In a matter of weeks, companies around the world have had to introduce new ways of working in the face of COVID-19. Although taking business online has been easy for some, we know that settling into the “new normal” is especially challenging for many law firms.
To help those in our legal community, we’ve gathered information on the most helpful remote working advice and tools, which we unpack below.
- Tips and tricks for remote workers in the law firm
Last week, the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) shared a helpful webinar with some great tips and tricks for firms to keep top of mind as they gear up for a change in their operations.
And with that in mind, as the webinar hosts shared, change management is essential as firms embrace a remote working set up. We’re all navigating unprecedented times and so flexibility, agility, and adaptability are key.
Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the webinar that will help firms manage the change process:
- Understand what’s needed
It’s important for firms to know what employees have in the way of technology, internet access, bandwidth, and so on at home so they know how they need to equip employees for remote work.
Conducting a survey is a great way to help firms gather details like whether employees have full-time access to a computer or whether it’s shared, what operating system they’re working on, what internet bandwidth they have, and whether they have a smartphone, for example.
- Communicate at all levels
A change process of this scale requires conversation between firm management, the firm’s technology representatives, and its department managers. Moreover, communication needs to take place at all levels, reaching all employees. An important message to convey is that we’re all in this together and that patience is essential as everyone tries to adjust to new ways of working.
It’s also essential for firms to communicate their expectations and how new processes will work, for example, using a ticketing system to log faults. As they’ll be working in a new context, employees will also need to have clear direction on using technology and when it’s an appropriate time to use which tool.
Firms should also keep an open channel of communication with clients. Although everyone is in the same boat, it’s still important to manage expectations.
- Create learning resources
If employees are provided with new devices to use remotely, it’s preferable to walk them through everything they need to know about using the tool before they need to get started with work. This will offer employees peace of mind about using a new device and will prevent delays and hiccups.
A great way of helping employees get set up and familiar with new tools and programs is by recording step-by-step videos which give them easy-to-digest visual guidance. These can be put together in a cost effective way using an iPhone to record them and Snagit or iMovie to edit them, for example.
Firms can also leverage existing remote workers as a resource to share tips and tricks with their colleagues. One way of doing this is by recording a quick podcast that can be shared with new remote workers.
- Reinforce security awareness
With employees working in a new environment, it’s important for firms to carefully assess their working and security policies and revise them accordingly, if necessary. They need to determine what risks working remotely poses and how that might impact work processes.
Firms should ensure that employees are all well aware of heightened security threats and that they work carefully to protect themselves against phishing attacks or other scams. We’ll talk about security and compliance in more detail later.
- Invest in group chat software to avoid email overload
Effective communication is arguably the most critical component in a successful remote working set up. But, to prevent flooded inboxes with hundreds of emails flying back and forth every day, we recommend that firms invest in group chat software.
We’ve had great success with Microsoft Teams, and so have our clients.
Teams allows work teams to chat, meet, call, and collaborate in one place, no matter their location. It allows for group chats or one-on-one messages, conference calls, and file sharing (Word docs, PowerPoint, and Excel).
Microsoft recently lifted restrictions on the free version and extended the free trial period for the premium version from one month to six months.
SIGN UP FOR FREE HERE: Microsoft Teams
Microsoft has also put together a handy guidance and support page that helps Teams users get set up, manage privacy, upgrade from Teams free to Teams, and more. Click here to get started.
What about best practice?
In the same way that email has its own etiquette, chat-based workspace apps come with a certain set of rules that should be kept in mind. Since Microsoft Teams is still relatively new, firms should consider including education on best practices for using the app as part of their implementation process.
Here are two useful resources on best practice:
- Manage security and compliance
As mentioned earlier, it’s imperative for firms to look at how to sustain operations in a secure and compliant way as their workforces move into a remote environment.
In a separate ILTA webinar, experts weigh in on the steps firms should be taking to ensure best practice. Among other key areas discussed, this involves setting expectations around paper files and destroying paper documents securely, training staff on remote working requirements, identifying required changes in process when monitoring electronic filing activity, and developing a business continuity plan.
Daniel Melleby, CISO at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, also shares a number of valuable security tips. We thought the following were worth highlighting:
- Everyone should be using multi factor authentication. If this isn’t in place, this should be the number one priority.
- Firms’ password requirements should prevent employees from being able to reuse their firm passwords in other contexts. If firms have a password manager, employees should be encouraged to use this.
- Firms need to remind attorneys and staff (especially when collaborating on something and working on tools that they might not be familiar with) that ultimately the work product, particularly when handling client communications, needs to end up wherever the policy says it needs to end up – whether it’s a document management system or another – to prevent losing things or having client data unaccounted for.
- They should also have policies in place for the secure disposal of documents, including paper documents.
- Firms need to make their employees aware of steps that can be taken to prevent security threats and must ensure that their help desks are ready to handle questions around these. These measures include preventing attackers taking advantage via home routers, preventing malicious activity from entering the corporate network via WiFi enabled printers, ensuring that anti-malware tools are being used and are up to date, and locking away firm issued devices when not in use. Daniel goes into detail on each of these at
- People also need to be reminded of preventing basic threats associated with working every day, whether in office or remotely.
WATCH THE WEBINAR HERE
ANOTHER HANDY COMPLIANCE RESOURCE: Microsoft Teams Governance
Although remote work is new territory for many and it may come with some challenges, it’s an opportunity to embrace new processes and technologies that enable future-ready work.