How to Thrive as a Remote Work Lawyer
By Mary Elizabeth Hammond
Remote work is here to stay—even in law. According to a report from the American Bar Association, nearly 90% of surveyed lawyers said that their firms allowed team members to work remotely. Additionally, the recent MyCase 2021 Industry Report found that law firms have significantly increased tech adoption and begun to rely more on remote working tools since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Thriving as a remote work lawyer requires structure, a robust tech stack, and reliable systems to ensure communications are smooth, data is secure, and work is getting done. In this article, we’ll provide tips on creating a productive remote work environment and go over the top tools you need to succeed as a remote attorney. Let’s dive in.
Is it Possible to Be a Remote Attorney?
Though much of the world has adopted remote work in the last couple of years, not all professions can transition. So, is it possible for lawyers to work remotely at least some of the time? The short answer is: usually. It depends on your practice area and daily demands.
For example, a family law lawyer specializing in divorce may need to meet with a client in person to get a wet signature on divorce papers. They will also likely have regular court dates. But, they may be able to work remotely at various times around those responsibilities. An estate lawyer, on the other hand, will typically have fewer in-person commitments and may be able to work from home much more often. All in all, it is perfectly possible to be a successful, productive, and thriving hybrid or remote attorney.
In fact, there are many benefits to lawyers working remotely. The legal industry is famous for having a poor work-life balance. Remote or hybrid work options can help to even out that balance. In addition, remote work lawyers are not limited to clients who are geographically close to them. You may take on a client who lives within your state but wouldn’t want to make the drive to your office (if you were not remote).
Furthermore, today’s modern technology allows lawyers to draft, review, and send legal documents—and get them signed electronically. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US legal system even started relying on virtual courts to conduct their work remotely.
How to Be a Successful Remote Work Attorney
A remote work attorney needs structure to ensure success. The steps below will help you set up a virtual work environment that will have you questioning why you ever went into the office.
Create a Good Experience for Your Clients
Working remotely means you won’t get much (if any) face time with your clients. Though this can be a hurdle, you can still build a strong client-lawyer relationship with the right tools, organization, and strategies in place.
First off, consistent communication is essential for client relationship management—especially when you’re not meeting face-to-face. This could be performed via text, instant messaging, emails, phone calls, or video calls. Before taking on a case, clearly set expectations and let clients know how often they’ll hear from you and how they can contact you when needed.
Optimize Your Work Area
Successful remote work lawyers have a well set-up workspace. Whether or not you have the space for a home office, it’s important to have a designated work area with the proper tools. The list below can help you get started.
- Reliable internet connection: Imagine being in an important video conference call with a client, colleague, counsel, or even judge and you suddenly drop off. Ensure that you have a strong and reliable internet connection before you find yourself in a stressful situation like this. You can test out your internet speed here.
- Professional-looking backdrop: If you’re a remote work lawyer, you’re bound to be in video calls regularly. Display a tidy background to present yourself as a professional and proficient attorney. During video calls, limit distractions from pets, kids, or others who share the space with you.
- Secure storage for legal documents: To securely access important and sensitive documents, you’ll need a remote access virtual private network (VPN) or a secure cloud-based practice management system. For more information on setting up a VPN, refer to this guide.
Clearly Communicate With Colleagues
Part of developing a remote work plan includes determining how you will communicate with other members of your legal team from a distance. Team collaboration impacts all law firm operations from the client experience to your firm’s revenue—it’s essential that you get it right.
Ask yourself: Will you meet via video conference calls? What tools will you use to communicate on a daily basis? How often will you check in? How will you track productivity?
Similar to communicating with clients, it’s important to set clear expectations. Let your team know how to communicate with you, how often you expect to hear from them, and which hours of the day you expect them to be available.
Also, ensure that your team is in sync and using tools that keep client data secure by setting mandated secure apps and programs across the board. Start by determining which tools you’d like your team to use for:
- Video conference calls
- Note taking
- Instant messaging
- Voice calls
Tip: For specific app recommendations for each of these functions, refer to this article.
Once you have the proper channels for communication and collaboration, you’ll need an effective strategy for tracking team productivity. Many case management solutions have built-in analytics that provide insights into your team’s performance. To measure team productivity, consider looking at:
- The number of billable hours that are logged each day, week, or month
- The number of non-billable hours that are logged each day, week, or month
- The number of invoices going out and the number of invoices collected
Bonus: Learn more in-depth strategies on law firm KPIs, including how to measure your team’s performance, by reading this article.
When you work from home, it’s easy for the lines that divide work and home life to get blurred. You may love your job (and hopefully you do), but ensure you continue to love it, boundaries need to be set. Sitting in front of your laptop for hours on end, even at home, is a recipe for burnout.
Consider the following tips to set clear boundaries and maintain a healthy work-life balance:
- Set clear work hours: It can be easy to jump online to answer a quick question or reply to an email after the workday, but it’s a slippery slope. Communicate to clients and colleagues which hours of the day you will be online and available to them. Setting and respecting clear work hours will help you create a mental distinction between work time and personal time. Unless it’s really an emergency (and be sure to define what that actually means), it can wait until morning.
- Have a dedicated workspace: A designated workspace can do wonders for lawyers working remotely. You may not have a spare room in your home to dedicate to a home office—it may just be a desk or a corner of a room. Wherever it is, make sure it is only used for work. As a result, when you sit down each morning, your brain can shift into work mode. And when you leave for the day, you can leave your work at your workspace.
- Take a walk before or after work: One of the benefits of going into an office is the commute. That travel time sets a clear boundary between work and home. Consider taking a walk each morning before you settle into your dedicated workspace. Or a quick stroll after hours. These activities can help you reset and reframe your thinking for the next portion of the day—whether that be for work or your personal life.
Six Tools Remote Work Lawyers Need
A key aspect of a productive remote work environment is the tech stack. The following tech tools are a must-have for lawyers working remotely.
1. Cloud-Based Management Software
Managing cases, client relationships, team collaboration, and your overall firm operation is much easier to do remotely with a cloud-based case management solution. MyCase offers a complete suite of legal case management features, perfect for remote work, including:
- Time tracking
- Billing and invoicing
- Online payments
- Legal accounting
- Document management
- Client portal
- Built-in text messaging
- Financial reporting
Laptops provide the flexibility and mobility needed for remote attorneys. If you prefer a desktop computer, consider investing in a second, larger display monitor where you can hook up your laptop. This will give you the benefits of portability and an extra-large display.
Ensure that your laptop is reliable—you can’t have it crashing during video calls or every time you download a large document. Look for strong processing power, a long battery life, and a decent amount of RAM. Check out this laptop buying guide for more tips.
Though many law firms (especially remote firms) are mostly paperless, there will sometimes be a need to scan a physical client letter, court notes, estate papers, or other paperwork to share digitally and/or simply store it on the cloud. Consider the following recommendations:
- A portable scanner, such as the Epson ES-50 Mobile Color Sheetfed Document Scanner, provides high-quality scanning abilities on the go. It’s also lightweight and easy to travel with.
- A mobile scanning app, such as Microsoft Office Lens, allows you to scan PDFs with your smartphone.
- A wireless scanner, such as the ScanSnap iX100, connects to your smartphone, tablet, or computer and allows you to save documents directly to the cloud. It also produces text-searchable PDFs.
4. Virtual Receptionist
A virtual receptionist ensures that no call goes unanswered. Many virtual receptionist solutions work around the clock, allowing your client’s calls to be answered while you still maintain set office hours. Additionally, a virtual receptionist can limit interruptions throughout the day, allowing you to focus and get more billable hours in.
We recommend Ruby and Smith.ai—both of which are integrated with MyCase and allow you to track calls and communications within MyCase.
5. Video Conferencing
Video conference calls are necessary for many cases and matters—be sure that you have a reliable tool. Look for a tool that uses encryption to keep calls secure. We recommend Zoom or Legaler.
6. Online Client Portal
A secure, digital communication tool is essential to effectively running a remote law firm. You’ll need a way to share sensitive information and documents without compromising them or leaving yourself open to malpractice claims.
The MyCase Client Portal uses best-in-class technology, enabling remote work lawyers to quickly and securely communicate critical information with external stakeholders. With the Client Portal, you can:
- Securely share documents (between colleagues and with clients)
- Store client contact information
- Accept online payments
- Create and send invoices (and invoice reminders)
- Send and receive text messages from clients (without giving out your personal information)
Start Working Remotely With MyCase
If you’d like to start working remotely and need the tools to make it happen, try a free 10-day trial of MyCase. You’ll see firsthand how it can enable you to build and run a successful firm from anywhere. There’s no need to provide any credit card information and you can cancel anytime, for any reason.
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