Two years ago it would have seemed inconceivable that law firms up and down the country would be going virtual. The legal industry has a reputation for being slow to change, and until recently still relied heavily on in-person meetings and traditional brick and mortar office setups.
But things are changing. With more lawyers than ever before forced to work from home and their clients unable to visit in person, the industry has been dragged kicking and screaming into the world of virtual work. And you know what? It’s not too bad.
Being a member of a virtual team comes with a myriad of benefits: no commute, flexible scheduling, and the joy of comfortable clothes (at least from the waist down for those of us using video conferencing).
But if you are one of the thousands of managers out there tasked with the challenge of connecting a scattered and potentially demotivated workforce, then you might be struggling to see the bright side.
The fact is, the role of a virtual manager is very different from that of a traditional boss or supervisor, and requires us to master a whole new set of techniques and best practices. This might seem daunting right now, but the good news is that the world has never been better equipped to facilitate the transition.
In this article, we will run through some of the leading ways to keep your team connected, manage workflow, and make sure your firm stands out in the age of the virtual law firm.
No matter how “low-tech” you consider your office to be, chances are that it still trumps what your team is dealing with at home.
Providing your services as a solicitor online requires lawyers to utilise the right tools and technology to ensure maximum productivity, as failure to do so can result not only in slower turn around times, but a drop in your team’s motivation.
There are a few basic things you should ensure your team members have in order to maximize efficiency. Firstly, as well as a laptop or desktop computer, each of you should be using a high-quality monitor that allows you to scroll through long-winded virtual documents without having to squint to read them.
If your team is using laptops then you might even consider investing in second monitors to help with any vision or eye strain issues. This is a surprisingly affordable way to boost productivity.
Other tools to consider are:
It’s also worth thinking about how your home offices look during video conferences, particularly with current or prospective clients. Your background should be at the very least tidy and preferably convey a neutral professional atmosphere. Avoid backlighting and instead, try to angle your workspace so you are facing a window or light source.
Cloud computing allows you to store, share, and access everything to do with your business, wherever you are.
This means that instead of storing databases, files, software, analytics, and emails on your desktop, you can put these things into “internet storage”, allowing the same access no matter what device you or your employees are using. Instead of having to attach files to emails, employees can simply add them to the cloud, and they’ll be available to anyone you decide to give access to.
Using cloud-based software has the added bonus of quick data recovery. Power outage? You’re covered. Stolen laptop? Your files are safe. Dropped your phone in the toilet? Your data isn’t lost (but you should probably stop checking your emails in the bathroom).
Social isolation is a real concern given the current circumstances. For some of your team, the office might be their main source of social interaction, and cutting it out can lead to loneliness, demotivation, and even depression.
One of the most effective ways to counter this and keep your team on track is to schedule check-ins at least twice a day. You can use these to stay on top of the workload, make sure there are no technical glitches across your various home offices, and to provide a much-needed sense of team spirit.
If possible, you should try to ensure your team is communicating regularly via video chat.
Consider investing in a video recording app like Loom. This simple program allows you to simultaneously record your camera, microphone, and desktop, making it easy to guide colleagues through specific tasks.
Many businesses use the app to conduct virtual training because it allows you to display both your screen content and webcam. The user interface is blissfully simple, bypassing the need to play around with computer settings to make your computer camera work. This makes it ideal for the slightly less tech-savvy among us.
On that note, many law firms in the UK are also using video conferencing software to communicate “face-to-face” with clients. The Manchester based criminal law solicitors – Shafi Solicitors were quick to respond to these changes and to adapt to the new demands by utilising video calls and online technologies when required.
The senior partner Urfan Mahmood said: “We don’t believe in standing still and are always looking at ways to enhance and continually improve the legal services that we offer, we invite feedback from our clients and invest in the latest technology and systems with the sole aim of delivering an even better and more valuable service for our clients.
A very small minority of people in the UK own a printer and scanner. This makes it somewhat tricky for those of us working in an industry where signing papers is a daily requirement. The good news is that you no longer need a pen and paper to create a signature, thanks to a host of online e-signature tools readily available to law firms.
These tools allow you to create a virtual signature and place it onto your document in just a few clicks. Your clients will also be able to access the forms to create their own custom signature, streamlining the process and eliminating the need for multiple printers.