Tips to Effectively Work Remotely: Keeping Your Firm Running During a Crisis

Nation-wide law firms are instituting a work from home policy. Major events are being canceled. Schools are closing. If these unprecedented times show anything, law firms all over are learning how important it is to have a plan in place to be able to effectively work remotely.

To prepare your firm for remote work, think about everything you’d need to do your job from home if necessary, get a plan together, and then make sure everyone in your office knows what would happen – and how to make it work – if remote work went into effect.

Here are some tools and tips you can use to help you formulate a remote work plan:

Keep your cases moving

If you have a cloud-based practice management program, you’re in luck. You and your staff will find it easy to access documents, case notes, emails, and matter details no matter where you are. As long as there’s an internet connection, everyone will be able to get what they need to work on matters. 

In the event you don’t have a cloud-based system, remote work is going to be difficult for your team. If you’re working on your own, this could actually be helpful since you don’t need to share data with anyone else. It could be helpful to contact an IT professional to determine a plan for remote access to your on-site server (if you have one) and to determine how to extend access for any employees. 

If you have virtual desktops, then when you log in remotely your computer will exactly the same as it does in the office. In this scenario, everyone will have access to the programs they need but may need some additional tools to assist with communication. You might find some issues in scanning or printing remotely, as those normally have to be connected to the network in order to work. 

If you need signatures, you can take a look at some of the electronic signature programs like HelloSign, PandaDoc, or DocuSign. Just check in with your local state bar or Law Society rules to ensure these are accepted and valid if necessary. 

Keep the communication lines going

Communicating effectively with clients and your team is key when working remotely. There are still going to be questions to answer and in an industry full of complexities, you’ll need to be available to help. 

One way you can stay in touch with everyone in your firm is through the use of dedicated chat services, such as Slack. If you’re looking for more extensive services you can also check out Google Hangouts or Skype. These systems make it easy to ask quick questions without having to pick up the phone and get stuck on a call. 

Be careful with confidentiality issues, though. For critical information, always be sure to share it securely. 

For client interaction, staff meetings, or when you really need that face time to explain something, check out Zoom or GoToMeeting. You’ll be able to continue to keep the relationship going even when you can’t be right in front of them. You can even use it for multiple-person meetings, too.

Get the right setup

To work remotely, you’ll still need the right hardware. Make sure you have, at the very least, the basics covered – computer, printer, scanner, and phone. If there’s a chance your team will quickly need to be able to work from home, keep a list handy of what you would need to order and where you can order it from that will deliver quickly. 

Don’t wait – get a plan together

Even if you never need it, it’s always better in these situations to have some kind of plan at hand, especially if you need your staff ready to go too. The last thing you want is to drop the ball and miss critical deadlines because you weren’t prepared. Coronavirus, natural disaster, or as a way to offer an extra perk to your office – it pays to be ready to work remotely.