Lawyers and clients, like everyone else in a time of social distancing and COVID-19, are facing weeks or months of uncertainty, isolation, and disruption. If you have already set up your firm for video meetings and remote work, you’ve got a head start! If not, we’ll help you sort it out.
Here are the key things you need to do right now in order to run your law practice effectively from home (or work with employees or clients who are staying home) so you can minimize disruption to your firm and focus on your clients’ needs. They’re going to need you!
Run Your Firm from Home
1. Take Your Computer Home
If you don’t have a laptop set up for work, take your office computer home. This is likely to last longer than just a couple of weeks, and you don’t want to use a computer (or phone or tablet) for client work that’s shared with other people in your household. The same goes for your employees.
2. Embrace Video Meetings
Whether or not you are isolating yourself, you’ll have employees or clients who are, which means you need to be able to meet face-to-face with them without actually being physically present.
Fortunately, video meetings are pretty easy in 2020, and just about everyone is used to using tools like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Duo/Hangouts Meet. Pick one (if you don’t already have a preference, Zoom is probably the most popular and reliable cross-platform video meeting software) and get comfortable using it. Practice with your team, then start using it with clients.
You’ll also want to take the time to make sure you present a professional appearance. Plug in some headphones with a microphone, like the ones that came with your smartphone. Elevate your camera to eye level. Point a light at your face. And take some time to arrange a background that says you’ve got everything under control. (Or use Zoom’s virtual background feature.)
Soon you will probably be using video for court appearances, closings, and other meetings, too, and you definitely don’t want to show up to those with your bed in the background, or force the judge or opposing counsel to squint at your silhouette or stare up your nostrils.
3. Go Paperless
Focus on eliminating as much paper as possible rather than worrying about scanning. When working remotely, avoiding paper is more efficient than spending time scanning it.
Don’t worry about the paper you already have. Keep your files until you can destroy them in accordance with your document destruction policy. Focus on being paperless from now on, and on centralizing your files in your law practice management software or cloud-based document management software like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, etc.
Most lawyers can’t go completely paperless because of rules about originals or signatures. Double-check those rules to make sure paper or a wet signature is actually required. If so, plan ahead so you can use a courier or the mail to send documents around. Or if you need to be present as a witness or to notarize documents, you could offer to meet your clients at the curb with a face mask and gloves.
One last thing is to make sure you can accept paperless payments (i.e., credit cards).
4. Organize Client Information in the Cloud
If you aren’t using cloud-based law practice management software for managing client information and files, start now. There’s no better way to keep all your information in one place and access it from anywhere.
Most practice management software also includes a client portal for securely sharing documents with clients.
Keep Working on It!
That will get you started so you can function. Of course there are a few more things you should take care of when you can. The most important thing is to back up all your files and do a data security threat model. Keep reading this page for all you need to know.
But for now, if you take care of the four things above, you should be up and running remotely!
Small Law Firm Legal Technology
Successful law firms understand their workflows and systems and leverage law firm technology to improve their quality, efficiency, and client experience. They use legal technology not because it’s cool but because they know legal tech makes their work better.
Because legal technology can be complex, because it is changing all the time, and because lawyers were never taught technology strategy in law school, adopting the right tools and keeping up with trends can feel overwhelming. But lawyers need to find a way past these excuses to address real needs around data security, running efficient and effective practices, choosing the right solutions from the slew available, and making legal tech work for them instead of against them.
In this guide, we’ll meet these concerns head-on, supplying you with the information you need to take steps toward a more tech-driven firm. You’ll find detailed legal tech buying guides along with our thoughts on hardware, accessories, software and backup, security, and encryption technologies.
We’ll explore online legal research tools, PDF manipulation, and technology training tips for your team. Going deeper, we’ll discuss legal technology innovation, change management, and law practice management software.
By developing a curiosity for legal tech and understanding the tools available to you, you’ll start to build the client-focused firm your clients will thank you for.
Keeping Up with Legal Technology Is No Longer Just an Option
As a lawyer, keeping up with legal technology is a must for forward-thinking firms focused on growth. Lawyers are constantly in a battle between remaining competitive and minding the bottom line. This battle doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your firm. After all, living in the past comes at a cost.
The firm of the future:
- Takes advantage of technology to help fulfill operational needs, streamline systems, meet goals, and improve client service.
- Is technology competent in general.
- Is well and frequently training in technology systems and tools.
- Runs a paperless law firm by scanning and digitally filing all paperwork, shredding what they don’t need, and keeping the things they do.
- Runs a mobile firm using mobile technology to work productively and securely from outside the office.
- Conducts data security threat assessments with an up-to-date threat model and a written security policy.
- Has technology systems that reflect the firm’s security needs and those of their clients.
The only way to reach these goals is by fully embracing the technology evolution we’re currently in. If you don’t, you’ll be frustrated with inefficient operations, experience lost revenue, and ultimately be left behind.
The goals listed here may seem like a lot to take in. Don’t worry about accomplishing them all at once. Keep them in mind and take one at a time as you work to design and improve your law firm’s systems and tools.
What Does a Comprehensive Tech Plan Look Like?
Every successful initiative started with a plan. To reinvent your law firm and take advantage of the technology available to you, you must first make a roadmap. A comprehensive tech plan will help you outline the steps to take to reach the tech goals set for your firm.
The Big Picture
Start by assessing your firm with the Small Firm Scorecard. Getting your score keeps you on track and helps in decision-making. Then create a statement, outline the technology you wish to use daily in your firm, tech training initiatives, and the tools you’ll need to put into place to become more client-focused.
You’ll need to perform a needs assessment to understand the current technology resources you possess versus the resources you’ll need to meet your goals. The assessment must involve the resources your entire firm will require, including software, hardware, tech accessories, and systems.
To better understand your current standing, download our Basic Tech Competence Checklist. If you can’t check 90% of the boxes, you have a lot of work to do.
Outline your short-term and long-term goals. Start with your law firm as a whole to define organizational goals. From there, set specific goals based on areas of your practice. These goals will look different for each firm but will include things like software implementation, training, purchasing, and more.
Training, Development & Resources
It isn’t enough to simply add a new tool to your firm’s list. Whether you’re a solo practitioner or part of a small firm, training and development are critical for success. Include the training initiatives required to be successful. This may involve training on specific software or basic training in the field of legal technology. Ongoing development should be a part of your plan to ensure your firm is always abreast to changes in the industry.
As part of your comprehensive plan, also outline the resources required for each step in the process. Resources will include parties responsible for implementing the tech, timelines, and your overall budget. This step is critical for accountability and to keep your firm thriving as you move forward.
Planning for Data Security
As you implement new tools and legal tech, you must focus on data security. Understand the threats you face, how you might be putting your clients’ information at risk, and how to best prevent threats to your data.
The right data security protocol includes:
- Proper encryption. With technology, client file sharing happens in new ways. Encryption is the encoding of a message, document, or email in a way that only those with the key can access the information.
- File backup. As you move towards becoming a paperless firm, you’ll need to have a system in place to back up your files and documents.
- Mobile security. You’ll lean on your mobile devices such as your smartphone, tablet, and laptop more than ever in a tech-based firm. You must keep client communications and files confidential as you access them from other devices.
- Password security. Passwords are easily stolen and hacked without the proper security measures in place. Protect your files and client documents by using passwords correctly.
- Wi-Fi and VPN security. A VPN will ensure the Wi-Fi you use is secure while also protecting client data.
If you’re not already taking steps to protect your data, you should be concerned. Data security is a critical part of any comprehensive tech plan.
Embrace Legal Technology and Become More Client-Focused
It’s no secret that law firms, companies, and organizations that focus on the client or customer have a better chance for success. In fact, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable when compared to companies that are not focused on the customer.
The bottom line is this: customer centricity matters to the customer. And approximately 86% of customers will pay more if they can guarantee superior service.
The right law firm technology is a requirement for becoming a more client-focused law firm. Client relationship software (CRMs) helps you manage your clients effectively. Booking appointments online allow your clients to choose a time to speak with you based on their schedule. Other tools such as email and text communication, virtual receptionists, marketing automation, and more will deliver your legal services in a way that matters most to your client: seamlessly.
Choosing Legal Technology for Your Firm
As the technology revolution continues on, tech companies are releasing new products and services to meet the demand. Thousands of software, hardware, tech accessories, and systems exist on the market, some made specifically for legal use. To create an efficient and profitable law office, you’ll need to choose and purchase the right tools to fit your firm’s specific requirements.
The legal technology you choose for your firm will come in many forms, including:
- Word processors and eDiscovery software
- Cloud-based software such as file storage and sync
- Backup software
- Practice management software
- Accounting software
- Timekeeping and billing software
You’ll also need high-quality hardware in the form of computers, monitors, and document scanners for paperless filing. To discover what your firm needs to be successful, keep reading below.
Using Your Technology Tools Effectively
It’s not only wise, but required to be tech competent. You’ll need to invest in proper training to learn how to use the tools effectively to become a technologically competent attorney. As your competency level rises, you’ll have the knowledge required to help train your team. It’s important to understand automation, machine learning, strategic investment, and cybersecurity, as well as what they mean for your firm.
Making Law Firm Technology Work for You
We lose around 40% of our productivity due to task-switching. In a law firm, it’s imperative that we work within several apps or programs at the same time to stay on top of client work. Automation streamlines your workflow, optimizing your time. When you start implementing legal technology properly, such as AI, proper use of the cloud, and mobility it will work for you—not against you. It should replace your manual workflows, automating tasks such as client intake, data entry, billing, and more.
How Legal Technology Leverages Other Systems in Your Practice
Marketing automation should be adopted and implemented strategically. Certain software platforms and tools such as CRM systems can help you effectively market on multiple channels online while automating repetitive tasks that take critical time away from your firm.
Online project management tools and software help you better manage your clients and cases while scanners and cloud-based filing systems help you track your files without the need for trees. It’s all about streamlining your daily office tasks and staying on top of work.
Client Intake & Service
Client intake doesn’t have to take the bulk of your time during that first chat. Better yet, it doesn’t have to be the reason your new client walks away dissatisfied with your service. It will help you deliver greater client-focused service by increasing communication and points of contact, improve billing processes, and enhance the delivery of your legal services.
Accounting software helps you better manage your law firm’s finances so you can stick to your bottom line. These tools provide you with seamless expense tracking, accurate invoicing, and detailed reporting. Some of these tools come with mobile time tracking and other features created for the legal field specifically.
It’s Time to Bring Your Law Firm Up to Today’s Technological Standards
This is only the beginning of what legal tech can do for your firm. Now is the time to start implementing the tools and processes needed to bring your law firm technology up to speed.
Around 27% of executives of firms believe that the digital transformation or technology revolution is a matter of survival. We agree.
Accepting that your law firm technology needs to become future-oriented is the first step towards success. At Lawyerist, we’re serious fans of innovation and how it will help you grow your business. We think you should be strategic and proactive instead of reactive. And we have the roadmap and resources to get you there.
Improve Your Firm by Becoming a Lawyerist Insider Today
These improvements are the same one’s other successful lawyers and small firms have used to grow their business. If you’re ready to become one of our future-oriented, client-centered law firms, join the tribe today by becoming a Lawyerist Insider.