Back to Top

Part of the ‘Lawyerist Healthy Law Firm’

Learn more

Chapter 5/6

Managing a Modern Law Office That is Paperless and Remote

Managing a Small Law Firm

8 min read

Managing a Modern Law Firm That is Virtual and Paperless 

Today’s workplace looks and feels different. Even before the pandemic, lawyers saw the advantages of creating virtual offices. If anything, the pandemic allowed the entire world (including clients) to realize that virtual and online alternatives are viable and effective ways to conduct business.  

Building a Virtual Law Office and Remote Team 

Before going completely virtual, you need to inventory the tools you already have and those that you need. You might need to make some investments and prepare your team for how to use these tools before sending them off to their home office.

Challenges of a remote office:

  • Collaboration & communication
  • Security
  • Accountability & tasks

 

Solutions:

  • Tools. Put the right tools & processes in place (Practice Management, Document Sharing, Chat, Video Conferencing, etc.). Determine what tools to use and when. For example, Teams or Slack for daily communication and text for urgent communication. Provide training for your team (Visual through Loom and written through Doc Sharing).

  • Review current security policies. Are there additional security measures that need to be implemented?

  • Make a schedule. Make a list of what happens in the office and when. Then, prioritize the list. Determine who does what and how to keep track of the priorities.

Videoconferencing Software

Video meetings are essential for a well-functioning workplace in your virtual law firm. In order to be effective, video meetings must also be easy and reliable so that you can use it as the default for every meeting. Don’t forget to consider whether each employee has the tech to use a video meeting, such as a company-provided laptop or computer, webcams, and microphones/headsets. 

Make sure you pick one video software to use companywide. There are many options, but if you don’t have a preference, Google Meets or Zoom work well. Google Meets is the most convenient for computer users because it runs in a browser. Zoom is the best, however, for tablet and phone users, even though it requires installing an app. 

Prepare your staff for how to use this technology the right way, so your virtual law firm is ready to go from day one. Built-in computer cameras can work if you can elevate the camera to eye level. A great first webcam for business use is the C920S HD Pro. 

Set up guidelines for how staff will show up for meetings. Remind staff to turn their video on and that they shouldn’t use their computer’s microphone and speakers. Wireless headphones can have battery life issues, but plug-in headphones with a microphone are an affordable option to reduce feedback. 

Make sure you’ve got the tech to get through a client meeting without issues- you won’t look very professional if you don’t have headphones at all or if they die halfway through a meeting.

Client File Storage

We’ve been telling you to go paperless for years, but now it’s more important than ever to go paperless and to do it safely (more on that below). Your law firm needs a single source of client information and files. To work remotely, you have to be paperless. You should have a scanner just in case (we recommend the ScanSnap iX 1500). Your goal should be to eliminate as much paper as possible. Your client’s file storage, just like everything else in your virtual law firm, should be secure. 

Proper Home Office Bandwidth

Make sure you have enough bandwidth in your home internet to accommodate your increased usage as a virtual law firm. Your bare minimum should be at least 1.5mbps up/down. If your partner or children are also using the internet, that affects your speed and usage. You can check your bandwidth at www.speedtest.net to make sure you are getting what the provider promised and determine if you need to upgrade. 

Please review our Remote Law Office Technology Stack page for more specifics to set up your virtual law firm.

Developing Processes for a Remote Law Firm

Now that you’ve analyzed or secured the technology and systems you need to function remotely, it’s time to build out the processes for your team to follow. You must have a solid practice management software in place before going remote. Without a streamlined system and a method to teach that to your employees and contractors, you’ll spend most of the day in the weeds trying to find things. 

If anything, you should communicate more, especially at the beginning of your remote transition or when you onboard a new remote team member. Keeping your team connected makes for better accomplishment of projects and goals, but also helps to limit isolation. 

Developing a Remote Company Culture

What does working remotely look like for your firm? Create and implement systems for when you expect team members to be online, how teams communicate and assign tasks, and decide if any of your current policies need to be updated for a remote workplace. 

There are plenty of people who can work successfully in a remote home office- you just have to know how to attract them and set expectations. Letting your current and future employees know what to expect and putting extra effort into getting them set up, especially if this is their first remote job, is key. 

So how do you build and maintain a culture in a remote company?

  • Communicate your core values and mission frequently and in a variety of ways.

  • Tell your story. Share your vision. Ask the team to share their favorite core values. Be creative. 

  • Create a Communication Toolkit that reflects your company culture. What communications tools do you use and when? Create best practices for using the tools (Chat, Videoconferencing, Etc).

  • Meetings-Remember to keep it human, set aside time for “personal” chat. Set a schedule for daily, weekly, monthly meetings (In-person meetups and online).

  • Establish rituals (Weekly lunch, monthly happy hours, annual retreats).

  • Build a virtual community.

Everything You Need for a Paperless Law Office

Digital files destress your life. Truly. If you’re ready to go paperless, there are a few key things you’ll need to make it happen:

  • A document scanner

  • Adobe Acrobat

  • A tablet

  • A shredder or shredding service

  • Cloud storage

  • Backup

Your Paperless Workflow

Besides equipment and tools, you’ll also need a dedicated paperless workflow for scanning and filing documents. To start, scan existing files into your digital filing system. Then make a process to scan every document or file that comes your way before you do anything else with it.

You’ll also want to decide how to organize your files, whether by open client files and closed client files or another method. Name each document to reflect the client, the type of document, and the date. Remember to add this process into your office processes.

The What, Where & How of Client Files

As you manage your firm’s documents, it’s important to have a process that includes what to save or shred, even in a paperless law office.

For client files:

  • Return documents you no longer need. At the end of a case, return client documents to the client, unless you specify otherwise.

  • Get rid of unnecessary documents. At the close of a case, make sure you get rid of any non-pertinent documents that simply take up space. 

  • Have a separate file location for closed files. Keep open cases and closed cases separate inside your filing system. This prevents confusion and overwhelm within your files.

  • Track your destroyed documents. When you destroy files after the safe time period passes, notate it in a separate destructed document record.

  • Clear redundancies. Decide when and how you will shred documents that are now scanned.

  • Label with dates. Date boxes of paper or digital files so you know how much time has passed since you last used them—this will help you figure out what to keep.

Finally, ensure the rest of your staff understands what to do with client files. Communicate the process in your law office management procedure manual

 

Next, we’ll talk about using contractors or freelancers and outsourcing work.