A Guide to Working at Home for Law Firms

Attorneys Working From Home

Law Firms Working from Home

The world is changing quickly – faster than most people ever thought possible. Even before the recent coronavirus outbreak, our society was becoming increasingly digitized. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend is likely to accelerate exponentially, impacting many industries that had been slower to embrace new technologies and approaches such as having employees work from home.

The coronavirus situation has forced a lot of law firms to employ remote work policies for their attorneys and staff in order to continue operations during the midst of the crisis. But for those who are just adopting a work from home policy, it can be challenging to get everything set up smoothly and efficiently.

Here are some important areas to address for lawyers and law practices that are switching to a work from home model:

Fielding Incoming Calls

Although many office phone systems support essential remote work features like call forwarding, the staff may not be familiar with how to use the features that can help make working from home more efficient. Be sure your system supports the ability to seamlessly route calls to the intended recipient even when everyone is working remotely. If this is not the case, implement a new phone system that better supports what you are trying to accomplish.

Another potential challenge is receiving incoming calls at home. Many people do this with their cell phone, but this could be problematic. For example, if you live in an area where you have bad reception, it will result in poor call quality and difficulty communicating with your clients and other staff. There are some ways you can overcome this. Most cellular companies now support Wi-Fi calling, so if you are able, set this up on your cell phone. Another option would be to install a landline or voice over internet protocol (VOIP) line at home to be used only for your firm’s business.

Home Internet Connections

With everyone at home during the coronavirus pandemic and a growing number likely to remain working from home, internet speeds can be an issue in some areas. Some providers also have data caps in which the speed slows down after you reach a certain amount of data usage. Another issue is that if you hook up to Wi-Fi in your home, your laptop or desktop computer may be one of multiple devices that are drawing data from the same network. Instead of using Wi-Fi, consider connecting your computer to the internet through an ethernet cable. This will give you a more stable connection that bypasses the Wi-Fi network and results in a faster speed.

Teleconferenced Court Hearings

In recent weeks, many of the courts that remain open have switched from in person hearings to teleconferences that rely on the participants to initiate the call. And with so many other firms and companies rapidly switching to remote work, many of the teleconference providers are getting overloaded. This could result in poor connections, difficulty hearing participants, and possibly having to cancel and/or reschedule the hearing. To reduce the chances of this happening, it is best to sign up with at least a couple different teleconference providers. In addition, ask participants to connect through a stable wired internet connection (if possible) rather than a Wi-Fi or a cellular network.

Videoconferencing and Text Communications Best Practices

With more and more people working from home, teleconferencing or videoconferencing will need to be used more frequently to replace in person meetings. This will require many of the same considerations as with the teleconferenced court hearings. Choose one platform primarily and make sure everyone is using it, ask everyone to use the most stable connection they have available to them, and make sure you have more than one option in case your primary platform goes down. Another issue some do not think about is accidentally revealing private emails and other confidential information during screen shares. If you are going to use screen sharing, close all apps you do not want others to see.

In addition to teleconferencing and videoconferencing, you will also want to have a platform that can be used for the firm’s staff to exchange instant messages. You can use group texts on your cell phone for this, but it is usually easier and more efficient to use an online platform like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Facebook Messenger. As with other forms of communication, be sure everyone is on the same page and using the same system. Also make sure to set clear expectations with regards to what documents and other information can be shared through a messaging platform.

Managing Documents

Picking up on the last point, you will need to have a system in place to efficiently and securely manage sensitive and/or confidential information. A cloud-based document management system will be easier and more efficient to back up the documents and utilize them than something that is set up locally in your house, but there are security concerns as well. Be sure you are using a system that has bank grade security, and also make sure to set up strong policies for how documents are to be handled so as to avoid any security breaches that would expose your clients’ information. For example, do not allow the staff to send documents back and forth through personal email accounts or other less secure forms of communication.

Overcoming Work from Home Challenges

Although working remotely has many advantages, this approach is not without its drawbacks. One of the most common issues is that working from home can often blur the lines between work and personal life. Spouses and children can interrupt, and it may be easier to get distracted by things like social media or just putting a load of clothes into the laundry. The lack of real human interaction can also have an adverse psychological effect on some people, particularly extroverts who have a hard time working in an isolated environment. Some studies have also suggested that creativity and innovations are more likely to happen when people work together in a central location rather than remotely.

To address these issues, it is important to have detailed discussions with staff about the work/life balance and sticking to a schedule. This does not have to be a lecture; rather, it should be a supportive and encouraging conversation letting them know that you understand the challenges they are dealing with and stressing the importance of separating their work from their personal lives. You should also have daily teleconferences or videoconferences to stay in touch and make sure everyone is on the same page, and schedule regular in-person meetings where you can connect and collaborate with each other.

For the time being, you will of course need to follow the recommended social distancing guidelines during in-person meetings. This may mean sitting several seats away from each other in the conference room as well as the basics like washing your hands, using sanitizer, and not shaking hands or embracing each other.

Capitalizing on the Work from Home Trend

When this is all over, organizations across a wide range of industries will be moving their employees off-site and having them work from home. This means that consumers will be spending a lot more of their time connected to the internet. For attorneys and law firms, this is one silver lining that is often overlooked. Increased online use means more legal consumers in one place, and a greater opportunity to grow your practice through an effective digital marketing approach.

Now is the time to review your online marketing strategy to identify what areas need to be improved. Are you happy with the design of your website? Are you happy with the number of website visitors you are getting and converting into clients? How many clients are you getting from social media? Do you even have a social media presence?

These are important questions to ask, because the firms that effectively adapt to the realities of our increasingly digitized society are the ones that will end up thriving in the future. If you need help improving your web presence, we invite you to get in touch with us to review your current marketing approach and see how we can help you.

About Sundown Legal Marketing

Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Marketing.