23 Jun Clients remain the key as Gluckstein Lawyers looks to the future
As the world slowly reopens after multiple lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Gluckstein Lawyers will continue to focus on its long-running commitment to finding the best way to serve clients, says managing partner Charles E. Gluckstein.
“We are very client-centric, client-focused,” says Gluckstein. “We are a multi-generational law firm started by my father Bernard Gluckstein in 1962 with the belief that if we can’t make an improvement in our client’s life through our involvement, then we haven’t succeeded.”
Industry leader in the field of catastrophic injury
The firm, which has become an industry leader in the field of catastrophic injury and medical malpractice with a particular focus on birth injury, swiftly adapted when COVID-19 forced the first lockdown in March 2020, thanks to Charles Gluckstein’s belief in technological innovation.
“Some of the things we were already doing thanks to cloud-based software allowed us to pivot quickly while other firms were still scrambling,” Gluckstein says. “Our staff had computers at home. We had the technology to stay productive and ensure we could focus on our clients’ needs.”
He says he is always exploring options to practice the law in a way that will better serve the firm’s clients. For example, he points to their client liaison staff who “are very unique in our profession”.
Ensuring client needs are met
“We have three people who are dedicated to servicing the client and ensuring their needs are met”, says Gluckstein. “They are not law clerks. They are not there to do the legal work. Their job is to make sure our clients understand the process and they have someone to guide them.”
He says he is always looking for the next great innovation. “I am proactive when searching out technology that can benefit our legal services”, Gluckstein says. “I do it with the purpose of being more productive and effective while representing our clients. Technology has much to offer, but the law is typically the last to change and adopt.
Getting a jump on the competition
“I study technology, I become the test market for many companies who come to me with a demo of their product,” he explains. “The ones I like, we end up being the first in, and we are able to adapt to the particular technology before our competition has even seen it.”
Gluckstein was one of the first law firms in Canada to implement Filevine, a cloud-based customizable file management platform that allows lawyers to access “virtual” filing cabinets from any secure location worldwide. The software provides the firm with access to all its cases and documents. That gives lawyers the ability to communicate with clients, other counsel, insurers, health-care providers and legal support services.
“We’re trying to bring not only valuable services to our clients but also timelier services”, Gluckstein says. “To be timely and effective, you’ve got to let the technology do the administrative work.”
Managing administration in a client-centric way
“Every time a client calls, that call has to get answered and we have to make sure clients’ problems are being solved”, he adds. “We have been able to remove some of those administrative duties, leaving our staff to concentrate on the important work.”
Technology has led to client-friendly innovations such as a “portal that allows them to see certain case-related documents and information and allows them to communicate with us and feel very secure”, Gluckstein says.
He says the firm also focuses on keeping employees engaged, introducing such things as “town hall” video meetings so “we can see each other and motivate each other to stay productive and thereby ensure that we are serving our clients in the best way possible”.
“The question has been, ‘How do we make sure that our clients’ cases are still moving forward?’ We’re advocating for them and we’re making sure their needs are being met even though they are isolated in their homes”, says Gluckstein.
Recognized for innovation
The firm’s efforts have been recognized this year. In April, it was chosen as one of five finalists for Best Use of Technology in a Law Firm in the 2021 Canadian Law Awards.
Eight lawyers from the firm, including Bernard and Charles Gluckstein, were nominated for recognition in the 16th Edition of The Best Lawyers® in Canada 2022.
Gluckstein Lawyers, including Rastin Gluckstein and Nicholson Gluckstein, was also named one of the Top 10 Personal Injury Boutiques in Ontario for 2021 by Canadian Lawyer Magazine.
“It’s always nice to be acknowledged, but awards are not what motivates us”, Gluckstein says. “Any recognition we receive is just a reflection of our commitment to our clients.”
Preparing for a new working reality
As COVID-19 restrictions slowly ease, he says the firm is preparing for a new working reality.
“I believe many firms will want to go back to the way it was, the pre-pandemic traditional bricks-and-mortar office. Show up, work your hours and go home. I’m not going to follow that model”, Gluckstein says. “We’re going to have a hybrid system. There will be space for people to work in our various offices around the province, but we’ve heard from our staff that they are more productive at home. I’m going to give them the opportunity to have that flexible work environment.”
He says the firm believes in promoting a balance of personal life and work. “We allow them to do the job whenever it suits them. If they have to deal with daycare issues during the day, they can attend to their work in other hours”, says Gluckstein. “The job still gets done.”
Studying different work options
He says they will study different options, such as “hotelling some of the office areas within our firm” to allow workers to book work space on days they are not working from home.
“We are figuring out how best to utilize a hybrid work environment as we go forward”, says Gluckstein. “There are downsides. There’s less camaraderie and less mentoring when the staff is working remotely. We have to keep our eye on those issues. They’re all very important in managing client issues and managing a law firm. But, with challenges come opportunities, and the opportunities allow us to thrive.”
He says keeping employees happy, motivated and productive is an important consideration. “The focus is on clients, of course, but it’s also on our staff”, Gluckstein says. “Some have struggled. It can be difficult to work in isolation. Systems don’t always work as well as they do when you’re at the office. And it is tough not having the social side of work.”
“People don’t just work to make money. They work because it’s an important part of their daily lives. It makes them feel productive and allows them to contribute to the societal good. They also want to interact with their colleagues.”
He says the focus is on “what we call emotional intelligence”.
Investment in ‘emotional intelligence’
“I’ve invested in the staff understanding what emotional intelligence means. If you come to work and you’ve had a difficult morning, you bring that to your job”, Gluckstein says. “Naturally it affects how you perform in your day. So having that awareness of your emotional intelligence and how that affects the way you represent your clients is an important asset.
“We make sure that they are able to manage that emotional intelligence in a positive way so they are ready to handle the stress that clients are going to put on them, bearing in mind that we deal with very demanding cases.”
Gluckstein says the core of their business philosophy never changes and neither does the search for innovation that will result in a better law firm.
“The focus on clients is really important for the future. Clients are going to be more and more demanding, expecting a lot of services for a lot less”, he says. “You have to keep an eye on how things are working in the world, and be open-minded and flexible to change. I believe we are.”