Vision vs. Reality: Getting to the Law Firm Workplace of the Future

The COVID-19 pandemic created a state of uncertainty and upheaval around the world, shaking businesses, industries, and the economy as a whole to their very foundations. Within the legal sector in particular, COVID-19 acted as a change accelerant, driving a broader acceptance of change across many fronts at law firms. The profession was forced to reckon with its historical approach to the provision of both client-facing legal services and internal legal and business support services. Throughout, law firms rethought and initiated the transformation of client interaction models, service delivery, legal administrative assistant roles, and the use of real estate. Firms realized record profitability, in part because of reduced travel and lower office services expenses.

We have moved into a new phase with COVID. Vaccinations advanced across most parts of the country, in particular the major metropolitan areas where most larger law firms maintain their main offices. In parallel, governments relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, permitting workers to reenter offices and allowing businesses broad latitude to reopen. The spread of the Delta variant, however, has caused firms to fluctuate regarding how and when to bring their workforce back into the office. Despite the spikes in uncertainty, COVID-19 has spurred a fundamental pivot in how law firms think about their workplace.

As we examine what that future will bring, HBR has launched its Law Firm of the Future initiative, addressing seven interrelated pillars that represent the essential elements of how a law firm functions, from the workplace of the future through service delivery transformation, talent development, and strategies for continued growth. This white paper, the first in a series of perspectives covering the pillars, addresses the physical operating model underpinning every other pillar: the workplace of the future.

2021 Workplace of the Future Whitepaper Landing Page