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The future of work - how technology reforms our work culture
BY Matt Torrens

Traditionally, advancement in technology has displaced many unskilled and semi-skilled workers in their work.

Did you know that, following the introduction of robotics, Birds Eye’s factory in Lowestoft now produces 1 million potato waffles a day and it only requires 7 staff to maintain the production process (source)? There are now even machines that will shave the delicious and wholesome kebab meat in a takeaway automatically circumventing the need for a human to do the work (source).

 

For perhaps the first time in human history, our jobs as we know them are now increasingly under threat from automation. Not only that, the way we think of work and our part in it is being shaped by other major technological forces including the gig economy, the cloud, and, online collaboration.

 

What does the future of work hold? Let’s take a look at some of the major trends affecting employment and capitalism and speculate.

 

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Permanently temporary 

The era of having your own desk, landline, and computer at work is most likely coming to an end at the same time and pace as the job for life, even in the traditionally financially stable legal sector.

 

There are nearly 5m self-employed people in the UK, many of whom are consultants or are freelancers. Many will have taken this career choice of their own volition but many others may have been forced into it as businesses now tend to upscale and downscale their workforces as needed much quicker and easier than in times before.

 

Many businesses have become inflexible in their demands for flexibility from employees and contractors. And this has led to a new phenomenon…

 

 

The side-hustle

With increasing job security in legal firms, the “side hustle” has been adopted by legal professionals. A “side hustle” refers to the creation of one or more sources of income in addition to a traditional employment role. According to the Independent, four in ten British workers now have a “side hustle” creating £72bn turnover for UK plc and contributing 3.6% of GDP.

 

At time of writing, there are 57 legal freelancer jobs listed on People Per Hour being competed for by 625 legal freelancers charging between £17 and £425 an hour for their services.

 

The last 20-30 years in the legal sector has seen many mega-mergers and takeovers creating a lot of amazing companies filled with world-class legal talent but with ferociously high overheads. If the “permanently temporary” revolution continues in combination with the “legal side-hustlers”, will there come a point when the cost structures of many of these super-firms becomes unsustainable?

 

Neither the “permanently temporary” workforce or the side hustlers could do what they do without…

 

 

Remote working and the four-day week

You can, in most cases, do exactly the same work that you perform at the office anywhere in the world. It does not matter anywhere near as much as it used to where you are based– all that matters is that you can do the job, that you can be contacted by Skype, and that your connection to the internet is stable enough to mean that you can perform the tasks you need to perform and deliver them to the client or to the firm.

 

And, in the last part of that sentence lies another clue to the future of work. We predict that we’re going to start viewing that hours put in at work as increasingly less important – what’s going to matter is the result. You may be given a set of tasks at the start of the work by your employer or your client which has a certain financial value to the firm. As long as you get it performed accurately and by the due date, your employer or your client is not going to care less whether you took 20 hours to do it or 60 hours to do it. In fact, however long it took you, you’ll get paid the same for it and it’s your responsibility to find ways to save time without cutting corners.

 

You may to do this work sat at your desk or by the pool at your holiday home in Ibiza. The technology behind remote working makes it immaterial where it is done. And this technology has been further boosted by the advent and rapid growth in legal circles of…

 

 

Cloud technology and document digitisation 

Prior to the cloud, we used to have to take files home with us to work on a case. The filing system at solicitors’ practices and barristers’ chambers was meticulous, detailed, and very labour intensive. It worked -for the most part – but it is immovable. It was risky taking files out of the office to work on from home, let alone to work at from beside the pool at your holiday home in Ibiza.

 

Document digitisation has been nothing short of liberating and revolutionary for many legal firms and their solicitors, especially in comparison with the wealth of legal materials available online provided by commercial operators. What has brought significant additional value to legal firms is the combination of the two together with the cloud’s ability to allow us to recall information anywhere and at any time. The work we do on caseload is also trackable by our colleagues and by our clients so it can be picked up by someone else if required.

 

So much inefficiency has been removed from the system with the shift to document digitisation and the cloud. And this, together with the “permanently temporary” workforce, side-hustlers, and the chance in attitude to productivity measurement, has inevitably meant more and more…

 

 

Collaboration

Made possible through apps like Slack, we now collaborate with colleagues on whole tasks or parts of tasks, distributing information and responsibilities quickly and transparently.

 

The author of Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, said that “no mind is complete by itself. It needs contact and association with other minds to grow and expand.” He described the “mastermind” principle – the use of a group whose knowledge, skills, training, and experience can combine successfully to complete “definite major purpose”.

 

The legal sector has always been filled with superior intellects and visionary imaginers. Is the “white collar wave” going to change us all into more independent operators better defined by the mastermind groups we belong to rather than the firm by which we’re employed or contracted?

 

To speak with one of our team about any of the aspects discussed in this article and how they could be introduced to your firm with the use of technology, call Sprout IT today on 020 7036 8530 or contact us here.

 

 

CTA - Cyber resilience and the human factor-787310-edited

 

technology legal technology cloud technology cyber security technology productivity