As more people get vaccinated, and the possibilities for in-person work open up again, there’s a lot of speculation around what things will look like in the new, new normal.
We’re all looking forward to enjoying certain components of post-pandemic life again, but we know things won’t truly go back to how they were. People’s lives have changed too much over the last year—and technology that accommodates remote collaboration has developed in leaps and bounds.
Below, we discuss how to balance the excitement of in-person connections with the technological changes we’ve experienced in the last year—and how to combine the two to stay productive.
Make the most of online collaboration
For many law firms, one of the key realizations of the pandemic has been how feasible it is to collaborate remotely. The ability to work together from anywhere has, in many cases, streamlined internal workflows.
How should law firms aim to incorporate online collaboration moving forward?
Collaborative drafting tools, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google apps, are a huge timesaver. You can see changes in real-time, track who did what, and revert to an earlier copy. Likewise, electronic task managers make it easier for the whole team to keep a project moving forward—and no one’s left wondering who needs to take the next step.
Documents can also be tagged for comments, which is particularly helpful for lawyers. Tagging prompts an email notification and includes the whole conversation.
Secure online portals offer another effective communication tool—and the option for e-signatures has greatly streamlined the progress of matters.
The last year offered many opportunities to improve communication, too. While face-to-face conversations have a more spontaneous element, they aren’t always the wisest use of people’s time. Everyone’s heard the complaint about a meeting that could have been summed up in an email.
So rather than revert to hour-long meetings that disrupt everyone’s workday out of habit, it makes sense to continue to use tech-based communication in certain instances.
Chat tools, secure sharing, and electronic task managers can speed up communication for topics that don’t need extensive back-and-forth, saving time and minimizing distractions.
This doesn’t mean meetings should be dropped altogether. But we should be selective about what merits blocking out time in everyone’s schedule. Use meetings for discussions, not just one-way communication.
In addition to making meetings meaningful, firms can work with newfound remote flexibility by encouraging videoconferencing for those not in the office.
In pre-pandemic times, law firms commonly measured productivity by whether or not staff looked busy. With the shift to remote working, many firms had to reassess—and move to measuring productivity instead.
Relying on objective measurements has led to a more accurate picture of what’s going on, and many practice management systems can track metrics for analysis—allowing you to focus more on tangible results than micromanagement.
Metrics also allow firms to monitor progress on individual and company goals, make more informed decisions, and analyze data against benchmarks.
Maintain secure remote access options
When it comes to remote working, expectations have changed. Clients and staff now assume there will be some level of remote accommodation.
Moving forward, law firms should continue to leverage cloud-based technologies. From task management and calendaring to messaging and document storage, cloud-based tech can meet location-independent expectations.
And with a bit of planning around user access, security policies, and secure password management, cloud-based-tech can be a very secure alternative to device-dependent software.
Save time with automation
Although certainly not unique to remote working, the shifts brought on by the pandemic have expanded firms’ awareness of how much time can be saved through the automation of routine and administrative tasks.
Whether your team is in the office or not, you can leverage metrics to identify tasks that take up too much time proportionately. With input from staff, look for repetitive tasks that can be automated—such as batch billing, integrations to reduce double entry, and document assembly tools.
Leverage tech for greater productivity
During the pandemic, we changed how we work. And while we’re all excited for more in-person contact moving forward, some of the remote-work changes have benefited law firms—and should continue to be part of our routines, even if we’re no longer working from home.
Online collaboration, time-conscious communication, productivity metrics, secure remote access, and time-saving automation can all help us stay more efficient as we go back to the office.