Is your team set up to go and stay remote? Do you know what you need to do to make sure that you have the right tools, processes, and people to run a thriving remote law firm? The good news is that you probably already have some of the things you’ll need to transition to a virtual law firm and that you can adapt to this method as many other lawyers already have. Your firm has the potential to function very well with the right tech, the right people, and the right policies and processes.
Determining Tools and Home Office Needs for Your Virtual Law Firm
Before going completely virtual, you need to take an inventory of 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.
- Collaboration & communication
- Accountability & tasks
- Put the right tools & processes in place(Practice Management, Document Sharing, Chat, Video Conferencing, etc). Determine what tools to use when. For example, 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 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.
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 the camera can be elevated to eye level. A great first webcam for business use is the C920S HD Pro.
Set up guidelines for how staff will show up to 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. Your law firm needs a single source of client information and files. In order 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 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 impacts your speed and usage, too. You can check your bandwidth at www.speedtest.net to make sure you are getting what the provider promised and to 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.
A Professional Home Office Setup
Even though you’re at home, you must put your most professional foot forward with your lighting, background, and display on a webcam. Sadly, we see too many examples of people ignoring just how important this is. You want to project an image of polished competence and business as usual with your remote law firm, not haggard working-from-home-because-I-have-to stress.
Make a plan for what you will need and create a workspace you will actually want to be in. Keep all your work in that area so you will be able to find things easier and be more productive while presenting a professional image for your virtual law firm. Find a way to create privacy using divider walls or bookshelves. Make it personal by bringing in greenery, pictures, or any small touches to make the space your own.
Make sure your camera is set up so the strongest light is behind the camera and pointed at your face. A window is ideal in the daytime. Otherwise, buy a light and point it at your face. Frame it so that the center of your face is above the center of the frame. As long as your head is not cut off, it’s far better to look “tall” in the frame. When you’re testing this out, see what’s behind you on camera. Arrange the background to look professional. You can also use virtual backgrounds in Zoom, which look best if your face is already well lit.
Every member of your team should be clear about the expectations with their home office and virtual appearance on webcam, too. Consider clothing options that project a professional look when meeting with clients and referral partners.
Developing Processes for a Remote 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 be prepared to 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 people are expected 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 are fully capable of working successfully in a remote home office- you just have to know how to attract them and clearly 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 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
Learn More About Going Remote with Lawyerist
Becoming a remote law firm begins when you have a clear plan, the right tools, and a method for training and staying connected to staff. If you’re interested in joining other forward-thinking attorneys like you, consider becoming a Lawyerist Insider. When you join, you’ll get access to tools, information and other attorneys who can help you adapt and grow your firm. We’re all in this together.