A Guide for the Remote(ly) Challenged Attorney by Gary Allen, CEO of LeanLaw
I know a lawyer who is managing partner of a 40-lawyer, mid-size law firm struggling with working remotely on her law firm’s systems.
Like many attorneys in mid-size law firms, she is working on a server-based system, using an older version of Outlook and VPN for remote access to the network. The timekeeping is cloud-based, but with an older system, disconnected from invoicing. Zoom is available, but limited and few know how to use it.
She realizes this is not the last time the law firm will have to work remotely, so she’s thinking about short-term fixes and also long-term planning. She and I have discussed her situation and I delivered to her a list of what she needs to think about, step-by-step. I share it, here.
Technology for lawyers: First, the hardware
The most important piece of equipment that you need as an attorney to work from home is a laptop. Doesn’t have to be the fanciest laptop ever. In fact, LeanLaw has a guide to laptops for lawyers.
Phone / Tablet
How old is your phone? Are you able to use it in a pinch if you’re not near your laptop? A tablet might also be useful, but I would rank it third, after laptop and up-to-date phone.
Another important consideration is a web camera. Most laptops now have built-in cameras, but if yours doesn’t, you can easily buy a webcam. Here are a few options.
- Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam – Best Overall
- Logitech Brio 4K Pro – Best Image Quality
- Logitech C310 – Best Budget Camera
Lastly, and this sounds old school: do you have a working scanner? Not all of the people you work with — other attorneys, clients — will be sending you electronic files. Ultimately, you will want these files to become digital and you can do that yourself with a simple scanner. The Fujitsu Scansnap iX500 is awesome.
Connectivity, or How’s Your Internet?
If you operate on clunky VPN, with frequent timeouts, precarious printing status and stress on your servers, you understand that eventually, you will be engaging cloud-based services. My first suggestion is the Cloud-based version of MS365. If you value ease of use collaboration over feature-rich Microsoft, I suggest GSuite. Both options are secure especially if you adopt strong best practices. Never forget, YOU are the biggest security risk in your firm, not your computer systems.
Is your internet connection robust enough to connect with video conferencing? When was the last time you called your home Internet provider to look at their offerings? Many times, clients don’t call for years and find out that they are overpaying for legacy services. You can correct this issue today – and you might end up saving money with a faster speed connection for a lower cost. We see it happen.
Top of mind: can you do everything important at home as well as you can at the office? If you have the right tools, this should not be a problem.
Video Communication — Zoom
By now, everyone is learning to use Zoom. But first, you need the webcam (see above) and the fast speed internet connection to make it work.
Another consideration is: what is behind you when you’re on camera? It must look presentable: it could even be a blank wall, just not your bedroom, or a space where you have no privacy and people are milling in the background. By now, we’ve all heard the story of the person who brought her laptop into the bathroom during a video conference. Don’t let that be you! You can also chat with individual members of your video conference, without including the rest of the group.
Within Zoom, you can also present your screen, so that all parties can look at the same document in real time.
Zoom also offers recording, so you can memorialize and archive conversations. Zoom will save them for a definite period, but you must save the files on your own drive to make sure they don’t disappear.
Does email cover this task? Have you ever used online collaboration tools like Slack or MS Teams? The benefit of these kinds of software is that you don’t lose track of versions or miss communications or clog up your email inbox because there is a history of communication and without the formality of email.
Since you’re no longer at work, have you considered either forwarding your work calls to your mobile phone or at least leaving a message, letting your clients know where and how they can connect with you? Your system should allow making changes remotely as to where your phone can be forwarded.
Since your state may have enacted restrictions on going to court for the time being, how will you file? Does your state allow electronic filing?
If you can’t get the bills out, you’re not going to be paid. If you don’t have a way to send invoices out electronically, that needs to change today, even if it’s a temporary solution. LeanLaw offers a 2-week free trial. Of course, it’s going to work better if you’re already a QuickBooks Online user, but just to email the invoices, even in an analogue way, is better than nothing.
We would also advise setting up electronic payments – whether that’s PayPal, QuickBooks Payments or another way. If you’re waiting for paper checks, you will be waiting a long time. People are more apt to pay quickly if you take away all the obstacles.
At LeanLaw, we know a bit about remote firm operations. If you’re trying to figure out how to work remotely when you’ve never done it before, we can be of service. And if you’re used to remote work at your law firm, but have a new issue to tackle, please ask. We’re here to help.