With the Corona virus pandemic causing havoc, people are urged to work from home for the foreseeable future. For lawyers, that generally is not a problem: The ABA Tech Survey Report showed that in 2019, nearly three quarter of attorneys had worked remotely, and that most lawyers who have children tend to work from home more often.
In previous articles, we pointed out that most law firm management software providers these days offer a cloud solution that allows you to work from anywhere, at any time. So, if your law firm is using a cloud-based law firm management software package, you shouldn’t have a problem, as you already have access to your cases & documents. And with the Office 365 licenses, you can install the software on several devices, so having it at home should not a be problem either.
What else do you need to work comfortably from home? Let’s go over the list.
- A PC, laptop, or tablet. While it’s possible to work on a smart phone, once you have to start merging documents, or have clear overviews of reports etc., having a PC, a laptop, or to a lesser degree a tablet, is a better option.
- A fast, and preferably unlimited bandwidth internet connection. You don’t want to wait for your information to appear on your screen, nor do you want the distraction of having to check whether you have sufficient data left.
- Robust Wi-Fi that makes that fast internet connection available throughout your house.
- A backup internet connection. Internet connections do oocasionally go down temporarily and sometimes it can take a while before they’re restored.
- A UPS. Not only Internet connections can go down. Sometimes the electricity does, too, and you don’t want to lose what you’re working on when it does.
- A conference speaker. Making conference calls with associates and/or clients are more comfortable with a conference speaker.
- Webcam. As you’re less likely to have in person meetings, video conferencing usually offers a viable alternative.
- If you’re going to work many hours a day from home, then a decent monitor, mouse, and keyboard are a must. This also applies if you are using a laptop. And do yourself a favour and get yourself an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Your body will be grateful.
- Lawyer tend to work with documents and having a scanner at home usually is a necessity. You can scan the documents and upload them to the cloud. A printer, too, is a must.
- Lawyers work with sensitive information that is attractive to hackers. To work securely from home, you need a firewall. For security reasons, it is also recommended to have a VPN, especially now cybercriminals are increasingly targeting people who work remotely.
- Headphones or earbuds. There tend to be more interruptions and distractions when you’re working from home. Headphones and earbuds can help keeping those distractions under control.
- If you’re going to spend several hours a day working, you also want a good, comfortable chair and desk. To prevent being too sedentary, you may consider a sit-stand desk converter.
- You also need ample lighting, preferably natural light.
- You may also consider one charger for all your gadgets to prevent a jungle of cables and chargers.
Specifically for lawyers, you probably should consider using a secure client portal, if you aren’t already doing so. It allows you to securely communicate and collaborate with your clients, and also makes it easy for them to follow-up on how their case or cases are going.
There are certain other measures to be taken as well. If you won’t be at the office, you need to communicate these changes with your clients, staff, and colleagues. You have to make sure you have ways to communicate securely. You also may want to consider going to the post office to set up (regular) mail forwarding so the mail that usually arrives at the office now is delivered at home.
Now, working from home comes with its own set of challenges that you have to be aware of:
- There will be distractions and interruptions. Interruptions are external factors. As Steve Ranger puts it: “Distractions are slightly different. These are mostly the result of being in a different environment to the one which you are used to, and that means habits are disrupted and priorities get muddled. In the office your priorities are (mostly) well defined – you’re there to work. At home your priorities are different; having fun, cooking, eating, cleaning, watching TV – almost by definition everything not work related.” You need discipline and routine. To make working from home feel more like work, one author suggests dressing like you’re going to work. It is also a good practice to set clear work hours, and to work in the same area.
- You must find new ways of collaborating with colleagues and clients and remain aware of the fact that all these relationships need in-person attention. You don’t want to rely on written communication only, as the chances of miscommunication are bigger. There are plenty of tools available to collaborate, like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, to name but a few. Just make sure that you set expectations with your clients and colleagues.
- You have to take your mental health into account. More than a third of people who work from home experience difficulties adapting to the isolation and loneliness that come with it. So, make sure to call a friend or co-worker every once in a while.
- Many people also feel less motivated when working from home.
- Security is another challenge. Make sure you have all patches installed, for all devices you’re using, including routers! Invest in the necessary infrastructure (like a firewall). Change your passwords regularly. Use encryption to secure all devices.
- Stay focused but cut yourself some slack. Make sure to unplug and switch off.
Keeping all of the above in mind, working from home should be a comfortable experience.