As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation evolves around the world, more and more businesses, including their legal departments, are working from home.
Thanks to technology, legal professionals are better prepared than ever to work remotely. With uninterrupted internet connectivity and access to files, in house lawyers can eliminate downtime and be productive wherever they are.
At a time of crisis, legal departments will have increased workloads, due to which they will need to work just as effectively from home. In-house lawyers may find themselves dealing with more pressing matters such as force majeure claims due to businesses and suppliers failing to fulfill contracts, data protection challenges as businesses need to share information about individuals to comply with health and safety regulations and COVID-19 related risk mitigation.
Here are five tips to help legal departments faced with the prospect of working from home to ensure they can stay in control and continue to provide value to the business:
# 1 Check that you can work like you were in the office
Do you have access to all your documents and data (past and present)? Or will you find yourself in a panic emailing yourself files or calling colleagues for information?
With the prospect of working from home for an extended amount of time, double-check that you have access to the files and data you will need. Don’t leave it to chance.
If you work with a cloud-based legal management system, you should have 24/7 access to everything – from contracts and agreements to policies and registries for entity management, compliance, etc. – without the need for complicated network connections.
As most cloud solutions offer encrypted data transmission with secure password protection, as long as you have internet access, you can log-in from any device – a benefit that can come in handy if you need to start working from home at a moment’s notice and need access to all your commercial contracts to run risk assessment.
If you are used to logging into your systems without a username and password, chances are you are using a Single Sign-On (SSO) functionality. If so, it might be wise to set up a VPN or contact your IT department for help before you start working from home.
On the other hand, if your legal department is using an on-premise solution, be sure to check your access ahead of time as access out of the office might be limited or require special settings.
#2 Schedule your day
Try to start your day just as you are working in the office – avoiding starting earlier or later than usual. Fight the temptation to multitask while at home by scheduling uninterrupted time to focus on single tasks, one at a time. Stopping to answer the door or to fix some lunch can break your concentration when you’re working on a case. If you know when you are less productive, schedule certain hours of the day for returning phone calls or for appointments while keeping the rest of the time to work. Here are some additional tips to schedule uninterrupted time into your daily schedule:
- Schedule interrupted time – a time where colleagues know you are free to discuss cases
- Fight the tendency to find distractions by taking short breaks to restore energy and concentration
- Include a sensitive quitting time in your schedule to help you stay on track during the day
#3 Streamline communication
Working with colleagues from other departments who are also at home doesn’t have to be complicated. In addition to replacing face-to-face meetings with video conferences, structuring requests that you receive from operational departments with technology can streamline exchanges and reduce the amount of email.
For example, with Legisway you can manage requests for contracts, advice, power, claim declarations, standard contract templates in a dedicated intranet portal. Not only can you delegate tasks and monitor the status of requests, but colleagues who are also working from home can feel more supported by the legal department when they know that legal processes aren’t impacted, and business is running smoothly.
#4 Use collaborative document creation tools
Manual document creation, editing and management can be stressful. Collecting signatures manually on these documents can be even more painstaking. It can be challenging when multiple stakeholders want to access a document to suggest edits, accept and reject changes, sign and approve, or discuss specific segments of a file, either at different times or simultaneously. Working from home can exacerbate this situation.
Document collaboration tools (Hyperlink to TeamDocs lp for a free trial) can provide an easy way to share, track and approve edit suggestions on documents between stakeholders. Enabling e-signatures can help them execute documents fast, no matter where they are. This not only reduces the number of emails and versions to check but minimizes delays in waiting for signatures on documents to approve them – saving you more time for tasks that really matter.
#5 Take security precautions
Working from home can increase the risk of data loss, but you can mitigate this risk by promoting an internal culture of responsibility in information security. Here are a few best practices:
- Avoid public and open WiFi networks. If your connection is not encrypted, you run the serious risk of becoming victims of password or data theft.
- Set a strong password on your home WiFi router (ie. Don’t use your name or address)
- Protect access to computers and devices that you use at home, as well as to all accounts in applications with strong and different passwords, also change them with relative frequency.
- Avoid announcing through automated messages that your office will be closed and avoid posting photos on social networks. This gives thieves the message that the coast is clear!
- Protect access to files with passwords and user access settings.
- Take precautions with file transfer. If you’re using email to transfer files you could be opening yourself up to viruses and malware. Instead, with the cloud platform offered by Legisway, you can set up secure file sharing between employees and external third parties. With Legisway, data transmission is encrypted using HTTPS protocol, ensuring peace of mind that files are transferred securely. Furthermore, Legisway is monitored 24/7 for intrusion detection and encrypted data transmission is continually monitored for vulnerability.
In conclusion, if you’re asked to work from home for a prolonged period of time, it is essential that you take proactive steps to set yourself up for success. When you’re able to work as you would in the office, you can continue to stay in control and generate value for the business.