Written by:

Grant Yuill

Head of Marketing & Customer Engagement

We look to the Cloud for salvation

The coronavirus has ignited what Bloomberg calls the “Worlds largest work-from-home experiment”. Companies are suddenly having to enable an increasingly mobile workforce. Rife with technical ramifications and considerations, the notion of remote work has emerged a necessity, requiring business to consider:

  • Which employees must remain in an on-site presence?
  • How to protect these employees
  • What, if any employee functions can be differed
  • Technical discovery and requirements for remote work

Working from home

Dependable, secure, remote work technology has been available for years, and the cloud has pushed the scalability, availability, and security of these solutions to new heights. Thanks to cloud technologies, a world of web-based apps, virtual desktops, conferencing software, Virtual private Networking (VPN), and other cloud-enhanced tools make remote work possible from nearly any device, anywhere in the world.

Many law firms adopted a cloud-based approach as far back as 2010. We were all introduced to the idea that the digital world around us could be understood in terms of the “cloud.” As a metaphor, the cloud seems easy to grasp: our data is somewhere in the ether, floating, drifting and wireless, available wherever and whenever we need it. It carries hints of childhood wonder; the term is evocative because it is the opposite of the hard, material world of plugs and cables, disk drives and superhighways. But the thing about a cloud, is that you can only see it from a distance. The cloud is silent, in the background, and almost unnoticeable. Can this mysterious place really be the answer when we face workplace challenges as a pandemic sweeps the globe a decade later?

On the cusp of national lock down, with our nation’s leaders promoting “self-isolation”, now is the time to prepare your teams, as the likelihood is that they will be working in environments out-with the office. The question is…are you ready for this?

Reading this you may feel that this article is going to focus on the doom and gloom of forced working habits. Quite the contrary. We are going to show you how you can make the best of a challenging situation. So, let’s look at this as an opportunity to potentially change the culture of your business. How can you make working from home, work for you firm…in the long term? And how can using cloud-based technology make your employees life easier?

Flexible Working for Lawyers

As a lawyer you don’t really need to grasp what the cloud is to reap its rewards. All you need to know is that in potentially troubling times, like now, it allows you to operate efficiently and with flexibility.

Research from the British Chambers of Commerce and BT Business has revealed that 60% of UK SMEs already use cloud-based applications. The survey of around 400 IT decision makers in UK businesses, with up to 250 staff, found the cloud was critical to flexible working.

Of the businesses interviewed, 86% said they have staff working from home regularly. It found that 47% have staff working away from the office at least once a week and 28% have someone working remotely every day.

A total of 43% said cloud-based applications were critical to effective flexible working and 52% said access to company data was essential.

It is no secret that working from home or ‘remote working’ can provide benefits for both lawyers and the firms they work for. From better work/life balance and wellness, to increased productivity and reduced costs, the business case for enabling lawyers to work from home is apparent.

In addition, experts note that law is one of the most suitable areas of work for agile, remote and homeworking. Aside from meeting with clients, lawyering can be quite a solitary task. The job often involves hours of quiet drafting, reading and analysis. The equipment required to carry out legal work is minimal, and with the right technology, where lawyers carry out their work is almost irrelevant.

Can it be done? The short answer is “yes”. While the answer depends on your practice area and what a typical day looks like for you it should be possible to complete some or all your legal work remotely, and even provide an excellent client experience while not in the office. Although it can be straightforward for lawyers to work from home, there are certain steps firms and practice managers can take to ensure maximum productivity and coordination. We are looking at some of the key things that you can do to ensure that remote working works for your firm.

What tools do I need?

Start making a list of the basics to allow your team to feel as comfortable as possible when working out with the office. Laptops, scanners, printers, headsets should all be available. Consider a mail forwarding service so you can still receive physical mail. Although not normal practice, you may also want to consider the likes of Zoom Video Conferencing as a replacement for meeting clients in person.

If you use an email program that depends on a local server, it’s worth switching to something secure and cloud-based when working remotely. The reality is you can’t pack your firm’s server into your car and take it home. If you are making the decision (or being told) to work remotely for a while, you should be taking precautions to ensure your server is protected from potential problems. Denovo cloud-based practice management software integrates with Office 365 and allows you to keep all your cases, contacts, bills, calendars, and more in one place. With unlimited document storage and the ability to access case details from anywhere, this kind of solution like this will be critical when working remotely.

In addition, it’s crucial to be able to securely share documents and sensitive communications with clients, no matter where you are. A secure client portal lets you easily share whatever you need with clients. CaseLoad allows you to do exactly that.

Create a culture of positive remote working

The attitude adopted towards remote working in your firm is essential. A lack of faith in your colleagues can be one of the most significant barriers to a successful system for flexible working. Partners or managers who prefer face-to-face supervision may find it challenging to allow workers to work remotely, as they may feel they have lost an element of control. However, ensuring that all workers know what is expected of them when working remotely can go a long way to building trust among team members.

Culture is an integral part of any workplace. When creating policies and procedures for remote working, it is vital to consider the impact of any change in policy on the dynamic of your teams. This is something that might be forced upon you at the present time, but there is no time like the present to embrace this cultural shift.

Communication is key

We like to be able to predict the behavior of our co-workers. It helps us to carry out our own roles at work, and consistent practices help us to understand others’ ways of working and style of communication. When it comes to remote working, it can help to set boundaries and enhance the predictability of workers communications.

Your teams must understand what is expected in terms of communication when working remotely. It should be up to teams or departments to establish norms around remote working. Communication policies should include how remote workers should be contacted in relation to tasks or enquiries, as well as expected response times. For example, Microsoft Teams might be the most appropriate tool for urgent jobs or group discussion, whereas meetings should be scheduled through a calendar app.

How do you track productivity remotely?

Ensuring your firm is productive and more importantly profitable is going to be one of the main challenges law firm leaders face. If there are any issues, how do you pinpoint them so you can act and fix them?

If you’re used to seeing your team in the office, and simply chatting about what’s been going on that day or week, not having that visibility will be a jarring transition. Management Reporting technology can help you set goals and track progress towards your targets.

Using case management software with analytics built-in, is essential for getting KPI insights to help you make data-driven business decisions. Whether you’re in the office or at home you can access the most important data at a glance in dashboard format. For example, Denovo’s Dashboard Reporting helps you understand the performance of fee earners, track fees in real time, track file opening numbers and ascertain where our work comes from.

In turn, this will allow you to track your revenue, measure changes in performance over time, and pinpoint areas for improvement. You can also deep dive into performance of individuals to help with coaching through a time of change.

With a clear remote work policy, and a plan for tracking success and ensuring firm productivity, firms of all sizes can work remotely, but more importantly, they can do it successfully. Communicate with your team and ensure you’re all on the same page about what’s expected. This will help avoid any confusion, so that your firm continues to thrive while everyone is away from the office.

How can you start building your law firm of the future?

Embrace Tech– Smart law firms are already getting an edge over their competitors by adopting smart cloud-based legal technology. Identify ways to work smarter, by automating time-consuming activities, and spend human time on what truly matters to your client.

Be Flexible– Flexibility is key, the new generation of lawyers coming through highly value a good work/life balance. In order to attract and retain the best talent, firms should offer high levels of flexibility – including working remotely.

Meet the needs of your employees for mobility– The idea of mobility – or rather the ability to use the solution via laptops, tablets or smartphone. The cloud offers entirely new possibilities to make better use of your time or to improve the work-life balance (the flexibility to work from home). Since no data is stored or processed locally (on your work computer), you benefit from being able to access the latest version of your caseload from any device, anywhere, any time of the day.

Everything stored to the cloud is synchronized in real time, so you can access it via secure remote desktop connection on any device. And thanks to the encrypted data transmission with secure password protection, if you have internet access you can log-in from any device – a benefit that can come in handy in an emergency!

History will undoubtably highlight the importance of Cloud IT systems in disaster recovery situations. The Cloud’s distributed nature is a natural fit and will be the hero in a future landscape that features survivors and victims. The businesses that rely on cloud capabilities for their IT systems and back-office will benefit by not having to worry about personnel going into their data centres to check, maintain, and monitor their server and storage installations. Businesses using the cloud effectively will benefit the most by quickly leveraging the ability to create resilient and disaster-averse systems anywhere around the world protecting data and business application integrity, as well as support an increasingly remote workflow.

How can Denovo help?

For anyone not sure what to do in this very unique situation please be aware Denovo has successfully provided hundreds of law firms with smart, secure, cloud-based, software business solutions that boost the bottom line, improve office efficiency, allows remote working and maintains Law Society compliance for more than 30 years. Cloud solutions by Denovo support cross-departmental collaboration by using a central information system with different interaction options for real-time collaboration. This eliminates the need for meetings or telephone calls, by centrally storing the data and the communication to the respective process.

If you are looking for advice our team can talk to you about cloud-based case management solutions which allow you to securely access your files from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. Going forward, this will allow you to collaborate easily with staff, colleagues, and clients.

If you are an existing Denovo customer and simply need some advice, the team are ready to provide you with tips and support to navigate through this period of change.

If you want to learn more about Cloud-based remote working and Denovo’s whole practice management software solution, email info@denovobi.com or call us on 0141 331 5290.

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