With the whole of Italy in quarantine to try to stem the spread of COVID-19, domestic law firms in the region were among the first to be tested on their ability to work remotely, with one firm we spoke to in particular feeling the benefit of having long ago decided to work in a different way. What is key, is clients being able to carry on business as usual.
BLB Studio Legal has just over thirty staff who are all now working remotely and partner Silvano Donato Lorusso says: “We are used to working in a remote way, so for us it’s quite simple.”
He adds: “There are two kinds of lawyer in Italy, the first is very traditional and used to going to Court and having lots of meetings with clients and with open doors of meeting rooms. The other kind of professional, as we are, have a lot of clients in different places with an international practice, so for us working this way is normal and in particular in our law firm we have the habit to choose to work at home or in the office considering our needs.”
The firm is on Office 365 and uses Microsoft Teams, which comes as part of that package.
The problem even for the lawyers who are used to working online is the impact that the climate of fear is having on clients signing off existing projects and starting new business. All meetings and conferences are cancelled and Donato Lorusso says: “These are the normal way to work together and share opinions so this could be a problem.” The duration is key, and he says: “If the problem is solved in one month, no particular problem,” but that time period now looks extremely unlikely.
BLB Legale uses domestic cloud-based practice management system InPrivate and is paperless. Nicolino Gentile says: “We don’t need to be connected to a server in our premises and this is the reason why we are not changing any of our habits these days.” That is all subject to clients starting new projects in two or three months, failing which they will need to find new ways to adapt.
The firm has dispensed with cheques and Gentile adds: “We don’t need paper sheets, it’s all done online.”
The staff at BLB are mostly used to remote working but one secretary had her computer moved to her home and Silvano says: “She knows the environment and it’s more comfortable.”
The Italian courts are shut until 3 April and while BLB Studio Legale is a case study for cloud technology Gentile said that more traditional lawyers are in shock. “I have friends who are traditional lawyers but given that they work in litigation and the courts are closed and hearings are postponed they feel like they are on holiday if they can be on holiday, or if they need to work they are in crisis,” he said.