What are the best practices for working remotely for law firms?
Whether all or part of your staff is working remotely, law firms need to make careful considerations in order to maintain compliance, keep clients happy and cases on track, and ensure that their team is communicating well.
1. Get the right technology
The right tools are critical to successful remote working. You’ll want to make sure you have:
- Remote access to your case files, emails, accounting and billing. Whether you’re using a virtual desktop or cloud-based practice management program, everyone will need to be able to access what they need remotely. If they need to go to the office to collect something or find a document or case note, it’s going to cut back on their effectiveness.
- VOIP or call forwarding, so calls can continue as they would in the office.
- Secure and reliable internet connection
- Scanning tool or app
- Computer/hardware as needed. Ensure each employee has the proper hardware needed to run all necessary programs.
- Videoconferencing and collaboration tools, such as Skype, Microsoft Teams or Zoom
2. Keep everyone informed
Even though you can’t see people face to face, there is still plenty of communication that needs to happen. Internally, staff members should have clear expectations of their roles, why remote work is taking place and how the remote work will be managed.
Schedule regular check-ins to see what issues are coming up, if there’s bottlenecks occurring, and to allow for an opportunity to fill in the other employees about what’s happening. Use these meetings as an opportunity to set deadlines and make sure they are being adhered to. These could be separated by practice area or department, or take place one-on-one with managers and their employees – but they should always be calendered.
While in the office, it can be easy to pop in and ask someone a question, so there needs to be that same level of access if an answer is going to hold up a case. Chat tools, such as those in Microsoft Teams, can provide a large-scale solution that is less intrusive than ongoing text messages.
Client expectations also need to be managed and they should be clear on how they’ll be meeting with attorneys if it will be done remotely. Video conferencing can be especially helpful in maintaining the relationship without actual face-time and can feel more personal than a phone call. While working remotely, don’t forget to still regularly communicate with clients and keep them updated on their matters.
3. Go paperless
In going paperless, law firms will be making sure all necessary documents are scanned and stored where everyone can access them. Otherwise, firms risk having critical documents in storage where they’re unavailable to an employee who is working remotely. Being able to access what’s needed when it’s needed is a key component for working outside of the office to be effective.
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