Working Remotely: A Practical Guide for Small Law Firms

//Working Remotely: A Practical Guide for Small Law Firms

Whether due to unforeseen circumstances or to give your employees more flexibility, working remotely is increasingly seamless for your firm. Because Smokeball is a Cloud-based service, users are already positioned for success and continuity. Regardless of your technology, though, working remote is an omnipresent aspect of the modern workforce, and this guide is designed to help law firms approach it while minimizing disruption.

This guide covers the technology you’ll need in order to work remotely and tips on tools to work better together when you’re not in the same office, as well as guidance for where to find help.

In order for your firm to work seamlessly, you’ll need to be able to:

  1. Access the key software you currently use;
  2. Receive office phone calls wherever you are;
  3. Video conference with your clients and your staff; and
  4. Keep staff engaged.

1. Your practice management/billing software

Is your software Cloud-based? If it is (you’ll likely know this if you can already work from anywhere on your laptop), it’s going to be much easier for your firm to work from home.

If any of your staff do not have access to a laptop, or do not have a home computer, we would recommend assisting them with buying a computer now. Many models are relatively inexpensive. Make sure you check your vendor’s recommended system requirements before buying one.

If you are a Smokeball client, check that Smokeball is set up properly on all of your laptops, especially if they haven’t been used for a while. Install Smokeball on your staff’s home computers – call Smokeball support for help with this.

If you are unsure if your software is Cloud-based or you’re pretty sure it’s not, call your vendor/s now and ask them.

If it is not Cloud-based, you’ll need to use a tool like Windows Remote Desktop, TeamViewer, or Chrome Remote Desktop on each staff member’s computer so they can log in from their home computer/laptop. You can find a list of tools here: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/10-best-free-remote-desktop-tools-you-should-know.html. It can be a little technical to get this set up, so perhaps get some help from your IT person if you’re unsure about anything.

With Chrome Remote Desktop from Google, for example, each user can install, make sure they’re signed into a Google account, and then they can remotely log on from another computer if they sign in through that same Google account.

It may be slow to work through remote desktop, but in an urgent situation it will give you the ability to work from home. Investing in Cloud software (like Smokeball) is the easiest way for your firm to be ready to work where you need to at a moment’s notice. And if something goes wrong with your computer in the office, you can’t fix it.

2. Your phones

Do you have a VoIP phone system or a landline system?

If you have VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), it may be plug and play; with many systems your staff can take their desk phone home with them and plug them in at home, and voila, you’re in business with each staff member having access to all the functionality they have in the office. It is worth checking your network and security settings with your VoIP provider in case any extra set-up is required.

If you have a landline system, you’ll need to forward calls to another number. AT&T, for instance, has advice at the following link: https://www.att.com/support/smallbusiness/article/smb-local-long-distance/KM1194925/

3. Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is a great way to get face-time with your clients and your team without being in the office, to keep high engagement for your regular meetings with your team, and also to quickly check in with staff.

You have likely already used video conferencing if you’ve used FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, or WebEx.

At Smokeball, we’ve tried many tools and the one we love best is Zoom. Why? It’s really easy for both sides to use. It’s free to use for 30-minute sessions. And the video/call quality is reliably good.

You can download Zoom from www.zoom.us (it’s a quick install). Click New Meeting, then share the link it creates for you with your client or staff. One or many people can use the same link. You can share your screen to go over documents or spreadsheets together. Or you can just talk, by voice or video.

4. Keep staff engaged.

When you’re all working remotely, you’ll miss the water cooler conversations that keep everyone feeling part of the team. You’ll also miss the hallway conversations about your work.

However, these aren’t superfluous things: it’s really important that you all stay in touch as colleague communication is critical.

Using Zoom to video conference is one way to keep everyone in the loop.

Another way is to use a tool like Slack (if you’re a Smokeball client, we have most of the Slack functionality built in now with some final pieces to come shortly.)

Slack is a useful tool because you can instant message one or more team members to chat about your cases. You can share files easily and discuss them.

You can also create what are called “Channels” on Slack. Channels are like a chat forum for a particular topic. You can create channels for literally anything. It could be a “Food lovers” channel where you share recipes, or a channel for “Drafting help” where you need to brainstorm the perfect wording for a contract or order.

Channels bring your team together to work smarter when you’re physically apart, and they also let everyone enjoy a little light entertainment now and then, boosting team morale.

Some last tips

If you and your team are not used to working remotely, the following may help:

  • Set clear expectations for your staff with what hours you expect them to work, output etc.
  • Create a routine and help your staff to do the same.
  • Find a dedicated place to work from and help your staff do the same.
  • Be more structured with your time than you usually would – plan out your day.
  • Have regular breaks – get up and walk around!

For further detail on any of the above, or for information about Smokeball, please contact us at www.smokeball.com or 1 (855)-668-3206.

March 13th, 2020|

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