In this article, we address the matters that most concern lawyers when it comes to working from home and what measures can be implemented. We tackle a variety of issues such as confidentiality, case management, getting paid or mental health issues. Law firms need to adopt new processes and implement new measures that allow employees working from outside the office in a safe and flexible environment. For the majority of small and medium organizations, this has resulted in a burden but with the right tools and processes in place, law firms will be able to excel and transform.
Confidentiality & Privilege
When bringing work from the office at how as a lawyer you want to make sure that your work, conversations and documents are stored in a safe place. Most legal practice management software can handle these basic aspects. As a law firm recently starting to explore open cloud software for your firm the important aspect is to select the technology that is more suitable to your firm and that is scalable. Meaning that if in the future you want to add more features you can do that without any restriction by the software implemented. To be able to maintain a high level of confidentiality the following tips will help your firm:
- Select technology that fits the needs of your firm.
- Use a secure WiFi (HotSpot).
- Use VPN Services when accessing a public WiFI network.
- Use a cloud document and email management software solutions.
- Backup your data, use antivirus software and encryption and multifactor authentication for devices and software.
- Use a secure phone and protect your devices.
- Consider privilege when discussing in public confidential information regarding a case you might have.
Most of the practice management software is cloud-based. Lawyers can access all the information from the comfort of their home. Being able to see files and client information immediately, enables lawyers to work more efficiently and share the information with other team members. A very important question to ask yourself is what your needs are and what technology can do for you. When selecting a software provider it is imperative to choose simple solutions that you can manage with almost no help and it facilitates the tasks you want to optimize. The goal here is not to add an extra burden but to optimize your time.
Let’s say you have not used a practice management software before. A few simple solutions you can implement is using document sharing technology such as Google Docs or Dropbox. As your needs grow you can start selecting other software solutions for your law firm.
This is something that if done correctly it should save time and extra expenses. You want to make sure clients are paying in time and you don’t have to run after your clients to claim unpaid invoices. The following tips will help you run smoothly your law firm:
- Set up payment methods: direct deposit, wire transfer, credit card.
- Spend some time to evaluate vendors that facilitate credit card payments and their terms and conditions (e.g. LawPay).
- Set clear payment deadlines: Invoice as soon as a matter is complete (not monthly).
- When working on complex/large matters, set up milestones and agree on payments after finishing each milestone (interim invoicing).
- Create a system for tracking outstanding invoices.
- Cash Flow is the oxygen of a business, therefore you don’t want to run out of cash.
Other law professionals offer between 2.5 – 10% discount on invoices paid within 10 days to avoid payment delays. This was an example but you can select and establish your payment terms as long as the measures established help your firm run smoothly.
Setting up your virtual office
Your virtual law firm needs to run as if you were at the office or even better. To tackle the new working environment:
- Communicate with all stakeholders. Tell clients suppliers, opposing counsel the steps you are taking. Help them understand your practice is under control. That you can continue to advise clients and complete ongoing work.
- Make sure your internet connection is not going to fail you. Upgrade to the fastest service available.
- Use cloud-based solutions to run your firm.
- Cash Management. Set up credit card and wire transfer methods for payment. Invoice frequently. Encourage fast payment.
- Dress for work/look professional: Always turn on the camera. Always be dressed appropriately. Have good lighting (natural if possible). Clean up surroundings on video and no client materials should be on camera.
- Maintain regular hours. Develop the discipline to respect the same working hours as if you were in an office.
The mental game
Working from home can feel lonely and isolating. Besides, you might have to deal with extra responsibilities and have to take care of other family members. This new situation is a mental challenge not only lawyers but most professionals need to adjust to. We must adapt and do that you can:
For some COVID-19 has been a burden and for others a learning opportunity. This is a matter of mindset. Organizations and professionals need to become more resilient to new changes and adapt. Through technology and the right mindset, you will be able to overcome this new situation.
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