Attorneys in the United States have been suddenly forced to immediately alter course and begin working from home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Governors of some states and mayors of some cities issued orders to close all businesses deemed non-essential, in an effort to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many lawyers and their staff members are struggling to find the right tools to run a law firm remotely while effectively serving clients’ legal needs in these uncertain and unfortunate times.
While the task might seem daunting, it need not be. With the technology currently available, now is a great time to set up your firm for remote work. Cloud-based options and other programs can allow you to run your entire firm from anywhere you have internet access.
Take a look at these tips that will help you get started:
- Communicate expectations clearly to staff and clients
- Equip staff for efficient remote work
- Stay engaged with staff and monitor their work
- Stay on top of cybersecurity
- Keep in touch with clients
- Set up online payment options for clients
- Use creative ways to develop business opportunities
Communicate Expectations Clearly to Staff and Clients
One of the most important factors in successfully transitioning your law practice from an in-person model to a remote one is the all-important element known as communication. It is impossible to over communicate with staff here. More is better.
A good starting place is to establish your work expectations for staff and the procedures to follow in order to accomplish these expectations. Determine which communication channels are to be used in specific situations. Discuss and make clear how to submit deliverables. Outline how and when online conferencing meetings will take place. Inform your clients that you are transitioning to work remotely and let them know meetings will be scheduled to occur by phone or by video.
Equip Staff for Efficient Remote Work
Of utmost importance is giving your staff access to the vital technology and equipment that will make their remote work productive. Ensure that the office manager, each attorney and the paralegals all have fully functioning computers, strong internet, and a telephone connection in the location where they will be working.
The firm will need a VPN (virtual private network) for secure access to the network servers. It also needs practice management software that is cloud-based for easy access to documents for editing and reviewing, as well as calendar scheduling, billing, messaging, and all other functions. Additionally, a chat and collaboration program like Microsoft Teams or Slack will keep the group together and help to avoid miscommunication.
Through video conferencing, your clients will still get the feeling of dealing with a real person, and you can continue to keep a high level of engagement with your team and quickly touch base with them periodically. Some of the programs available to use are Skype, FaceTime, WebEx or Google Hangouts. Another popular program that’s very friendly to use is Zoom. It allows for free 40-minute sessions with reliably good video/call quality.
Stay Engaged With Staff and Monitor Their Work
With everyone working remotely, it would be easy to let communication between staff members start lagging. With appropriate planning, though, this doesn’t need to be a problem.
Diligently set times for regular updates and follow through with them. Communicate even more than usual by phone, email, Microsoft Teams or Slack. Get the staff to record their daily time and activities. This will allow you to visually see what is taking place and being accomplished. If some staff members are non-billable, require them to log tasks performed and calls taken. In this way, projects and tasks can be prioritized and overseen.
Track all incoming and outgoing calls. This is a crucial part of staying on top of what’s happening at the firm. Should this become a daunting task, however, look into using a virtual receptionist service such as Smith.ai. The peace of mind it brings will allow you to keep your focus on casework and your team.
Stay on Top of Cybersecurity
It stands to reason that there will probably be malware and phishing attacks in the wake of COVID-19. Law firms should be investing in cybersecurity if they haven’t already. Your staff should have access to a VPN for safe, secure access to the internet from home. Not only does your firm’s system need a VPN, but so do your employees. VPN services can be purchased online and payment plans can be as low as $12/month from well-known names in the industry such as Surfshark and NordVPN. Taking on this monthly or yearly payment is a mere pittance when compared to losing your data to hackers. Other helpful services include the phishing-reporting tools from Gmail and Outlook that help block attacks plus alert your IT administrator.
Keep in Touch With Clients
Don’t cancel meetings with clients. While working remotely, move the conversations to video or phone. Minimize disruption and maintain the relationship. Send text reminders and emails about upcoming dates for mediation, signing documents or trials. Reassure clients that it is still business as usual and that they can expect the same level of high-quality legal services from your firm.
Set up Online Payment Options for Clients
New clients coming to your firm may slow during the COVID-19 pandemic, however in some states, legal services are being considered “essential”. Current clients definitely consider your casework essential. Give them the ability to pay your firm online through eCheck or by using a credit card. This can actually become a time-saving function that you will want to continue.
Use Creative Ways to Develop Business Opportunities
As mentioned above, there may be a decrease in new clients, but there are ways to help remedy this. Remember that legal services become increasingly important when times are uncertain. Touch base with other attorneys about swapping referrals. They may have a full plate and cannot possibly get to all of their potential leads. The old saying of “share and share alike” comes into play here. You can return the favor in the future.
Contact the state and local bar about being placed on their list of attorneys for the public who need a legal service provider. During these hard times, find the true meaning of community, and work with your network.
Another option for attorneys who want to save time and get in contact with plaintiffs who are already signed and vetted is working with a firm like Broughton Partners. We go beyond law firm lead generation and deliver retained plaintiffs with all the necessary case documents you will need to get started on the case immediately.
Contact Broughton Partners to Connect With Qualified Plaintiffs
To learn more about our services and how to connect with new clients contact us today for a free consultation.