Across the country, the recession is putting increasing pressure on law firms to slash spending and discount their services. Geoff Willard, a Northern Virginia lawyer who largely represents newly launched companies, illustrates how the Wal-Mart effect of discounting is playing out in the Washington region’s legal community. Willard left his job as partner at DLA Piper, a huge global blue-chip law firm, because, he said, he was fed up with the traditional business model that required it to annually increase rates and billable hours to finance ballooning profits and overhead.
Last fall, he joined a start-up “virtual” law firm that he said is much better suited to the current economic conditions: It does business mainly over the phone and through video conferencing. Because the firm lacks two of the biggest cost drivers — a prestigious brick-and-mortar office and associates — he said he is offering his clients substantial savings compared with what they paid before.
Besides saving money for clients, Willard said the firm is good for his home life, too. At his previous firm, he said, he worked 60 to 85 hours a week to keep up his billable time. Now he works 40 to 50 hours and has more time with his wife and two young daughters.He said he has the ability under the new arrangement to work less and make more money. Because overhead is so low, he keeps 85 percent of what he generates, he said, instead of 30 percent.
“I can go to my daughters’ piano lessons and tae kwon do practices,” said Willard, who kept 90 percent of his clients from his previous firm. “I have clawed back a significant part of my life.”
Tomorrow, an estimated 4.5 million extra requests for flexible working could, theoretically, swamp UK firms. New legislation is coming into effect that represents one of the biggest changes to working practices, with the right to request flexible working extended to all parents with children under the age of 16.
In the U.S. we are not facing regulations, but the pressure to address flexible work arrangements is very real for many reasons, such as employee work-life balance demands, environmental responsibility and reductions in operational and real estate costs. So what does this mean for companies?
According to Dave Bailey of Computing, the main difficulty many employers have with flexible working arrangements is trust. A recent survey of 3,743 employees by BT Business and Nortel suggested that less than one in 10 UK small businesses trusts employees to work out of the office, despite 42 per cent of staff polled being confident that they could work better remotely.
The key to overcoming this issue is proper communication and monitoring, recommends Bailey. Video conferencing helps build trust by providing face-to-face communication from anywhere, so managers and teammates can regularly meet “in person” to collaborate and monitor productivity. Even though they no longer physically meet, video enables teams to stay connected. Read more from Dave Bailey about how businesses can deal with the increasing demand for flexible work arrangements.
Two recent reports authored by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) demonstrate how technologies such as video conferencing can help organizations dramatically reduce emissions related to employee travel, which in some non-manufacturing firms can amount to more than half a business’ carbon footprint.
Increased use of telework by 2030, for example, could cut carbon dioxide emissions by about one billion tons -- as much as are produced today by the UK and Italy combined.
Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, has predicted that the financial crisis will drive a shift from physical travel to video calls, echoing the expectations of many commentators in the video communications market. “The challenge of the current economic conditions demands that every organisation revisit the need for face-to-face meetings,” said Gartner fellow Steve Prentice.
“Telepresence is not the answer in every circumstance… but not every meeting needs to be face to face.”
“There is no doubt that telepresence and other approaches to virtual collaboration…. will provide a real alternative for many businesses. Companies should put aside previous prejudices and bad memories of older video-conferencing services and seriously investigate these new technologies.”
Read more on the Gartner prediction.
Whether managing a large urban hospital or a small rural facility, healthcare IT managers report that video conferencing has successfully addressed a host of educational, managerial, and patient challenges.
After conducting lengthy interviews with seven healthcare IT managers across the U.S., researchers report that video conferencing helps solve at least 10 key challenges which have impacted their organization positively.
Specifically, video conferencing has helped healthcare facilities to:
1. Increase patient access to specialists and improve level of care.
2. Improve delivery of treatment.
3. Reduce the need to transfer patients and thus retain revenues.
4. Recruit top doctors.
5. Achieve acquisitions strategies below budget.
6. Recruit and train more nurses.
7. Improve ongoing staff training.
8. Reduce meeting overload.
9. Satisfy C.M.E. requirements.
10. Meet green initiatives.
Learn more and read real examples.