According to a recent Fortune report, lawyers working from home — some for the first time in their careers — are experiencing a dramatic but mostly positive shift in the way they practice law. Though the challenges have been vast and unique for everyone, overworked lawyers are enjoying the extra time at home with their families, according to the report.
A May 2020 Loeb Leadership survey found that nearly 70% of the legal professionals responding would like to continue working remotely, at least part-time, even after it is safe to return to the office. Thanks to innovative technology, lawyers are better prepared than ever to provide services remotely. Here are five tips for setting up a productive and secure legal workstation at home.
1. Ensure Access to Critical Information
To avoid panicked emails and phone calls to colleagues requesting information, legal professionals should ensure that they have access to all the files and data they will need to practice remotely. If they utilize a cloud-based practice management system that includes encrypted data transmission and secure password protection, they will have 24/7 access to information without complex network connections.
As long as legal teams have internet access, they should be able to log in from any device — allowing them to work from home at a moment’s notice without interruption of service. However, if their firm uses an on-premise platform, they will need to ensure access before working remotely.
2. Set Boundaries
Ideally, working from home should mimic a day in the office — minus the commute, dress code, and office politics. To be most effective, legal professionals should create a designated workspace and keep set office hours. Additionally, it’s best to schedule certain hours of the day to discuss cases with colleagues and return phone calls and emails, while also leaving blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on single tasks.
While it’s easy to get caught up with work, it’s important to take short breaks every few hours and designate a time to quit for the day. This helps to fight off the tendency to look for distractions.
3. Simplify Communication
Communicating with colleagues who are also working from home shouldn’t be difficult. Popular video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype for Business allow legal professionals to see colleagues and clients while speaking with them, keep communication flowing, and help them feel connected. Also, video communication helps eliminate time spent writing lengthy emails or Slack messages. To avoid wasting time, prepare a meeting agenda, and stick to it. Everyone loves meetings that end early.
4. Mitigate Security Risk
Working from home can increase the risk of data loss. However, this risk can be mitigated by following these best practices regarding information security:
- Avoid public and open WiFi networks, opting instead for an encrypted connection.
- Set strong passwords on routers, computers, and devices, and change them often.
- Password protect access to files.
- Set up secure file sharing between colleagues and external third parties.
Before practicing law from home, legal professionals should perform a risk assessment to ensure that all work that lives on secure servers uses multi-factor authentication (MFA). This is especially important when accessing and handling sensitive information.
5. Employ Document Collaboration Tools
Manual document creation, revision, and storage are time-consuming tasks, in or out of the office. Document collaboration tools can streamline the sharing, tracking, editing, and signing of documents, minimizing delays and allowing legal professionals to spend more time on high-value tasks. When looking for the right cloud-based software, legal organizations should do their due diligence to ensure they find the right fit based on their needs.
To learn more about how you can effectively practice law from home, check out our compilation of resources: Litigate From Anywhere.