Author: Richard Farrell, program administrator with extensive experience in training and education development at the PROServer CENTER, a legal professional organization whose mission is to set a national standard for the process service industry in the United States.
During the past year, many legal professional are facing not only practical challenges, such as moving to a remote work environment, but also a necessary shift in mindset to adapt to what is shaping up to be a different world on the other side of the global pandemic.
Although technology is coming to our rescue in many ways—for example, by the increased use of video conferencing—it is also true to say that technology speeds many things up, especially the expectations of clients and the demands we place on ourselves. Never has it been more important for lawyers and their practices to harness technology in the right way to achieve a law firm that remains efficient and well connected to its team and clients.
Although some legal companies and law firms may see these changes as temporary, most likely we will not be going back to how things were before. Now is the time to look at the processes and applications you’ve been meaning to update or get in place for ages, and make it happen. It is also important to really look at how you believe the legal market will evolve coming out of this crisis, so that you can stay one step ahead.
The starting point in any revamp of processes is to go back to basics. What do you actually need? Chances are, it is probably a lot less than you think and you don’t need to implement everything at once either. Here are five top tools to help your law firm stay efficient during this global pandemic or other difficult times:
1. Invest in Quality Hardware
Your team must have quality PCs and laptops so they can complete their work quickly, and your firm must keep these computers regularly serviced and updated. Nothing is more frustrating or time consuming than a slow computer. Ask for recommendations to a good local IT specialist who can advise on what hardware you need based on the programs that you run. Don’t skimp on this—your team won’t thank you and nor will your bottom line.
2. Try a Remote Receptionist
If your law firm is now working from home, the chances are you have already outsourced your incoming phone calls. If not, consider using a remote receptionist to field calls to your staff. If a staff member isn’t available to take a call, the remote receptionist will be able to take a message as you’d expect and email or text it to the appropriate staff member so that the call can be returned. For example, you may consider setting up a shared mailbox for incoming messages which can then be picked up by any team member.
3. Move to Cloud Storage
From our conversations with law firm owners and paralegals over the years, getting documents and files into the cloud seems to be a sticking point for many. It is certainly a huge shift to switch from working with physical files to electronic ones, but the ease at which you’ll then be able to work on matters electronically and collaboratively far outweighs the effort in managing a switch over. Don’t forget, you don’t have to put everything in the cloud straight away, you could start with new files and then consider outsourcing the scanning of archived files later.
4. Have a System for Printing and Scanning
If your legal team is now working from home, they may not have access to a printer or scanner. You may consider working around this by taking in turns to go into the office once a week to check and scan in the mail you have received and to print and send anything that you may need to access remotely. You may also consider setting up a new shared mailbox to send printing to, so that it can get picked up by whoever is in the office.
5. Invest in the Right Software for Your Firm
Now is a great opportunity to look at what software you use and consider whether it is really working for you. A modern law firm needs a reliable system for managing the various components of its practice. Not only should an office be able to set and organize responsibilities, but it should be able to confirm those actions were performed—and performed well. When you’re looking for legal software, it’s important to think about what areas your practice needs the most help with. For example, if your law firm struggles with document management, look for software with exceptional document management capabilities. If billing is a weak point, software with comprehensive billing features will make the biggest impact.
It’s possible for your law firm to adapt in this environment. Certainly, there will be bumps in the road as your firm adjusts, but with a bit of determination, you can find the tools and systems that work for you and your legal team.