COVID-19: Is Your Law Firm Ready to Work Remotely?
Globally, the scourge of Covid-19 continues. With the realization that the virus has reached Pandemic Status, governments of affected nations and international health bodies are strongly advising everyone to practice social distancing. Companies around the world have, in the last few days, rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies to keep employees safe and stem the spread of the virus. With the virus scare predicted by some pundits to last for up to 13 months, this is the time to ensure that your law firm is equipped to, and your staffers have the skills, to work remotely.
A great part of the lawyer’s work is done within a set time. Court processes for instance must be filed within a period stipulated by the Rules of Court. Heavy cost may attend a lethargic law firm whose lawyers do not file or take action timely. Moreover, an action not commenced within a certain period may be statute barred. Where companies are shutting down and employees observe social distancing, some of these deadlines still have to be met.
Same applies to negotiating Commercial Contracts or taking instruction from Client who may refuse to come physically to your office. It is likely that lawyers may have to take instructions through virtual meetings with Client. In the emergency situation into which most countries have been thrown, contracts on essential and health products will have to be negotiated, drafted, compared, amended and executed. Inter-connectivity is thus key to a successful negotiation.
Apart from lawyers who are, or have at one time practiced solely from their homes, many lawyers will be working from home for the first time. An important skill therefore is figuring out how to stay on, and deliver a task from home – an environment that may not lend itself to productivity. We take a look at the crucial skills that will make working remotely a productive exercise for lawyers in your firm.
What your Firm Needs:
If the Virus scare persists, and there is a strong likelihood it will, your law firm needs to be prepared. Preparation entails ensuring that your case files and information can be accessed remotely without the need to visit the office. A beginner’s requirement is signing up to a Cloud Computing Account accessible by lawyers in the firm. Next is to have soft copies of important files and documents uploaded to the cloud account. As with your files, you also need to subscribe to online law reporting platforms like Legalpedia and Law-Pavilion. This will provide you with legal authorities needed for settling legal documents and briefs. To make these resources accessible by lawyers in chambers, it will be needful that they all have a reliable internet connection while at home.
A further necessity is to ensure there is a reliable means of communication amongst Lawyers in the firm or with the firm’s Partners. If your law firm is yet to utilize the benefits of social networking applications, this is the time it may be crucial. Getting your staffers or Partners connected on platforms like Google Hangout, WebEx and GoToMeeting can reduce the expense that may go into tolled telephone calls and SMS. Firms can use legal-specific applications that offer end-to-end encryption like Legaler with options that permits multiparty meetings and the recording of meetings.
It will be needful that employees working from home understand the importance of staying focused and not be distracted by comfort. They must set daily goals and ensure they are met. They must also stay motivated and cautiously guard their mental health and well-being.
There is need to educate employees in your law firm and test-run the firm’s work-from-home tools. In this time, Law firms should take advantage of advancement in technology to keep their briefs alive and reduce attendant cost and sanctions that will result if certain actions are not done within time. It is very important to get your firm ready for the disruption that will most certainly come.