A lot has changed for lawyers since COVID-19 struck. Whole law firms working from home, remote depositions, and virtual hearings and taking on new clients while never meeting them seemed unimaginable at the beginning of the year. Now? It’s the new normal.
It’s a big adjustment! Especially when you want to make sure your office is staying productive.
While very little is the same about running a law firm as it was six months ago, there are ways to stay efficient. Whether you’re dealing with clients, handling cases, billing, or trying to keep your team motivated, we have some tips for you.
Make sure everyone can securely access client files
For anyone who didn’t have remote access in place before all of this started, it made life a lot harder. When the only way to retrieve files is to physically go to the office, you’re tied to your desk. And if that desk isn’t an option? It can be nearly impossible to get anything done.
For lawyers, remotely accessing client files is a little more complicated than in some other industries. To do it while ensuring client information is kept confidential, you have to make sure it’s done securely. No emailing it to your Gmail account to look at later.
You have a few options for how to do that, but it’s come down to two: hosted or native cloud. With hosted cloud, you log onto your desktop virtually. Alternatively, native cloud lets you access a program from any internet browser, typically with less upkeep and cost, as well as higher security, than hosted cloud.
Adjustment: Put a work from home policy into place to make sure everyone is on the same page about how to properly access client files. If there isn’t a way to do that, research and consider options for remote access.
Keep everyone on the same page
You may not be in the same room anymore but you still need to be able to communicate and work together. Water cooler conversation likely isn’t going to be a thing for quite a while. Even with offices reopening, social distancing makes group chat difficult.
Remember the days of just walking to someone’s office when you had a question on a matter? Collaboration takes some getting used to when you can’t just pop in or call a meeting. And phone calls don’t always have the same effectiveness. (Not to mention how hard it is to get work done with the phone constantly ringing.)
Adjustment: Make it easy to stay connected and in reach – without 40 phone calls a day. Consider putting a chat application into place, like Microsoft Teams or Slack for quick questions, use video conferencing wherever you can for meetings, and seek out tools that let you keep your matters in one place and allow commenting.
Who was supposed to do that?
Accountability. Without it, you’re bound to have some unhappy clients – and some major headaches. You need a way to stay on top of what your staff is supposed to be doing, and make sure everyone has a clear list of what has to get done.
Adjustment: Set up task workflows and checklists along with due dates, have regular staff meetings and status check-ins, and make sure you’re getting bi-weekly or monthly reports on what’s happening.
Clients remain a priority
It doesn’t matter where you’re working from – clients have expectations. Fail to meet them and you could be left with a bad review or worse.
With how quickly firms had to switch remote work, even answering emails or receiving and calls became a challenge. Need a document securely signed? Most of us have experienced that issue first hand.
Adjustments: You need to keep clients updated while keeping their cases moving as much as the courts will allow. This can be a tall order when you’re dealing with it remotely. Like with most things, technology is an asset here.
VOIP phones are an option to make it easy to answer calls from any cell phone. You can check out client portals and e-signature tools for document sharing and signing. Want to still build relationships and get face time? Video consultations and meetings are available through a number of services (but remember to check these out for security too).
You want to keep your clients updated. If there are any changes to hours, procedures or staff, make sure they’re aware. And most importantly, if there’s a change to how the court is handling matters, let them know as soon as possible.
Two steps ahead
The reasons why you should plan ahead have never been more apparent. Don’t wait until there’s a reason. Stay on top of billing and collections, diversify your practice and keep your IT up to date and secure.
Running a law office may not be the same these days, but you can still be effective and productive – no matter how or where you’re working.
Looking for more ways to keep your office productive, whether you’re working remotely or reopening? Check out our webinar 5 Things COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Running an Effective Law Office.