How San Jose Law Firms Can Work Effectively In A Remote Environment
What may have seemed unmanageable in 2019 became the new normal in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way many companies work. The legal industry isn’t an exception.
While pandemic-related measures landed millions of people at home, the need for legal assistance remained the same. Law firms had to adjust to the new environment in order not to lose clients while keeping team members safe. As a result, more than 80% of law firms started operating remotely at least some of the time.
Working remotely as a law firm comes with a variety of challenges. With the right planning, it’s possible to address all of them in the most effective manner possible. Let’s take a closer look at what to consider for successful remote operation.
Lawyers and Remote Work
While a traditional image of a lawyer is associated with an office desk (at least part of the time), a big percentage of a legal professional’s duties can be performed remotely. Depending on the practice area, the majority of lawyers spends many hours each day doing research and dealing with paperwork. All the above can be done from any location.
Even if lawyers need to appear in court, it usually takes up a small part of their time. The rest is spent meeting with clients, gathering materials, drafting documents, and brainstorming.
With the right technologies, lawyers can create and review legal documents, get them verified by electronic signatures, and make sure they end up in the right inboxes.
But what about meetings with clients? The pandemic gave a serious push to remote videoconferencing. With minimal equipment and a good internet connection, it’s possible to maintain a high quality of meetings without in-person interactions.
The key to successful remote work as a lawyer is adjusting to the new normal and paying special attention to data security. With large volumes of data exchanged electronically, the risks of cyberattacks increase tremendously.
How San Jose Law Firms Can Implement Remote Work Standards
To arrange secure and productive remote work as a law firm, you can consider these steps.
1. Be Transparent about Upcoming Changes
You need to notify everyone involved in the transition, including clients, staff, and colleagues.
Besides sending a notice about your plans for remote operation, you need to communicate the following:
- How meetings will be arranged.
- Which communication channels to use.
- Possibilities of in-person interactions.
- How supervision will be arranged.
- How you plan to maintain attorney-client privilege.
- Which security measures you use to keep data secure.
Don’t forget to make it clear why you are planning to work remotely. This can help your existing clients be more understanding about the transition.
2. Review ABA Guidance
In March 2021, the American Bar Association issued new guidance for attorneys who work remotely. The guidance features best practices for virtual practice, especially in the areas of competence, confidentiality, and supervision.
The document discusses specific ethical obligations that require more attention when attorneys are working remotely, including the duty to:
- Practice competently.
- Arrange adequate supervision.
- Preserve confidentiality.
Lawyers who work remotely must understand the technology they are using to do so as well as the risks associated with it. They should learn how to use tools for remote operation the right way in order to ensure data safety.
3. Create a Remote Working Policy
To make sure your entire team is on the same page, you need to create a remote working policy. This policy should cover such points as:
- Which team members will be working remotely.
- The expectation for availability.
- Preferred communication methods.
- Device policy (who uses which devices for access to work data).
- Best practices for data security.
All team members have to have a clear understanding of a remote working policy and know whom to contact if questions arise.
4. Help Your Team Adjust the Remote Environment
While transitioning to remote operation may seem easy for lawyers who spend the majority of time at their desks, not all attorneys are ready for the change. They may need assistance with:
- Honing videoconferencing skills.
- Maintaining work-life balance.
- Adjusting to remote communication with supervisors.
- Arranging smooth virtual meetings with clients.
Some law firms opt for arranging special webinars to help their team members adjust to the remote work environment.
5. Work on Access Quality and Security
As a law firm working remotely, you can take advantage of a variety of tools to upload, store, and edit documents. Some of them are likely to be located on the cloud. To ensure quick and safe access, you need to consider the following:
- Strong internet connection — standard at-home internet connection may be enough for editing documents but could prove inadequate for videoconferencing.
- Equipment — all team members should have sufficient equipment to provide high-quality services from home. To maximize security, lawyers should work out a device policy.
- Software — antivirus software, firewalls, and other security-related software must be installed on computers attorneys use at home. Your IT department, not legal experts, should be responsible for cybersecurity-related issues.
- Safe connection — provide a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for connection, implement multi-factor authentication, and consider encrypting hard drives.
You may want to arrange a cybersecurity training program for your team members. If they’ve never worked remotely before, attorneys can make unfortunate mistakes and expose sensitive information.
Special attention should be given to cyberattacks. The number of ransomware attacks and phishing scams is growing rapidly. Cybercriminals enter computers and networks through simple doorways like clicked links or downloading attachments. Lawyers need training on how to recognize these malicious entryways and avoid them.
Keeping Your San Jose Law Firm Data Safe While Working Remotely
While many organizational issues have to be addressed in order to arrange smooth remote operation, the key consideration must be security. From safe internet connection and firewalls to timely backup and staff training, law firms have their work cut out for them.
At Veltec Networks, we focus on arranging a secure working environment for legal industry players. If you’d like to learn more about safe remote operations, please contact us to schedule a free consultation at any convenient time.