Author: The Process Server Center | PROServerCENTER is a legal professional organization whose mission is to set a national standard for the process service industry in the United States.
Traditionally, the idea of working remotely might seem like an approach that is too difficult for the demands of the legal profession. However, if one looks more closely at how to actually work remotely and what lawyers and paralegals need in order to utilize today's technological advances, remote work in the legal industry seems more and more viable. In fact, in light of the rapidly changing environment during the last year, many legal professionals are embracing remote work. Lawyers and paralegals are discovering that remote work allows them to protect their families, clients and communities, while leading to better efficiencies and higher level of productivity.
Whether you have considered working remotely as a legal professional in the past, or whether you are exploring it for the first time, this guide contains 9 clear, practical tips to help you run a remote legal practice without interruption:
1. Communicate Changes Clearly
If you have been running a traditional law firm model, and have decided to begin working remotely, whether permanently or temporarily, it is absolutely critical that your law firm clearly communicates any changes. Send an email to your clients, vendors and staff, making it clear that you are shifting to remote work. Share your new policies and set expectations for which communication channels to use, how meetings will take place, and how often you will be contacting clients. If in-person meetings will no longer take place, let everyone know and introduce video conferences by adding links to video invites within the notes section of any calendar events.
Make sure you clearly share with your clients why you are working remotely so that your they can understand and see these changes in a positive light. By communicating clearly, you can make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved. When it comes to your law firm staff, speak to any regular staff about how you will continue to work together while you are remote, and let the staff know if they are meant to work remotely as well. If you are considering to close your law firm office, put a notice on the homepage of your website and a sign on the door. Make sure the sign include information on how to reach you so those who come knocking do not feel like they have hit an impasse.
2. Set up Remote Access to Cases and Documents
If you are considering working remotely, it is difficult, if not impossible, to carry your filing cabinets with you. It makes sense to ensure you have access to as many documents and case details as possible online. Before you begin your remote work, scan paper documents, digitize anything you might need that is paper-only and not already scanned into your computer or the cloud. You can do this yourself, put a staff member in charge of scanning documents, or find a legal document scanning service to help you get started.
If you are planning to work remotely for an extended time period, and others at your firm are as well, you will need to take special precautions to ensure your law firm’s server is protected from potential fires, floods, power outages, or other possible problems, and—depending on the situation—taking these precautions may be extremely difficult. If you are planning to work remotely full-time, you may not need a law firm server at all! Instead consider a cloud-based document storage which allows you to securely access your files and easily collaborate on them from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. Some cloud-based storage solutions your team may consider are Clio, Dropbox and Box.
3. Ensure Your Internet Connection is Solid
As a legal professional, you cannot have the internet dropping off in the middle of an important video conference meeting. If you are working remotely, a strong internet connection is critical to your success in order to meet deadlines and ensure all processes run smoothly. In addition, if you need to collaborate with clients and staff on important legal documents, they will have to be stored in the cloud rather than on a local server or computer. A strong internet connection ensures that you and your staff can easily access these documents when you need them.
To make sure that you have a strong and reliable internet connection, test your internet speed for free and talk to your internet provider about the level of speed and stability you are getting with your current package. Consider upgrading if you feel that your internet connection is not stable enough. If you are working out of your local area or expect to regularly go on business trip, consider investing in a portable Wi-Fi hotspot in order to avoid troubles with spotty Wi-Fi connections when away from your home office.
4. Keep Client Communications Secure
If you are working remotely, you need to consider multiple secure ways to communicate with your clients. At the very least, you should be able to provide case updates and ongoing communications online, via text, or over the phone. With many communications methods available, the key thing is to make sure any channels your legal team is using are encrypted and secure. As a legal professional, you need to uphold your duty to keep client information confidential, and if communication channels are not encrypted, it is all too easy for others to gain access to client conversations.
5. Consider Your Clients’ Remote Experience
Clients will be looking for you and your services whether you are working remotely or not. If you want your remote legal practice to be successful, you must provide clear information on your website, create a streamlined onboarding process, and be frank about the fact that you are working remotely and what experience your clients can expect.
Even if you are remote work is only temporary, your ability to be flexible and show that you are still available to clients could very well lead you to connect with clients who otherwise have a difficult time getting the legal help they need. Consider offering consultations over the phone or via video to create peace of mind for potential clients, and send newly signed clients a welcome letter with details like how best to contact you, how often to expect communications, and what times you will be available.
6. Set up Post Office Box Forwarding
Depending on how you are currently running your law practice, and depending on the type of law you practice, going completely paperless may take some time. If you are working remotely temporarily, contact your local postal office to set up a temporary mail forward from your office to the address you will be working at. You can also minimize mailing expenses by opting to receive bills for any business expenses online, and by sharing client invoices online as well.
7. Be Accessible by Phone
Even if you do not have an office, there are still clients who will want to contact you via phone. For temporary remote work, forward calls from your number at your law firm to your mobile phone, or another number you can easily access while away from the office. For permanent remote work, consider switching to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone service, which allows you to make phone calls from your computer. It is also worth investing in a headset for top-notch sound quality on any calls.
If you are working remotely, consider also a virtual receptionist service. It can help you ensure that calls do not get missed and potential new clients do not slip through the cracks. This can be helpful if working remotely means you will need to handle more calls than you are used to, or you will be working in a different time zone, or if you will be working irregular hours.
8. Present a Professional Appearance
With the power of technology and a strong internet connection, you can meet anyone, anywhere, anytime with video meetings with clients, vendors, staff, and a variety of other people. Working remotely does not mean your professional standards should lapse. It is a given that you will need to look professional for video meetings, but with some effort and planning, you will look extra smart and create a strong, positive impression on clients and other legal professionals.
9. Take Care of Your Mental Health When Working Remotely
Remote work can be isolating. If you are used to interacting with others directly on a daily basis, suddenly sitting alone all day can be a tough change for your mental health. To combat the downside of remote work, create a routine, and create some distance between your work and personal life. Here are some tips:
As a legal professional, it is entirely possible—with the right preparation and support—to work remotely in today’s digital age. Equipped with the proper tools, and by following a few key best practices, you will continue to run a profitable law firm while providing good client experiences. Depending on the situation, your clients may even appreciate the convenience and efficiency of a remote experience. By selecting secure tools, communicating clearly and effectively about how your remote practice will work, and maintaining a strong internet connection, your firm can thrive from anywhere.
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.
In a rapidly changing environment, law firms have had to adapt the way they work and run their firms. They had to make changes from the way they interact with their clients to the way they collaborate with their team members and vendors, including process servers. Legal professionals 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 going to be a different world. Overcoming these challenges takes even more time and effort, and having smooth processes and reliable vendors has become a must. More than ever, paralegals want to save time and resources and be able to quickly find process servers who have the skills and potential to take charge and eliminate hassles in process serving. With remote work continuing into 2021, process servers need to be more self-sufficient and proactive about the quality of services they provide and the way they manage their businesses.
Here are five tips to help you be the BEST in your role as a process server or the CEO of your process service agency:
No one tells a CEO what to do every day. If you want to grow your process service business (or your role as a process server employee), you need to take initiative. Ask yourself what you can do that is above and beyond what an attorney, a paralegal or your boss has asked you to do. If you think something could be done in a better way, make a suggestion for how to improve it. If you see something that needs to be done, start doing it. Take the initiative to research an address before you make your first attempt. When you are trying to serve a respondent, don't just knock on the door, but take the time to talk to neighbors, check names on mailboxes or do a skip trace. These are not only great ways to learn and get better at what you do as a process server, but you will also demonstrate that you are ambitious and willing to take on more.
Be a Team Player
In our experience CEOs of process serving agencies often act as a bulldozer. If someone does not do something the way they want it done, they just do it themselves. But there is a limit to what any boss can get done on their own. What usually happens is that you start to burn out or you miss important serve by dates or don't notice the mistakes your process servers make. The more that happens, the more your legal clients become frustrated and the faster the quality of your process service falls. If you want to scale your work and have a bigger impact, you have to learn to work with a team. Collaborate with your process servers and trust other people to help you get the job done. Especially early on in your career as a process server agency boss, when you may not have direct reports, you need to learn to lead through influence. Build relationships with the people you work with to establish trust.
Ask for Help
A good leader has confidence but is also humble enough to know that they don’t have all the answers. Tapping into the expertise of others around you will help you learn and grow. Build a strong network of process servers, attorneys and paralegals you can reach out to in areas where you have less expertise. Make learning a priority so you have a good set of process serving resources to reference. Show your clients that you have thought through some potential solutions before going to them with a problem, but don’t spend too long spinning your wheels before reaching out for help. It’s okay not to know all of the answers, even if you are the CEO of a process serving agency.
Your Ears are Your Best Tool
I learned an important leadership skill from my father who taught me to “keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut until I had enough information to make an informed decision.” A good leader has enough emotional intelligence to know when to speak and when to listen. If you are working as a process server or run your process serving agency, you have to listen to what your client needs before you offer them your service or expertise. If you make decisions before you have enough information, you might make mistakes that could have been avoided. You don’t need to be the first person to speak every time an attorney calls you to retain your services. Ask questions and listen before you weigh in. This is a great way to learn and it will help you earn the respect and trust of your team and your clients.
Be Willing to Take Risks
No one gets anywhere in life by staying small. You have to take risks and be willing to fail if you want to grow and make an impact as a process server. However, make sure you do your homework and have data to back you up before you try out a new idea. It’s good to take risks, but they should be smart well-informed risks. Part of being the CEO of your process service business is being willing to take responsibility if your ideas don’t work out. No matter how well prepared you are and how well you execute, you still might fail. And that’s okay. We often learn more from our failures than our successes. Take the time to learn from your failures but don’t shy away from risks.
Do not be afraid to take charge as you are growing in your process service career. If you want to develop leadership skills, you have to be willing to grab the reins. You don’t need to know all of the answers to lead. If you are asking for help, listening, and making informed decisions, you will have a solid base to grow and learn from as you continue to build your process serving business.
The best way to learn is through experience. Each new experience teaches you what works well and what doesn’t and helps you create a management style that works for you. If you have any questions about better managing your process service business, our PROServer Center team is here to help.
Author: Brani Andreev, MBA, is an expert in nationwide management of process service, consultant, speaker, and developer of the breakthrough Management Model of the 4Ps™ that ensures the consistent quality of process service.
The judicial system did not escape the debilitating effects of the current challenging times. Courts shut down or moved to a virtual environment. Remote work became the norm and members of the legal community are fighting to find a stable footing. During these difficult times it has become crucial to rely on legal technology for everything from electronic filings to digital depositions to virtual hearings. Legal experts are providing insights and predictions as to the future of the legal industry and the direction in which it will continue to share. Few people in the legal industry have the experience and knowledge to weigh in the way Karl Harris, CEO of Lex Machina, can. In a recent interview with John Goodnow from Above the Law, Harris shared his insights on the changes to come and the factors that will allow law firms to succeed in the new legal world.
Law Firms on the Cusp of a Fundamental Revolution
According to Karl Harris the legal industry will experience changes in the way they deliver their services. "The stakeholder that’s going to be driving the change is clients", Harris shared. He sees part of this revolution to involve a continuing shift away from the traditional billable hour model. “The billable hour, it’s just got to go away, right? Nobody likes it. Clients don’t like it, the associate that’s got the little timer on their screen doesn’t like it, nobody likes it.” Harris further explains that under the billable hour, “there can often be an adversarial relationship with a client and its outside counsel, as you’re kind of wondering, ‘Are we really in alignment? Are our incentives aligned? Are they doing the right thing?’ ”
To Harris, law firms that succeed and will continue to be change agents for the legal industry are the ones that lead their firms to become active partners in promoting their clients’ business goals. From a necessary evil and a line on an expense sheet, clients now take on a central role in the legal industry process. Harris believes that by sharing risk and aligning a law firm's success with that of its customer, firms will become more efficient with their own resources. Being efficient and moving toward fixed-fee work does not necessarily mean that a law firm's revenue will go down. “It’s okay if a fixed-fee arrangement actually results in a higher fee than what a billable arrangement would, because what the client is paying for is reduced risk, and people are willing to pay to reduce risk", Harris adds.
Agile Enough to Meet Clients' Evolving Needs
According to Harris, the question is which law firms are going to be able to meet that change. In conversations with law firm leaders and partners, the number one question on their minds is if the firm is agile enough to meet the changing and evolving needs of their clients. Unfortunately, the answer to this question among paralegals, attorneys and legal assistants is negative. Law firms do not feel generally agile enough to meet the new and fast changing needs of their clients.
Harris said he sees this as a deeply untenable state of affairs, especially for law firms that employ a traditional fiscal system. “There’s a lot of risk, year to year, in the law firm model. At the end of the year, you pay out all the profits to partners and you start with zero. You finance the firm for three quarters of the year with loans from a bank. You’re not even in the black until the last few months of the year, and then you make all your profits. Like, if you make one mistake, it can bring down an entire firm.”
One of the most important questions a law firm can be asking itself, according to Harris, is about its leadership team. “What’s the profile of the ultimate decision-makers at these large law firms? Are they nimble, technology-savvy? Where are they at in generational turnover, and what’s their willingness to take risk and make changes?” In the months and years ahead we see competition growing stronger and more sharp-elbowed. Law firms that are not ready to pivot quickly as circumstances merit could find themselves pushed right out of business.
Leveling The Field
Based on fast technological advances in the legal industry, small and midsized law firms are quickly embracing new tools and applications. Technology is becoming a great equalizer in the legal field, one that allows small and midsized firms to punch above their level. These changes lead to an increase in competition, that challenges the status quo for large, highly leveraged law firms. As more attorneys have the tools to service their clients, the level of competition and customer service goes up, and the legal industry begins catching up on the ground it has lost to the broader business world.
Harris gave the example of trying to decide whether to file a motion for summary judgment in a major case. The traditional method of making that decision might be to email blast the firm for insights on the judge or opposing counsel, and then trying to use whatever anecdotes arrive to supplement the attorney’s legal reasoning and judgment. With Lex Machina, however, an attorney can click a few buttons to pull statistics on:
“What AI is doing right now is massive pattern matching at scale", according to Harris, "That’s what machine learning, natural language processing does: it makes sense of patterns that may be too hard for the human to hold all the data in their mind … . It’s great at processing lots of data at scale, but it’s just matching patterns. There is no intelligence that’s replacing your judgment, so don’t be afraid of AI. Embrace it. Leverage it to your advantage.”
Software can quickly pull the 10 most recent successful and unsuccessful MSJs a given judge has ruled on, or calculate what percentage of cases of a certain type succeed or fail in a given jury pool. And software does it faster, and for pennies on the dollar compared to what it would cost an associate or partner to generate the same data. That data helps attorneys make better litigation decisions and helps them communicate more effectively to their clients on why a given recommendation is the right one.
Winners And Losers among Law Firms
“Law firms are going to need to change, and there will be winners and losers,” Harris noted. When asked about the one factor that, above all, will determine which firms succeed and which do not, Harris answers, “Law firm leaders need to make sure they’ve got that customer-centric product management approach. At the end of the day, the firm is your product. Be listening to your clients. Watch what they’re doing. Be aware of the data. Look how they’re evaluating your performance, and don’t fight that. Embrace it, because you’ve got to be in line with your customers.”
Similar to factors that influence other type of businesses, the success or failure among law firms will always come down to how well we serve our customers. We live in a time where there are plenty of technological and innovative companies and leaders who give law firms the tools, know-how and actionable tools that would help them do what the legal industry already does but better. Tools like Lex Machina or PROServer List are just a couple of the many great solutions available to law firms, both large and small, to embrace the changing needs of their clients and truly get on the path of becoming winners.
Source: Above the Law