Ron Fano, Denver office managing partner of Spencer Fane, discussed how his firm kept attorneys connected with tech solutions, and how that speedy rollout helped the firm stay connected with each other, with clients and roll out a virtual seminar.
LAW WEEK: How has your firm changed through the pandemic so far?
FANO: Spencer Fane was uniquely prepared for the pandemic, allowing us to stay in contact internally and externally with our clients and partners. Last year, Spencer Fane finished the final phase of a remote connection platform overhaul, using a combination of VPN, remote desktop, and SD-WAN. Each can back up the other and scales easily.
The system is primarily designed for weather and natural disasters and cybersecurity attacks, and its capabilities were greatly utilized by the firm as the pandemic grew.
Spencer Fane has a competitive advantage when it comes to new markets: the firm can open a new office in less than 24 hours. This has been beneficial with the experience of opening new offices in Houston, Minneapolis, Tampa and Austin the past two years.
The firm’s IT put together 300 offices-in-a-box in preparation for the shutdown. The OIBs had an SD-WAN device, USB headset, monitor, keyboard and other peripherals. Attorneys had a detailed printout with instructions for building their home office, and IT implemented the use of the remote workstations in two phases — connectivity and then productivity.
This has resulted in a remote connectivity between our attorneys across offices throughout our geographic footprint, and we had almost no downtime in our ability to handle our legal work and business functions despite the challenges. I really feel like Spencer Fane has been a leader in regards to the transition.
LAW WEEK: How has that helped the firm stay connected with each other and with clients?
FANO: It’s essential to keep the firm connected and keep us connected with our clients. In my estimation, it’s been the biggest reason for our success, next to the resilience of our attorneys and staff.
Logistically, as the pandemic was starting to evolve in early March, we luckily had folks in leadership who had some foresight to say if this goes as horribly as some were predicting, we’re going to be in work from home mode for some time.
We put our order in early because those became in high demand for law firms and businesses around the country.
We got these — to say seamlessly would be an exaggeration — but almost as seamlessly as we could possible
LAW WEEK: How are you currently engaging attorneys or staff who might still be working from home? Are there any significant challenges you have addressed? Are there any specific “wins” you can highlight?
FANO: We’ve continued hosting our practice group meetings, now in a virtual format to maintain as much normalcy as possible in how we go about our work. Spencer Fane has always operated with the intent to provide the highest levels of client service, and we’ve remained in constant contact with our clients to make sure we are meeting their needs and adjusted as necessary to make sure we are responsive and agile as situations change and guidance is updated.
As legal work slowed to a degree in the early stages of the pandemic, Spencer Fane encouraged thought leadership and professional development, as well. We have taken the opportunity to internally highlight the work of our attorneys and share accomplishments but also placed an emphasis on regular client alerts, timely webinars and other thought leadership that is valuable to not only our clients but also potential clients.
The firm is also excited about its upcoming labor & employment seminar, Preventative Legal Strategies: Countdown to Success. This has been a regular event for decades, but this year’s four-day virtual format will be the first time its a truly national effort and will bring together audiences that often were part of smaller half-day or one-day local seminars into one large, robust set of programming.
LAW WEEK: Is there any significant change you’ve seen in client service? How would you describe any challenges or successes you’ve seen in that area?
FANO: One of our core principles is world class-client service. Pre-pandemic, pandemic, post-pandemic.
What we decided is what needed to be done first and foremost was to get in touch with the clients and figure out how they would most prefer to replace the face-to-face element to our relationships. That varies among the spectrum of our clients. Some were all about Zoom, and everything we would do in-person they wanted to do with Zoom. Others were less enamored and wanted to replace face-to-face with phone calls or written reports. It was a concerted effort to see what clients wanted to replace the face-to-face piece.
We as a firm also decided to put out more content across the firm, especially related to what businesses were experiencing as it related to the pandemic. When emergency leave provisions came out in federal law and how to do that, how furloughs worked, how to comply with public health orders and the like. We decided instead of having each attorney pass things along individually, it was a better approach to put out content through our mass communications to clients. Our labor and employment group, for example, was putting things out almost daily, and the clients could follow up with their attorney point of contact.
Spencer Fane also operates a unique model with a high partner ratio with no firm debt. This has allowed us to remain agile and make sure our resources are placed in the markets where our clients do business. We are very proud of how our attorneys have responded to the challenges.
LAW WEEK: How are you planning for the months ahead? Is there anything that is top of mind for the firm or for your clients that is significant in your plans (national election issues, local election issues, pandemic uncertainty…)
FANO: Our clients are diverse in terms of industries. Some generalization might be the return-to-office projections and what that can and should look like for the protection of employees and customers and vendors. That’s almost a universal thought process that our clients are going through and our firm is going through.
When — and I’ll be optimistic — when we get the green light to return to normal, what will that look like, and what should that look like, and what will make sense for the functioning of the business?