If you have a physical office space, being remote may feel like a temporary burden. You’re either:
- making the office set-up you have work, and hoping this will be over soon, or
- you’ve signed up for a couple of telework services that you can cancel as soon as you’re back to ‘normal’
This can be more than just an aberration in your firm’s history, though. Many attorneys are hoping measures like RON (which Gov. Pritzker is permitting in Illinois while the gubernatorial disaster proclamation is in place) and video conferencing for uncontested motions stay in effect long after the pandemic has passed. In the same context, measures put in place to manage your firm remotely can be brought back to the office to benefit your firm’s efficiency and bottom-line.
There is a lot to talk about, so we’re splitting it up into three parts, each a blog filled with lessons we’ve learned and that our clients have learned, and that are worth taking back to the office. This week, we are discussing technology that feels practically necessary when working remotely: practice management software and the cloud.
Practice management software & the cloud
Law firms who aren’t on the cloud are scrambling to set up VPNs and put their employees on secure networks at their homes. Law firm partners are struggling to share files and manage their employees remotely (and the employees are having a hard time co-editing docs). Practice management software and cloud drives can help firms overcome these momentary hurdles, but many attorneys find they are also just a great addition to a firm in general.
We grouped these two services because they go hand-in-hand. You won’t attend a single practice management software demo without the salesperson covering document management and the cloud drives they can integrate with. It’s not a surprise; much of the casework you and your team is working on revolves around documents! Similarly, the benefits of these two pieces of tech intertwine.
How these technologies help your firm work remotely now, and will benefit your firm in the future.
Fewer emails. More answers.
What was the status of that case? Who sent the document you are group editing last? Outlook used to hold the answers. Now your inbox is flooded with pandemic related email updates, webinar invites, and your neatly defined folders have been muddled. Not to mention spending fifteen minutes searching Outlook wasn’t the best solution in the first place.
With a practice management software, you don’t need to depend on Outlook to know who is working on what, to find the status of any given case, or to see a version of any given file. Additionally, if you’re group editing a document with your team, and want to work on the most recent addition, then you simply need to pop into your cloud drive and open the file – no guess work. (For many cloud drives, including Office 365, you can even edit a document collaboratively). By removing your dependence on emails, you’ll have less of a chance of missing important updates or accidentally sending the wrong version of a file. Plus, less time is spent digging through your inbox. And we all know time is money.
Benefits summary: Saves you time, keeps you organized, and gives you the answers you want when you want them.
Better team management.
With a practice management software, comes two items called ‘tasks’ and ‘workflows.’ Workflows are simply a series of tasks that you put in order and can assign to specific staff members. When a client comes through, you place them in the appropriate workflow, and a robot assigns your staff tasks for the casework as the case progresses.
We’re not saying you can drop the ball and let your staff do as they please, but we are saying that the documents will be assigned to the right staff member, at the right stage, with little oversight and managing necessary on your end. And when you spend less time managing your team, you spend more time on the billable hour (or with your family).
Benefits summary: Once again, frees up your time and provides better organization; this time not just for you but for your whole team, which means you’re improving the efficiency of your entire firm.
The convenience of working from anywhere.
This is the most widely touted benefit of both practice management software and the cloud. It’s also the most ignored! For firms who have a physical office, this isn’t a selling point. They don’t want to work from anywhere, they have their office for that. Firms who say “we don’t need to work from anywhere” are missing a huge part of the picture: decreasing the overhead costs of physical space.
Let’s say your firm has two attorneys, a paralegal, and a law clerk. That’s space for four people that you pay for each month. It you shift your firm’s thinking, and have yourself, your partner, your law clerk, and your paralegal, working from home part-time, and rotating days in and out of the office, then you can cut office costs in half while maintaining all the benefits for being a brick-and-mortar firm. It’s a simple solution to decreasing overhead costs for your firm; and if you pass the cost savings onto your clients, you’ll find yourself a strong competitor due to your decreased rates.
Additionally, by cutting out the commute to work on some days (and Illinois commutes are no joke) you’ll each earn more time in your week.
Benefits summary: More money kept in the bank each month. More personal time for both you and your staff. And potentially greater mental health due to having more free time in your day and a healthier financial state for your business.
The main concept is that these two tech items bring (the ever elusive) efficiency to your firm.
It's easier to know what is going on with casework and to find the information you need. You spend less time being shifting through disorganization, and less time on tiny tasks like following up on casework, assigning tasks to staff members, or trying to find the latest version of a document someone sent you. If there are any pieces of tech you are looking to adopt to increase your remote office functionality, these should be the top two on your list. They are easily applicable to traditional and private office setups -- though if you decide to move to a partial remote office setup for your firm, you can see even more of a payback in money saved.
If you’re intrigued, but don’t know where to start, we have some ideas:
- Ask other attorneys what practice management software they use.
- Contact us! We have the wealth of knowledge from 700+ Amata member attorneys at our fingertips and have experience with both types of tech. If we don’t already know a good solution for you, we can put you in contact with an attorney who does. Reach us at email@example.com, or give us a call at 888-497-9957.
- If you use a cloud drive already, reach out to some practice management companies and ask if they integrate with your cloud drive. Then you’ll be able to set up demos with ones that fit into your existing infrastructure.
Why we’re writing this series: Private law office members at Amata have reached out over the past month and told us how using the remote services we offer has changed the way they will operate their firms in the future. We're not exclusively a virtual office for lawyers, but this is remote office technology we’ve had for a while that many legal office space users didn’t have an immediate need to use until COVID-19. The out-pour of client support has been incredible, and many have explained that this is tech they will continue to use. We’re building this series of blogs based on their emails, and the conversations we've had because of them. To every Amata member, we just want to say: thank you.