As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation evolves around the world, more and more businesses, including law firms, are asking workers to work from home.
Thanks to technology, lawyers are better prepared than ever to work from home. With uninterrupted internet connectivity and access to files, lawyers can continue to deliver services to clients without compromising on quality, interact and collaborate with the team effectively, eliminate downtime and be productive wherever they are.
Here are five tips to help lawyers faced with the prospect of working from home to ensure they are set up for success:
1. Check that you can work like you were in the office
Do you have access to all your case files and data (past and present)? Or will you find yourself in a panic emailing yourself files or calling colleagues for information?
Before any mandatory self-isolation is put into place, double-check that you have access to the files and data you will need. Don’t leave it to chance.
If you work on a cloud-based practice management software, you should have 24/7 access to all your documents, emails, events, due dates, tasks, contacts, timesheets and invoices, without the need of complicated network connections.
Since everything is synced and stored in the cloud, you can be 100% confident that the information you’re accessing is the latest version of documents and data. Since 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!
On the other hand, if your firm 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.
Connectivity can be an issue especially when multiple devices at home are connected to the Wi-Fi. Remove unnecessary devices, applications and upgrades that siphon off a large portion of connectivity. Making simple changes such as turning Outlook to offline mode, disabling auto-saving feature in Microsoft Office 365 and/or other applications, limiting video calls only when necessary will ensure smooth connectivity.
2. Schedule your day
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 (ie. in the morning when the kids wake up), 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 – 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 sensible quitting time in your schedule to help you stay on track during the day
3. Stay on top of your time tracking
Once you’ve scheduled your time, you want to make sure you are keeping track of it to prioritise billable work, even when you’re at home.
Technology can help you track your time as you work, from any device. This means no more waiting until you’re back in the office to record your time. For example, with Kleos you can enter time directly from your calendar to make sure every hour is counted.
4. Keep your client-focus
It’s never a good sign when clients are chasing you down. That is especially during a pandemic. Stay in touch with your clients and keep them reassured that their cases are getting your attention and keep them updated proactively about any changes (coronavirus-related or not).
- Keep due dates and priorities organised in dashboard, this way you can improve your time management, stay on top of deadlines and set alerts to keep you on task – before your client calls you!
- Replace in-person meetings video conferences by using tools like GoToWebinar, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangout, Join.me, Whereby etc.
- Use a secure file sharing portal to proactively share agreements, messages and invoices quicker, and reduce the need for calls and emails. You can choose between a free or paid file sharing tool depending on your needs. As free tools aren’t always the most secure, it is best to use a tool that requires you and the recipients to have accounts.
All this translates into happier clients and a more professional image for your firm!
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 a cloud solution like Kleos, you can set up secure file sharing between employees and external third parties. With Kleos, data transmission is encrypted with a 2048-bit PKI Certificate and certified by Norton, ensuring peace of mind that files are transferred securely. Furthermore, Kleos is monitored 24/7 for intrusion detection and encrypted data transmission is continually monitored by Norton Symantec 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 like you would in the office, you can add value to clients, increase billable hours and generate more revenue for the firm.