Diana Farah, Equity Partner at Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers, discusses how the firm responded to the challenges and changes the coronavirus pandemic has brought and what it is doing to ensure continued success and a sustainable future. Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers has faced many challenges in its 121 year history including the Great Depression, the Spanish Influenza Pandemic and two World Wars. That experience served it very well during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.
Diana Farah became the firm's first female partner in 1995. She is involved in the firm's strategic outlook, finances and business development. She was also instrumental in successfully establishing two of the firm's eight offices outside of Sydney's CBD. Diana leads the Personal Injury litigation team, one of the firm's many practice areas.
With a reputation for providing top-quality legal advice in a caring and cost-effective manner, Carroll & O'Dea's diverse client base spans individuals, small, medium and large organisations, government agencies, unions and not-for-profits. Its focus on the community sees pro bono work embedded in staff's key performance indicators.
Technology and culture key to resilience
When the pandemic hit, Carroll & O'Dea's workforce took the shift to working remotely in its stride, greatly helped by already having adopted the right technology. All that was required was some additional hardware and additional training. "It was relatively seamless," says Diana. "It was the culture and values of our firm that allowed us to adapt so quickly, alongside the loyalty and commitment of our staff, many of whom have been with us for their entire professional lives." Diana says, "longevity in legal practice means always keeping an eye on the future." This enables the firm to respond to challenges in a considered way, making the change and bringing its people with it. "There is that important human element of investing in our people, so they are supported personally and professionally as we make changes," she says. "Our people are really important to us."
Coronavirus brings permanent change
Remote working was implemented rapidly, with no diminution in the quality of legal services. Diana says coronavirus will permanently change "the way we work, how we work and where we work." In future, staff will likely divide their work time between the office and home. The firm is therefore rethinking the design of its workplace to account for changes in how staff interact with each other and with clients. Additionally, Zoom calls "will likely be the way many of our clients, especially those in regional areas and interstate, will prefer to work with us for some time."
Reimagining the firm
As part of ensuring the firm is sustainable for the future, Carroll & O'Dea is exploring new ways of working and engaging with clients and delivering services differently. Building on video conferencing, file sharing and tools to assist delegation and improve workflow visibility, the firm continues its investment in technology. Simplifying and streamlining of processes is another priority in the pursuit of lower cost and faster outcomes and providing an even better client experience. Continuing the move away from paper will cut costs, including storage costs, and reduce the environmental impact, which is a key priority for the firm. Expanding the firm's marketing footprint further through digital channels is also on the agenda.
It isn't all about technology though. "Some people will be content with digital interactions, but our clients come to Carroll & O'Dea for the hands-on, personal experience, and engagement with partners," Diana says. The firm's focus on high-quality, personal service and value for money attracts clients who want their problems solved and who appreciate the firm's depth of experience and personal approach. Says Diana, "being a trusted advisor is more important than ever." That, combined with the loyalty of clients and staff, makes her optimistic about the firm's future. "By investing in our people, processes and technology, we will continue to modernise the firm, reduce costs and deliver an even better service and experience for our clients that reflects the values that have served us so well over 121 years."
Read the 2020 CommBank Legal Pulse Report featuring Partner Diana Farah .