Posted By Administration,
Monday, March 16, 2020
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As a part two of her recent blog post, Catherine Sanders Reach of the North Carolina Bar Association, discussed considerations and guidance on temporarily moving a firm to a “virtual” environment in the wake of COVID-19. She recommends speaking with your IT service provider, whether in-house or outsourced, to understand your options to move your firm to remote work as quickly and securely as possible. Additionally, remember to use what you have and buy only what you absolutely need. Many software applications have freemium (free for basic use) offers, as well as free trials. Before getting a free product, however, check the terms of service to make sure it is appropriate for confidential client information.
In her post, Sanders Reach looks at the following areas lawyers should consider in preparation of moving to a virtual environment: Hardware, Infrastructure, Security, Software/Productivity, Marketing/Communication, Intra-Office Communication, and Staffing.
Here are some things to consider:
- Sanders Reach pertinently points out that everyone will need a computer, however, not everyone may have a laptop. Ideally, you don’t want to ask employees to use their home computers due to security reasons. If purchasing new hardware is not option, team members with desktops may be able to pack everything up and take it with in. If the firm chooses to have staff use their home equipment, they will need to deploy a VPN for security reasons.
- Keep in mind most remote work will require in internet access. Additionally, a plan should be put in place to ensure your data is being backed up while working remotely.
- For law firms using a VoIP telephone system like RingCentral, Ooma, Jive, or others, the system can be set up to be used remotely through apps on mobile phones, through a computer browser, or have calls forwarded to mobile phones. Other VoIP systems through Comcast, Spectrum or AT&T may have similar options. For firms that have more traditional non-internet based phone systems or hybrid systems should check to see if calls can be forwarded to mobile phones. If not check to see if voicemails can be forwarded to email. An additional option may be to use a virtual receptionist service. Ruby Receptionist, for instance, is member benefit for KBA members.
- If you will need to participate in video chats and video conferences, you will need a camera. Most newer laptops have a built-in camera. You will also need a microphone and speakers. If your firm uses a file server for shared files or to access on-premise client/server software like your practice management software or time/billing/accounting or other firm-wide software you will need to make that server available to your team remotely. Keep in mind, firms using cloud-based systems and services may have limited need for access to the firm’s servers.
- You should determine who in the office will receive the firm’s mail and make sure that the person has the capability to scan and email to files to appropriate parties. Keep in mind, mail forwarding through USPS can take up to 10 business days, so you may alert the necessary parties of your temporary address.
- Have strong passwords, using multi-factor authentication, encryption and an VPN are always recommended, and Sanders Reach points out working remotely is not different with respect to employing these methods to work securely.
- If your firm saves files to the cloud in an online document storage/sync application like OneDrive, GoogleDrive, ShareFile, Box, Dropbox, etc. then you’ll just need to make sure everyone has the login information and access they need and know how to save files to the appropriate folder. If the firm stores files on a physical server in the office, you will need to set up access via VPN or remote desktop and provide login instructions so your team can access the files. For firms using installed or client/server practice management, time and billing, accounting or practice specific software you will need to set up remote access.
- Put a sign on the door of your office telling clients, as well as other visitors, how to get in touch.
- Don’t forget to update your website to reflect any changes to phone numbers, fax numbers, or other communication methods. Your firm may also issue a statement through email to current and former clients, on the web and through social media, about how the firm will continue to do business, and measures you are taking to maintain a safe environment and continue to serve their needs.
- Email is an easy was to communicate with your team. However, there are more tools available to communicate. For instance, chat tools may be useful. For firms using Office 365 you have Teams for video and audio calls, group chat, individual chat and more. firms using G Suite (f/k/a Google for Business), your firm can use the G-suite Hangout A very popular and freemium chat product is Slack. In the free version, Slack allows your team to chat, hold 1:1 audio and video calls, share files and integrate with G Suite, Office 365 and many other products.
- Working offsite may create environments that are difficult to stay on top of tasks and deadlines. If so, your firms can create or share calendars in Office 365 and G Suite. There are also many freemium task management application options available, such as To-Do, Asana, and Trello.
To read the complete post, which is highly recommended visit: https://cpm.ncbar.org/2020/03/16/covid-19-law-firm-operations-part-2/
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