The law firm business model has traditionally been old-school and tied down to brick and mortar locations, on-site filing cabinets and servers, and very flexibility for getting work done outside of the office are commonplace.
During these uncertain times in the United States and across the world, law firms have been forced to adapt and improvise.
Since its very beginnings, CHG was founded on the idea of leveraging technology to get the best results for our clients. Because of this, we’re in a favorable position to operate effectively during this pandemic.
We hope that this post helps other law firm owners out there to get their practices up to speed and able to continue to serve their clients effectively while the country is shut down.
Keeping Track of Staff Productivity
Many law firms feel that if staff works remotely their productivity will suffer and work will not get done. One of the main complaints regarding staff working remotely is not being able to effectively keep track of task progress, and an inability to communicate in an effective matter.
These complaints arise because the law firm systems in place are not very effective and so you find yourself relying on the crutch of being able to go into the office next door and asking for updates or communicating about a particular task. The downside to this is that it duplicates work, as people routinely forget about what conversations were had regarding which projects, especially if your practice is very busy. But more importantly, this ability is completely lost once you go remote as a result of coronavirus and you don’t have a “next door” to go to.
At CHG we use Basecamp, which is a project management system. Basecamp helps you keep track of the law firm’s staff’s progress. Basecamp also eliminates the need to exchange multiple emails back and forth regarding any work that your staff is assigned on a case. As such, long gone are the days of searching through hundreds of emails to try to find the email chain for a particular task to see its status. Instead, Basecamp creates message boards in the system so that you can very easily communicate with staff on a per-task basis, and keep track of task progress. Basecamp also lets you get a per case overview of work in progress, letting you have a very good idea about what works has been done on a case and what done has yet to be done.
Replacing Physical Systems With Services
In order to go remote, you will have to move away from anything that physically ties you and your staff to your office location. Things like landlines, fax machines, and file cabinets are the primary culprits in keeping your law firm tied down.
Filing Cabinet/Physical Files
The first thing that you need to move away from if you want to have any chance at running a smooth remote operation is your filing cabinet. Physical files will make it almost impossible to run a remote law firm operation. This is because with physical files only one person can have access to the file at any given time. This makes it impossible for multiple lawyers to work on a file. It also makes the location of the file determine where the work has to take place.
The move onto the cloud has been taking place for some time now, but many law firms are still stuck in their old school ways. With this coronavirus pandemic threatening to close the doors to brick and mortar locations, this is the perfect time to switch your firm over, if you haven’t already embraced the cloud.
At CHG we use Clio, which is a popular case management software. Clio, like most other case management softwares allows you to create virtual case files that can be accessed securely from anywhere. This gives your law firm the flexibility to work from anywhere with an internet connection. As a result, it doesn’t matter where you or your staff are, work can always get done.
One of the most challenging things for traditional firms to overcome when going remote is the client engagement process. A traditional law firm’s client retention process is as follows 1) potential client calls in to schedule a consultation, 2) client and lawyer meet at a physical location and discuss the scope and nature of the representation and 3) the client signs the retainer paperwork.
Due to the coronavirus situation, many law firms will not be able to carry out the in-person client signup process. Because of this, it is important to have the ability to get documents signed without needing to be physically present at the office with the client. That’s where services like DocuSign come in.
DocuSign lets you send documents over the internet for review and signing. The client can review and sign the documents via a smartphone or a computer. Once the client signs the documents, the documents are then forwarded to both parties. This system can also be used to get anything else signed, like medical releases, contracts, and anything else for that matter. Electronic signatures are fully enforceable in the US.
A healthy law firm requires that the phones be answered and that phone calls be returned to clients and potential clients. Traditionally, law firms have been tied down with landlines that shackles lawyers and staff to the office building from which the law firm operates.
The easiest way to resolve that issue during the pandemic is to switch over to a voice over IP (VOIP) platform. Voice over IP allows you to have your calls routed to your staff’s cellphone, or even your staff’s computers at home, without revealing your staff’s private cellphone number. At CHG we use CallRail. Another advantage to using a platform like CallRail is that you can keep track of your staff’s phone usage per day and realize if there are any bottlenecks in the work-flow as a result of call volume.
If you have a traditional phone setup, moving your law firm over to something like CallRail is relatively simple. Create a VoIP number for your firm and have your phone provider transfer all calls that come into your landline number into the VoIP number. From there you can reroute calls or have your staff answer the calls from home, however you want to set that up.
Unfortunately in the year 2020 there are still many areas of our industry that require the use of faxes. For example, Plaintiff’s personal injury work is one of those areas. Insurance companies for some reason require everything to be done via fax. At CHG we have a robust personal injury practice and we often find ourselves sending and receiving twenty or more faxes a day.
The traditional way to deal with faxes is to have a fax machine connected to your phone line. With that approach, however, you cannot send or receive faxes away from the office. In order to go completely remote, you have to be able to disconnect your fax machine from your brick and mortar location. Luckily, there are many services available that let you do just that.
At CHG we use SRFax. For a small monthly fee SRFax allows you to send and receive faxes from any smartphone or computer. This gives you the flexibility to send and receive faxes anywhere, giving necessary staff the ability to communicate via fax away from the office.
We hope that this guide is useful for those law firms that find themselves stuck in this new and unfamiliar virtual world as a result of the coronavirus epidemic. We may all be competitors, but at CHG we have a philosophy of cooperation and solidarity. If we can help just one of you continue to serve your clients during these difficult times we feel like we have played a small part in helping our community overcome the hardships that come with it.