Technology is an essential part of any modern practicing attorney’s toolkit. In Tad’s Tech Corner, join me as I discuss how to best utilize technology– both from a device and software standpoint– during your daily lawyering tasks and during trial. Discussions, as always, are welcome in the comments section below.
Like most lawyers, you’ve probably been working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether your area has faced active stay-at-home orders or social distancing recommendations, working remotely, especially long-term, isn’t necessarily something you and your law firm planned for. Even as areas of the country begin to reopen, remote work won’t be going away anytime soon.
If you’ve struggled with shifting to remote work and finding ways to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, employees, and clients, you’re not alone. One of the top priorities for law firms during this challenging time should be to invest in remote working tools and software in an effort to continue providing clients with the best legal representation possible.
In order to help fellow lawyers navigate the sea of software options, we’ve compiled the best legal software tools your firm can use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tools focus on managing tasks, sharing documents, and securing communication.
Legal Task Management Software
Task management software helps law firms keep track of what actions need to be taken through the duration of any given case. Software needs vary depending on the type of firm, what size cases they’re dealing with, as well as the size of their team.
Whether you’re in the office or working from home, you should be using task management software. With the right software for your firm, you’ll be able to keep track of what work needs to be completed, ensure firm-wide transparency on who’s responsible for which tasks, spot potential mistakes or red flags before they happen, and monitor the overall process of your case.
Document Sharing Software
As you know, there are numerous documents that are shared between an attorney and their client from the beginning to the end of representation. If you don’t have the option of an initial in-person meeting, you may think you need to rely on mailing documents back and forth in order to help with their claim.
Fortunately, there are a number of options for remote scanning and electronic signatures. Even for clients who have limited technology at home, devices like phones and tablets can facilitate a similar function. Some of the most common scanning apps include Microsoft Office Lens and Adobe Scan App. For e-signature software, the American Bar Association (ABA) recommends programs like Adobe Sign and DocuSign.
You also have the option of considering using a secure and HIPAA compliant mailing service, like PostalMethods, which can generate a mailed letter by uploading or emailing documents. This can streamline office mailing operations and offer an option for clients who do not have smartphones or tablets.
Software for Secure Communication
As a lawyer, you know you have an ethical obligation to ensure client confidentiality. When working remotely, there are extra steps you’ll need to take to ensure that your communications are secure and protected.
In regard to the matter of security, the ABA recently addressed the matter—specifically in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the ABA Formal Opinion 477 from 2017 addresses encrypting emails and advising lawyers to assess the sensitivity of information on a case-by-case basis, more recently the ABA discussed that with improved technology and hacker capabilities, COVID-19 presents unique cybersecurity issues.
If you’re looking to ensure all communications with clients and colleagues are safe from prying eyes, you’ll want to look into updating your videoconferencing software and messaging tools.
Videoconferencing has likely become part of your every day since working from home. Based on its popularity, you might be using Zoom. The platform is user-friendly, affordable, and now provides end-to-end encryption. If, however, you’re looking for other options, you could consider Webex and GoToMeeting—both of which also provide end-to-end encryption. There’s also Legaler, which is a videoconferencing tool designed specifically for lawyers. In light of the pandemic, Legaler is offering a free active plan for 12 months.
To work more effectively during the pandemic, it’s crucial to have streamlined internal communication. Written memos and documents may have worked in the office, but that’s no longer the case. In order to reduce interruptions to your workflow, you’ll want to implement a reliable instant messaging or texting tool. This way, you can receive and respond to messages promptly no matter where you are.
Slack is one of the most popular platforms for instant chat and collaboration. Microsoft Teams is another collaboration tool you can use to stay connected with your team. Some of its features include video conferencing, screen sharing, custom backgrounds, together mode, file sharing, apps and workflows, market availability, and privacy and security.
Depending on your firm and clientele, you can create teams for individuals clients, with channels within the teams for various matters. Depending on the situation, a team for each matter may be more appropriate. Regardless of how you decide to set up Teams, your messaging between coworkers, peers, and employees will be more organized.
If you’re struggling to communicate with clients and colleagues and work effectively while remote, the software tools above can help. Testing different options and investing in the tools that are right for your law firm will help you provide the legal representation your clients deserve.