As COVID-19 continues to reshape the world, the justice system is experiencing a transformation that has changed the way the legal industry functions. Although many are hoping to return to normal soon, the remote work policies we’ve adopted during the stay-at-home orders are likely here to stay for the long-term even after we emerge from the pandemic. Law firms that successfully adapt to a technology-driven practice will be the ones that will emerge stronger and better prepared for the post-COVID legal landscape.
Strategies to Maintain a Well-Functioning Virtual Law Office
A top priority for any attorney working remotely is to have the ability to effectively communicate with clients, the court, other lawyers, firm staff, and vendors without interruption and on time. We’re now at the mercy of our home’s Wi-Fi network to connect clearly for court hearings, client meetings, and depositions. Inevitably, connections can drop, cameras can fail and microphones won’t work when you need them the most.
Trial technology support expert Eli Hart with River City Media recommends you have a backup plan in place to avoid interruptions. “I tell all my clients to buy a 50-foot ethernet plug-in that you can take anywhere because we all know that ‘Johnny PlayStation’ is going to be firing-up right when he shouldn’t be,” said Hart.
Invest in Basic Equipment:
- An Ethernet /Category 6 (Cat-6) cable ensures you will have faster internet speed for, live video chats, streaming video, and transferring data.
- An External webcam offers better resolutions, better quality photos, and videos. You and your clients must make the best impression when it’s your turn to talk.
- An External USB Microphone provides better sound quality overall and pick up more vocal nuances. Most computers’ built-in microphones aren’t great.
- A Tripod for iPad or iPhone can help with the stability and positioning of the built-in camera.
- Dual Monitors: using two monitors can increase productivity by allowing you to multitask. By having one monitor designated for remote communication you can quickly jump on and off calls without having to close multiple windows or log out of programs that could distract your important meetings.
If your firm hasn’t fully transitioned to remote litigation, don’t delay getting up to speed. It’s time to make the switch as soon as possible. According to a recent nationwide study conducted by MyCase found that 48% of law firms were working entirely remotely, 39% were partially working remotely and a mere 12% were still operating out of their physical offices. “I don’t think the legal industry will ever go back to the old normal, (pre-COVID-19 days) where it’s like, let’s go fly across the country so we can depose someone for a half a day,” said Hart.
- The new virtual meeting tools are essential for a well-functioning virtual law office and are a useful way to replace face-to-face meetings and traditional in-person depositions.
- Keep casework moving uninterrupted by getting familiar with some of the most commonly used platforms like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Zoom.
- This is also a good time to take these new remote work policies and adapt them to your firm’s long-term workplace safety plan.
Don’t Freak Out:
According to a report by the ABA Journal, roughly 81% of law firms have seen their revenues drop during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 27% of firms in that category reporting they have seen business drop by more than half. Some firms are maintaining compensation levels and others have cut salaries and laid off or furloughed staff. While this is a stressful time for everyone there are resources available to help with the transition.
- Seek help and take advantage of free advice from industry experts
- Lean on millennials on your team who are likely more comfortable with technology and remote work platforms than their baby boomer colleagues.
- Recognize the financial benefits of less travel and increased productivity by cutting back on commute times and office space.
The pandemic has forced attorneys to adjust to new routines and adapt to different ways of working. By accepting the new legal culture, we can accelerate positive change that can improve morale, reduce overhead costs, and keep our clients, co-workers, and their families safe as we endure this next phase together.