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.
— Tad Thomas
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how and where millions of Americans are working. Whether your area has been hit hard by the virus or precautions are being taken to avoid an outbreak, it’s likely you and the rest of your law firm is working from home.
Transitioning from working in an office to working remotely—especially overnight, can be challenging. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to track law office productivity when working from home. This way, you’ll know that tasks are still being completed and your clients are continuing to receive the representation they deserve.
Measuring Remote Worker Productivity
If you notice deadlines are being missed even though you and everyone else at your firm are putting in the traditional hours, you’ll want to consider the issue might not be a matter of the overall amount of time worked. Instead, it’s more likely that the issue lies in the inability to focus on what’s more important. Remember that productivity and what is accomplished is more important than the hours spent working.
You may want to consider implementing a self-reporting time system. This way, you and the others working for your law firm will be able to get an idea of what is being accomplished and when. This may not be a new concept for your law firm depending on how you handle billing. For example, some law firms require attorneys to track time spent on activities for clients down to six-minute intervals.
It’s also important to consider priorities. Whether you have a virtual meeting each morning or you send out a weekly email, make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to prioritizing tasks and cases. Whether you’re in the process of taking legal research, building arguments, filing cases, or counseling clients, it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t have an idea of what needs to get done first.
Tips for Improving Remote Law Office Productivity
When you’re in the office with your fellow attorneys and other law firm employees, you are a team. It’s important to remember that this does not change because you’re all in different locations. If anything, it’s an even more important time to make sure everyone on your team has a sense of belonging toward your law firm.
When management and employees recognized their role in tackling a case and helping a client, it’s more likely that the outcome for that client will be successful. In order to foster that type of positive atmosphere and improve productivity, consider the following tips:
- Set clear expectations. Whether you set a plan to work from home or the decision happened overnight, it’s important to prepare law firm staff and clients for the transition from an in-person law practice to a remote work one. With staff, establish remote work expectations and procedures. Explain how virtual communication will work, how deliverables will be submitted, and how meetings will take place.
- Make sure your staff is fully equipped. To be productive, your staff needs to have the appropriate equipment and technology. This means making sure every attorney, paralegal, and office manager at your firm has access to a computer, strong internet connection, and telephone connection at home. You’ll want to consider setting up chat and collaboration software, as well as a remote-access VPN or cloud-based practice management solution so you can securely access all your firm data and files.
- Communicate constantly. If you’re in the middle of a challenging case, you may not realize you’ve gone radio silent. Remember to keep in touch with your fellow attorneys, paralegals, and staff to ensure everyone is on the same page. Doing so will ensure deadlines are not missed and any issues with productivity can be addressed.
- Pay attention to cybersecurity. Having lawyers and staff members working in different locations means it’s possible for your firm’s network to be less secure. Phishing and malware attacks are rampant, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure your employees understand how to establish a secure WiFi connection from home and considering using phishing reporting tools in Outlook and Gmail to block online attacks and alert the IT admin at your firm.
While there are certain freedoms afforded by remote work, there can be challenges when it comes to tracking law office productivity. With how quickly many of us started working from home, you may not have been able to take any preventative measures to avoid activity issues. As such, the information and tips above can help your law firm move forward in a more productive and successful manner.