As we move into the new year, it’s time to reflect, analyze, and make changes to better prepare ourselves for what’s ahead. Twenty-twenty may have marked a new reality, but some of the shifts it’s brought are here to stay.
Last spring, many law firms faced challenges in transitioning to fully remote work and remaining productive – and businesses in general saw a significant shift in market demands. And while we can’t change what happened, we can try to learn from it.
For law firms who want to take their learning experience from this year and turn it into lessons for the years to come, we have some suggestions.
1. Develop Flexibility
We can’t control everything, but adapting quickly saves energy and buys time. Rather than waiting it out until unfamiliar scenarios return to normal, it pays to be flexible. Trying to tackle every challenge at once gets exhausting. Instead, create a list of priorities and take on issues one at a time – and stay level-headed while you do it.
2. Ensure Secure, Off-Site Access to All Information
Access to information – documents, client files, contact information – is essential for a law firm if they want cases to keep moving forward. Many firms found out just how important that was when they were forced into remote working. The good news – the technology for secure, off-site access exists in the form of cloud-based software and it’s affordable.
Some firms have understandably been concerned about unauthorized access to information. But most tools come with access controls and audit logs that track user access and activity, providing a secure option law firms can feel confident using.
3. Train Staff on Cybersecurity Risks
In our increasingly digital world, staff should be educated about cybersecurity risks. That’s especially true when employees are working remotely, potentially from personal devices. And increasingly, the security of digitized client information is becoming a matter of compliance.
Policies clear up confusion and education reduces the chance of a mistake. Questions around personal device use, logging into a VPN, and antivirus and malware protection should be cleared up before an issue arises.
Educating employees about phishing scenarios and proper password safeguarding – such as not saving passwords to a personal browser – will help eliminate future headaches.
4. Support Remote Connection
We grow up with the spontaneity of face-to-face connections, but that doesn’t mean that connecting online isn’t possible. We just have to learn how to do it.
Leverage tools like chat, commenting, and video conferencing and add in task management tools to support collaboration and keep everyone on the same page.
5. Create New Metrics for Productivity
It’s no longer possible to look around the room and see your staff working. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on tracking productivity altogether. Different situations simply require different metrics. For starters, measure productivity by how your business is doing – this week, month, and year.
Likewise, support your staff in working from home. Be flexible about work hours when you can and focus more on the number and quality of tasks completed.
6. Stay on Top of Billing
Timely billing and collections matter at any time, but especially in an unstable or unpredictable economy. Use tools to streamline your billing process. Set up automated reminders and offer online payment options.
7. Know Your Finances
You may have a bookkeeper or accountant. But understanding the firm’s finances is still your responsibility. Taking a close look at them regularly can help you stay on top of any potential issues.
Are tasks like bill payments and reconciliation happening on time? Is there proper visibility?
Also take time to understand the priority of various expenses so you can cut costs if needed.
8. Outsource Non-Legal Tasks
You may have learned every component of your firm’s business, but that doesn’t mean you should be doing everything. Don’t confuse time-consuming endeavors with oversight. Outsource functions that aren’t your strength or that require specific expertise, such as IT.
9. Get Creative About Networking
Dinners and seminars may be on hold well into 2021, but you can still network. Be a guest on a podcast or webinar, join the board of a key organization, or host a discussion group. Get creative – and take advantage of not being limited by geography.
10. Trim Inefficiencies
No business wants to waste time, but inefficiencies seem to be amplified in work-from-home scenarios. To lose less time, leverage metrics, and seek feedback from staff. Be sure to use tools to automate repetitive tasks – your staff and clients will thank you!
As you plan for the new year, try to incorporate lessons from the old – and make sure you download our quick guide for an easy-to-read reference to help keep you on track.