm that leveraged our solution to successfully transition its 700 attorneys and 1,200 total professionals on 32 floors throughout nine offices into a hybrid schedule. The firm’s chief innovation officer advised us that transforming into a hybrid organization was one of the largest innovation projects taking place at the time. They tried to leverage Microsoft Outlook, which is a great platform, but was not purpose-built to solve this specific use case. They lacked the visibility to see who was in the office or working remotely, which we call presence, not to punish or reward people but to drive more effective collaboration and efficiencies. We are delighted to be working with this client, and this recognition of our partnership was just icing on the cake.

Ari Kaplan: What strategies are law firms using to maximize their workspaces?

Alaa Pasha headshot Alaa Pasha is the CEO of Maptician, a cloud-based workplace management software company and an end-to-end solution for law firm hybrid operations.

Alaa Pasha: First, understand how your space is being used to establish a strategy that helps to maximize it. In the past, everyone had a desk. Today, a dedicated desk is an option, but it is not mandatory. Second, consolidate your workplace management applications, such as visitor entry data, conference room reservations and catering orders. Third, use technology to better understand the habits of your team to enhance their output. Knowing the days that different team members are in the office can help craft a strategy that increases productivity and enhances interaction.

Ari Kaplan: What challenges do law firms use Maptician to overcome?

Alaa Pasha: The most common challenge that law firms use our technology to overcome is to determine the total amount of space they need on a given day, as well as in general, especially in lease negotiations. It also drives collaboration because it instantly highlights who is in the office and which office for firms that have multiple sites. In some cases, it is even more important to know who is in the office the next day or in the next week to gauge the services that might be necessary, such as food and administrative support. And firms want to consolidate their suite of applications.

Ari Kaplan: Why do firms need dedicated technology for this when widely available scheduling tools or a spreadsheet could provide a solution?

Alaa Pasha: We prefer to work with prospects who try this approach first because we need not persuade them that a purpose-built tool is more effective and efficient. Email and calendaring tools are helpful, but they cannot adequately give a firm or individual sufficient data to determine whether and when they are or will be in the office. We display this information visually and give users the tools to encourage conversation and collaboration. Some firms who are trying to do it themselves are not seeing sufficient levels of collaboration or the in-office presence that supports it.

Ari Kaplan: In a hybrid work environment, what mistakes are law firms making in managing their teams and training their employees?

Alaa Pasha: There is no one-size-fits-all, so we provide analytics to incorporate a firm’s feedback from what it has already tried and tweak its process. The mistake is to apply the same strategy to all types of organizations. After all, there are often differences in how firms operate in certain locations, such as in a small town where people live close to the office and a large city that requires a long commute. The in-office requirements and strategies may vary between practices. Some cities could be different, as well. It is also important to lead by example. When the managing partner and practice group leaders encourage the use of technology to empower teams working on a hybrid schedule, it enhances communication, culture and mentoring, and the application sees broad adoption. Firms that deploy it for the associates first and wait to give the partners access based on the feedback of their peers see less usage.

Ari Kaplan: Do you expect that most law firms will be in the office fewer than five days per week permanently?

Alaa Pasha: I am biased, but I do, especially for midsize to large firms because the pandemic proved that legal professionals have the technology and the maturity to be very productive while working remotely. This does not mean firms will shut down all of their offices and send everyone home because that would eliminate the culture of the organization and limit mentoring. But it does give leaders the freedom to lower their overhead by reducing office space, which they can reinvest in more luxurious offices, better technology and higher-level training. It is also important to have a physical presence for teaching new professionals, as it is harder and less effective to learn certain skills remotely.

Ari Kaplan: What do you think the future of how and where law firms operate will look like, particularly given the rise of generative AI?

Alaa Pasha: I am a computer engineer by profession and think we should all be focusing on artificial intelligence very seriously to leverage its potential for self-improvement, communication and productivity. While it will not eliminate jobs, AI is causing major disruptions in the market. Law firms seem to recognize this and the ways that it is changing the expectations for how people work. That said, it will always be crucial to maintain some type of face-to-face interaction and mentoring.

Listen to the complete interview at Reinventing Professionals.

Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change and introduce new technology at his blog and on iTunes.

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

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