When the pandemic first hit, the professional world shifted to remote working in an instant, but many people viewed the transition as temporary. Two years later, it’s clear that working from home is here to stay.
The more time we’ve spent working remotely, the more we’ve learned—and like everything else in life, our process continues to evolve. Below, we delve into what we learned in 2021.
Communication is key
Working remotely means fewer opportunities for casual checking in with team members—which puts more pressure on maintaining clear communication.
Every law office will have its own preferences, but it’s a good idea to have some kind of platform for quick, casual messaging. Establishing office-wide use of a designated messaging system means that when an employee or staff member has a quick question, they can ask it in a low-stakes way—without having to feel like they’re making a big deal of something.
Creating avenues for addressing the small stuff helps prevent it from becoming big stuff. For example, your practice management system should have secure internal messaging options—and you should have access from a computer or a phone.
Online security is vital
Of course, spending more time working remotely means more client documents and sensitive information is online, too. This can be preferable for clients because it gives them flexibility, but it does mean documents need to be managed securely.
In general, email attachments aren’t secure or encrypted. So instead, make use of the secure client portal from your practice management system.
Likewise, it’s essential to train staff in cybersecurity best practices. Both internal and external precautions are critical to keeping your clients’ information safe and protecting your law firm’s reputation.
Establish routine workflows
Establishing workflows can take a little time if you don’t already have them in place, but they quickly pay off. Particularly when multiple team members are involved with a matter, using workflows helps ensure that internal deadlines are met and everything proceeds smoothly.
Implementing workflows also helps alleviate the need for one person to carry the stress of having to re-establish the routine with the team each time. It also reduces the need to check-in or follow up with people about deadlines.
When everyone was still in the office, it was easier to walk by someone’s desk and see that they looked busy. But when staff members are working from home, that isn’t an option.
Working remotely over the last couple of years, we’ve learned that metrics are key to monitoring productivity. With a modern practice management system, it’s easy to gather data that lets you see the big picture in just a few clicks.
From understanding your firm’s financials through looking at utilization and realization rates to breaking down profitability by case, practice area, and partner, metrics offer valuable tools for analyzing what’s happening at your law firm.
And monitoring metrics is far more preferable than stressing out both yourself and your staff by feeling like you have to micromanage.
Offer electronic payment options for clients
A final key takeaway from the last couple of years has been understanding what clients expect from a law firm today.
With many of their own jobs having gone remote, clients now expect law firms to operate remotely as well. This means streamlined, online intake forms that they can fill out at home, a secure way to access documents online, and online payment options.
Offering electronic payment methods to clients is particularly beneficial for law firms because it makes bills easier to pay—meaning you up the chances of a client paying and paying promptly.
And modern, legal-specific merchants mean that law firms can accept credit cards without setting themselves up for a trust accounting violation.
Bringing best practices into 2022
We’ve learned a lot from working remotely—and we’re applying that information to building better office practices for 2022 by dialing in our communications, implementing strong security standards, and using metrics to measure productivity. We’re also implementing workflows and offering online payment options to clients.