Over the weekend, many East Coast states were pummeled with snow in a record breaking winter storm. The storm hit on Friday and deposited nearly two feet of snow in some areas, causing businesses to close as all activity ground to a halt.
As the ABA Journal reported, because of the massive amount of snowfall, many courts, law libraries, government offices, and law firms closed their doors early on Friday:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (closed) at noon, according to its web page, and an online notice says “Paper filings due January 22 will be timely filed on the next open business day.”
In Maryland, many state courts (closed) by 2 p.m. or earlier, and the state law library will close at noon Friday and remain closed Saturday, a state court website says.
In Virginia, the supreme court’s administrative offices were closed Friday and many state courts are either (closed) early or (weren’t) open at all on Friday…
But just because the courts were closed due to inclement weather doesn’t mean legal clients’ were necessarily on the same page. After all, for many clients, a snow day means lots of time on their hands. And what better to do with down time than play catch up and figure out the status of their cases?
Some of these clients were sorely disappointed. They found that their lawyers were either unresponsive or simply don’t have the answers to their questions. Their lawyers explained that all of their physical case files were located in their now inaccessible offices. Similarly, their computers and all of the case-related information found on them were inaccessible as well. That’s because these lawyers use premise-based legal software and as a result, all of their law firm’s digital data could only be accessed using computers located in the office. The clients of those lawyers were out of luck.
Other legal clients were more fortunate. Their lawyers used cloud computing software to run their law practices. Because their law firms’ data was stored off premises in the cloud, the lawyers were able to access all of their law firm’s cases and data from any Internet-enabled device, including laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The lawyers had web-based access to case files, contact information, calendars, billing and invoicing, documents, and more. For each question their clients had, they had an answer.
Other legal clients were even luckier–their lawyers used web-based practice management software with built-in client portals. All they had to do was login to their portal using any Internet-enabled device and they had instant access to information about their case. They could read updates from their lawyer about the status of the case, review and download documents, see their next court date, instantly view invoices and pay a bill via e-Check or credit card, leave a message for their lawyer, and much, much more. These clients didn’t even need to call their lawyer for case-related information–they could simply login and use the client portal to obtain all the information they need.
In other words, just because you’re snowed in at home, doesn’t mean your law office should be out of commission. Your clients should always come first, and like the postal service, during working hours it should be business as usual, whether sleet or snow or hail. With web-based software, that’s exactly what you provide your clients: the ability to access information about their case at their convenience at anytime, day or night–even in the middle of one of the biggest East Coast snowstorms in history.