As we struggle through social distancing and the work-from-home mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic, the legal sector is not the only professional services industry with antiquated technology and remote access issues.Law firms are facing issues with their remote employee’s inability to access law firm data quickly and efficiently. They’re finally realizing that without updating technology, redesigning work-flow processes, or implementing Cloud and SaaS-based solutions, they are behind the times and will lose valuable billable hours.
Historically, law firms have been the last to migrate their on-premise servers, data, and programs to the Cloud and implement SaaS-based solutions. Part of that is because law firms are concerned about how they guard client information without compromising attorney-client confidentiality agreements. They are also concerned about security and complying with privacy to ensure the law firm’s data is protected from ransomware and malicious hacks.
Law Firm Technical Challenges
Since law firms do not consistently evaluate technology, they are now facing the issue of rushing to replace or upgrade outdated on-site servers and software applications.
Remote employees experience slow internet connections, programs intermittently freezing, and constant lag-time when accessing the firms’ server, programs, and data. With this sudden global transition mandating work from home, many law firms were not prepared or ready to replace outdated technology.
Now more than ever, with the constant need to access law firm data and work efficiently while remote, updated technology must be implemented to handle the surge.
As our employees continue to work remotely and access law firm data, there is constant frustration with internet speed and connectivity, which is often less than adequate. We are all now competing for the internet service provider’s bandwidth amongst our spouse, children, and neighbors. Internet service providers were not prepared and did not rev-up for this type of surge in internet traffic, and the problem is beyond our control.
To accommodate this sudden push to work remotely, law firms have finally realized the value of updating technology to state-of-the-art Cloud and SaaS-based solutions. Law firms are restructuring internal procedures for time, billing, and accounting processes. They are also developing practice area work-flow processes by implementing innovative, intuitive technology solutions.
With this move, law firms are not losing billable time because of the ease of use on mobile devices for tracking billable time, tracking mileage, entering expenses, scanning back-up receipts, invoicing clients, collecting receivables, and monitoring the productivity of staff.
Law firms are also adding other legal applications and integrating SaaS-based solutions to improve productivity. In this way, virtual law firms can continue to effectively communicate with staff and clients, draft documents, send, execute and return documents, and file documents with the court using secure electronic solutions.
These new trends in remote work are proving to accommodate the virtual law firm and employee. As time progresses, and as your law firm continues to run efficiently and boost profits while remote, you may decide to continue to operate in this mode, which will drastically reduce overhead costs.
A Guide to Working Remotely for Law Firms
As a work-from-home employee for the majority of my career, I’ve created a technical guide to working remotely for law firms to follow. The goal is to help keep your virtual law firm and employees motivated!
• Confirm home computer specifications, upgrade if necessary
• Confirm home computer security and virus protection
• High-quality printer/scanner
• Quality VOIP phone solution
• Perform an Internet speed test
• Contact Internet provider to upgrade or provide booster
Communication - Clients
• Let clients know your remote doors are open
• Offer flexible hours for client meetings
• Provide face-to-face video consultations and meetings
• Nurture client relationships
• Don’t stop marketing
Communication - Internal
• Have daily or bi-weekly meetings with staff
• Create goals with clear expectations
• Keep team members updated on workload and projects
• Keep everyone updated on technology changes
• Report technology-related issues
• Keep teamwork attitude
• Communicate when out of office
• Fewer employee-related interruptions
Cloud and SaaS-Based Solutions to Consider Implementing
• Office 365
• Internal chat/messaging tool
• Document sharing/management/storage
• VOIP Phone
• Video Conferencing
• Court Docketing
• Case Management
Home Office Environment
• Create DO NOT DISTURB schedule for work hours
• Have a dedicated work area
• Have an ergonomically correct chair and desk set-up
• VOIP phone with headset
• Have ample lighting
• Keep video conferencing area professional
• Keep work area organized
• Keep office supplies necessary to perform work
• Consider background noise from others working: kids, dogs, music, tv, outside
• Keep snacks in work area to avoid home distractions
Home Office Habits
• Get enough sleep
• Make your bed
• Shower and get dressed
• Plan and prepare meals with healthy choices
• Take breaks to walk and stretch
• Call a friend
• Spend quality time with family
• SHUT IT DOWN AFTER HOURS
In closing, as you think about your law firm’s employees, clients, and long-term relationships, know the value of your employees and the professional legal services provided. It is important to nurture and communicate with your employees and clients, and they will continue to be loyal, as we all adjust to this new work trend!