This article was originally published in Law.com’s The Legal Intelligencer on August 26th, 2020. Read the original piece here: https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/2020/08/25/overcoming-the-next-big-hurdle-for-remote-law-firms-efficiency/
Now that many firms have implemented comprehensive home office security measures, lawyers must turn their attention to increasing efficiency while working remotely.
After the transition to remote-work models in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, lawyers faced an uptick in security and privacy issues. Many home networks were not as secure as those in the office. Cybercriminals took advantage of fear and confusion surrounding the virus and deployed targeted phishing scams. Insecure passwords and the use of personal devices for work tasks put private data at high risk for exposure.
Fortunately, now, months later, many law firms have been able to overcome remote work security concerns through the use of cloud technology, trainings and the implementation and execution of updated, companywide security policies and procedures. Now that security challenges have been addressed, law firms must face their next hurdle: efficiency. As many law firms and their corporate clients continue to work remotely, they need to increase efficiency in this nontraditional environment. Here are a few places to begin.
Update hardware and software
If hardware and software is outdated or not functioning properly, it will be almost impossible to maximize efficiency. Outdated technology will not allow teams to perform at their full potential, leaving attorneys and staff frustrated and diminishing firm growth capacity.
This can also create ethical issues. Old technology makes it hard for attorneys to adhere to ABA Model Rules regarding technology competence. An assessment-based approach that evaluates all technology systems used and end user experiences is a good place to begin. Then, complete updates or invest in new technologies. For remote work, cloud-based and subscription services are good options because they are scalable and allow for access from anywhere with an internet connection.
Technology integration is a key indicator of how well it can be used to further business goals and support efficiency. Cloud services are the easiest to update and can be quickly integrated across your entire organization.
Tracking project progress is also simpler when technology systems are integrated and working together. The best way to achieve this is to use software, hardware and other programs with specific functions that won’t overlap with other technologies.
Overcommunicate and collaborate
Increased communication is also critical to maximize remote-work efficiency. Overcommunication does not have to mean micromanagement. The use of communication and team collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams, allow attorneys to easily and securely message and share files. Messaging platforms like Microsoft Teams offer a quick way to communicate informal messages that may not necessitate an email.
The use of video conferencing, not only for firm meetings, but also for client work like mediation, can also create efficiencies. When using Zoom for mediation, attorneys can use the screen share feature to show documents and make edits in real time, minimizing the back and forth of editing via email.
Operate Remote Technical Support
Technology doesn’t always run smoothly. Having a team of professionals available for remote troubleshooting will help get attorneys back on track when issues arise and lessen their frustrations. When implementing your virtual help desk, it’s key to ensure all end users are well trained on how to use the firm’s system. It may also be wise to consider engaging an outsourced IT partner to improve the user experience and save time.
An IT support partner will have the resources and expertise to resolve technical issues, leaving more time for attorneys to focus on providing exceptional service to their clients. Choosing to outsource remote technical support often means receiving higher quality support from specialists at a lower total cost to the firm.
One of the biggest challenges when increasing remote-work efficiency is knowing when team members are working and being able to track project progress. Require regular check-ins and reports to help keep teams on track. Face-to-face interaction through the use of video conferencing technology for remote meetings can create camaraderie, strengthen attorney and staff relationships and build trust.
Gulam Zade is the CEO of LOGICFORCE, a legal technology consultancy that serves law firms across the country.