The recent coronavirus outbreak has created a new reality for most of the working world, and that includes the legal community. Across the nation, lawyers are being asked to start working from their homes, a transition that can be highly disruptive for many firms. While these changes are far from ideal, just about everyone would agree they are extremely necessary, and attorneys must find a way to roll with the punches for the time being.
The next few months will be challenging for all of us from both a financial and mental health standpoint. However, working remotely will get easier for lawyers as time goes on and there are some things you can do to make the transition go smoother. In this blog post, we’ll share five law practice management tips for attorneys to follow during this time.
Keep Your Work Routine As Normal As Possible
Yes, running your practice from home will feel strange, especially if it’s not something you have experience doing. However, your environment shouldn’t drastically impact the layout of your work day. In fact, attorneys would be wise to follow their typical Monday through Friday schedule as closely as possible. Wake up at the same time you normally do. Have your work day begin and end at the same time it normally would. If you normally have a Monday morning meeting with staff, continue doing so, using either video or audio conferencing tools to bring your team together. If you normally wouldn’t take a two-hour break in the middle of the day to watch Netflix, don’t start doing so now.
Of course all we laid out is a lot easier said than done. There is a lot in the home that can distract lawyers from getting tasks done, especially if there are children in the picture. While you should take advantage of increased family time during after hours and weekends, setting boundaries with your family during working hours is a must.
In an article for Inc., Lindsey Pollack and Eileen Coombes shared the following piece of advice, which all lawyers should aim to follow.
“Talk to family members or roommates about the hours you are working from home and the ground rules during those hours. Assume that anything that can interrupt you will interrupt you — like a UPS delivery during a critical negotiation call or a dog barking in the background of a client video chat. Be as proactive as you can about avoiding these kinds of incidents. (We all remember that BBC interview interrupted by a toddler.) I’m a fan of the scribbled ‘Do Not Disturb!’ sign taped to my door.”
Why is sticking to a routine so important during this chaotic time? Well as the Northwestern Medicine website details, “People are creatures of habit, and routines offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization.” The website goes on to say that sticking to a daily routine can help people combat stress, get more sleep, and make the most of their time each day. Remember, while the world feels very much out of your control right now, your work life is still very much in your hands.
Take Advantage Of All Technology Available To You
As difficult as this pandemic is to handle now, it would have been about 100 times more challenging had it happened 20 years ago. Modern day technology makes operating your practice remotely much more possible than it would have been in the past, and lawyers should take advantage of all tech available to them during this time.
We already mentioned making use of video and audio conferencing tools that are available online, which will make holding staff meetings infinitely easier in the upcoming days. One of the most commonly used solutions for this is Zoom.
There are also plenty of apps lawyers can download right on their smartphones, which can be beneficial to their working life.
Some top apps for lawyers include:
- Fastcase: Gives you the power to do research from anywhere.
- Todoist: Provides a virtual to-do list for attorneys to follow.
- Toggl: Helps attorneys better manage their weekly schedule.
- Zipwhip: Allows lawyers to text clients without using their personal number.
- Genius Scan: Makes it possible to scan documents from anywhere.
- NotaryCam: Get documents legally notarized in a matter of minutes.
Legal softwares can also be invaluable tools for attorneys while working remotely. Using these programs not only helps lawyers accomplish tasks and collaborate with staff in ways that would otherwise be impossible, but allows them to work more efficiently.
Some softwares you may want to invest in include:
- LawPay: Allows you to collect, request, and refund client payments online.
- Clio: Streamlines day-to-day processes and keeps cases organized.
- PracticePanther: Makes it simpler to track billable minutes.
- CosmoLex: Helps bills go out on time with just a single click.
- Filevine: Let’s attorneys directly communicate with their clients.
- 10to8: Gives clients the ability to book appointments online.
If your firm is behind on investing in new tech, you can’t afford to delay any longer. Remember, this is an investment not just for the short-term, but the long-term as well. Any technology you start using now, will likely end up being quite useful to you once you’re able to return to normal working conditions.
Get Virtual Receptionist Coverage
Depending on the type of law you practice, you may see your ability to capture new business impacted by the on-going COVID-19 situation. Some types of attorneys may see a jump in new case requests in the coming months, and for them it will be important to find a way to handle an increased call load, even if their office isn’t actually open. Other types of attorneys may find their opportunities for new business severely limited, and it will be crucial for them to make the most out of every new lead opportunity their firm receives.
No matter what these next few months have in store for the future of your practice, you’ll want to be answering your firm’s incoming calls 24/7 to ensure that new clients aren’t passing you by. And trust us, if you send prospects to your voicemail, and fail to provide them with a live person to speak with, they will immediately start looking for help elsewhere. Legal consumers won’t be showing your practice any sympathy during this time. If your office isn’t fully prepared to capture new clients, this upcoming stretch will be a struggle for you.
Even with increased downtime, you and your staff won’t be able to answer incoming calls 24/7 on your own. So now more than ever before, it makes sense to invest in a virtual receptionist service like Answering Legal.
With Answering Legal you’ll get:
- 24/7 phone answering coverage from a receptionist team trained specifically to handle legal calls.
- Full legal intakes performed on all new leads, with intake questions personalized by your firm.
- Bilingual phone answering that will allow you to engage with Spanish speaking callers at any hour.
- Advanced message taking, which results in new client messages being sent directly to you via text and/or email message.
- Live call transferring and call forwarding options which can be customized to your exact liking.
- Appointment scheduling, which can be integrated with your current calendar software.
You have a lot on your plate right now, and having to answer calls non-stop throughout the day will only add to your current stress. With Answering Legal in place, any call you and your staff can’t get to during the day or night will be expertly handled by a member of our receptionist team. We’re the best in the game when it comes to capturing legal leads, and we’ll make sure your firm capitalizes on every opportunity it receives during the next few months.
And like we said about investing in technology earlier, signing up with Answering Legal is a decision that will benefit you in the long-term as well. Your clients will want and expect live phone answering coverage from your firm during good times and bad, and our receptionist team is always happy to provide it.
Make The Most Of Your Downtime
While lawyers still have plenty of work to do from their virtual setting, they’ll also have a ton of something they’re not really used to having.
Time in which they have absolutely nothing to do!
Just by cutting out commuting, your non-working schedule is likely to open up exponentially. While the circumstances for having so much downtime are far from ideal, lawyers may find the extra free time they’ve been given to be somewhat of a silver lining to this whole situation.
So how can lawyers make the most of their upcoming down hours? Well we certainly won’t knock anyone that decides to spend more time with their family or start getting more sleep. Both of those things will be great for your mental and physical well-being. However, attorneys may also want to set aside periods for accomplishing tasks they might struggle to find time for under normal working conditions.
One of the best things you can do during this stretch is learn as much as possible. If reading is your preferred method of learning, check out our lists of 11 books every lawyer should read and seven legal marketing books every lawyer should read.
Anyone in need of marketing inspiration should also download our free new eBook, “How Attorneys Are Marketing Their Firms In 2020: A Survey Article”.
If you’re currently looking for a new podcast to help get you through impending boredom, consider trying out one of the following:
- Law Firm Marketing Decoded
- This Week In Law
- Legal Marketing Minutes
- The Filevine Fireside
- Pro Say Podcast
- The Law Firm Growth Podcast
There are plenty of incredible resources available to attorneys these days and gaining access to great information without leaving the house has become simpler than ever. So yes, watch movies and play video games with your kids, but also devote some of this rare free time you have to learning. You’ll be happy you did later.
Lean On Others For Help
While all of the law practice management tips laid out above should help make working remotely an easier process, this tip is perhaps the most important one. We’re going through an unprecedented and scary time, and trying to get through it alone is not advised. Even if you have to physically self-isolate, find ways to communicate with family and friends through technology on a daily basis. Check in with your staff individually to see how they are holding up. If you’re dealing with mounting depression or anxiety, consider reaching out for help via virtual mental health channels.
You may also find it valuable to reach out to other lawyers to see how they are coping with economic change and coronavirus restrictions. You’re likely to find that many of your peers are going through similar emotions and experiencing similar problems as you are. One great way for attorneys to stay engaged with the legal community during this time is by joining Facebook groups. Thousands of lawyers are already chatting in Facebook groups like “Maximum Lawyer” and our online community “Let’s Talk Legal Marketing”. These groups are free to join and are places you can ask questions or get feedback on the things your practice is currently going through. You may even find it beneficial to just follow along with other people’s conversations.
We know everyone is telling you right now that we are all in this together, but we’re going to do the same, because it’s true. Everyone one in the legal community is being impacted one way or another by the current pandemic, and our best course of action for getting through it is sharing ideas and working together.
We at Answering Legal hope all our readers and their families remain safe and healthy during this time. If you need help answering your phones, reach out to us at 631-686-9700 to discuss pricing options, or sign up for a free trial of our service.