Using A Fort Lauderdale Managed IT Services Provider To Create Your Virtual Law Office
Even before COVID-19 made working remotely the norm, many law firms had already begun moving towards the virtual law office. Law firms using a Fort Lauderdale Managed IT Services Provider have been looking to enhance the virtual office for years, but things have really picked up this year in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to safety considerations, attorneys working remotely benefit from reduced commuting, better responsiveness to clients, the ability to work from anywhere, and improved work/life balance. From a competitive standpoint, the firms that utilize these tools are more likely to retain talent, manage cash-flow and minimize business expenses. Clearly these are positive effects that can impact a firm during the pandemic and long after it has passed.
Let’s look at some of the areas where law offices can focus their efforts to thrive in a virtual environment.
From a Fort Lauderdale Managed IT Services company you might be surprised that this is where the conversation would start. But working in a virtual environment can only be successful with a culture of engaged employees who are motivated to work towards the overall benefit of the firm’s success and will embrace and utilize the tools provided to them.
This starts with ownership and management accepting the fact that you cannot operate a virtual law office or other business with the same approach you have used in the past with your staff working within the office. Those of us who are working from home have realized that you can’t entirely shield out your personal life that physically and mentally surrounds you with a work life that has specific demands on your time and focus. It is a mistake to not be respectful of this reality when dealing with employees working from home who have family members and sometimes children in the home as well.
While we can’t cover all of the implications of this balance here and now, suffice to say that a happy and engaged employee is one who is both asked to perform their job to a high standard but also treated with a healthy dose of dignity and flexibility when they will inevitably have to attend to some unexpected personal and family matters during the work day. Particularly when there are children at home that would otherwise be at school, it is important to allow employees as much freedom to balance those responsibilities without making them feel that they are being held to an unreasonable standard. The simple act of trusting your employees to do the right thing and honor their commitments to the firm will, in most cases, be returned with an equal degree of respect and appreciation.
Without the advances in technology over the past 10 or so years, it would be near impossible to run an effective business with employees working remotely. Today, there are a host of tools that make everything from instant messaging, internet-based call transfers, audio and video conferencing and document sharing instantaneous and simple. In most cases, there should be very few impediments to fluid communications within a remote workforce.
Specifically as it relates to law firms, you should focus on using simple and commonly used communication tools that are easy to use on a variety of platforms, both for communicating internally with staff as well as clients you may need to have a deposition or face to face meeting with. There is no shortage of options, but there are real differences between the various solutions out there. How do you choose what to use and when between Zoom, Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting? Some tools work better for certain kinds of meetings than others and you also need to consider the technology being used by clients as well as their technical abilities to work with the tools you offer. Also, integrations and compatibility may vary depending upon the user and the types of devices they are working with.
Whenever possible, look for products that have broad support for a variety of devices. In a virtual environment, it may be difficult to get all your staff to work on the same types of devices or even platforms. Consider this when choosing which tools to invest in rolling out to your staff and clients.
Remote Support and Device Management
Along with the proper means to communicate and collaborate, it’s important that your team has device support, both for resolving day to day IT related issues with the technology, but also ensuring that devices are properly configured and secured.
Most of the tools you are accustomed to using in a localized office environment such as antivirus, patch management, application control, and others are still available for workforces that may not be working from a centralized office. Aside from hardware issues, Most technology can be managed without ever having to physically step in front of a device. Reliable IT support and training is important for protecting the privacy and security of your technology assets, as well as keeping your team engaged and following company procedures and processes.
Case Management and Time Tracking
Fort Lauderdale law firms have been utilizing tools like Amicus, Clio and Needles for managing their cases from start to finish. Nothing has really changed in terms of the need, but in a virtual environment picking the right solution will depend on a few factors:
- Hosting– Depending on the nature of your data and how you work, where this application is hosted may make a meaningful difference. While most circumstances demand a cloud hosting solution like Microsoft Azure or a web-based solution hosted by the application provider themselves, there may be other security or compliance issues to consider. Your Fort Lauderdale Managed IT Services provider will be able to guide you as to what factors need to be considered here.
- Integrations with other products – You should use a software that integrates with email, accounting and other softwares you’re firm may be using.
- Budget and Size of Practice– Some products make sense for larger firms where others are better suited to smaller firms, both in terms of price and functionality. It is important to implement the tool best suited to your firm so that you can control costs and be sure to have the required functionality to support your practice.
Document Management Solutions
For the virtual Fort Lauderdale law firm, it is critical to be able to share, manage, store, search, and archive your documents in real time and have the required cloud and local storage to do so. Time that is wasted searching aimlessly for specific information you need will cost you money and create frustration. Also, running up against storage limits for documents creates confusion about what to save and what to delete.
Specific to the virtual law office, you will want to integrate a cloud-based product that automates much of the filing and organizational needs of your firm where user privilges can be assigned as it relates to the ability to access, edit and save specific folders and files. It is also beneficial to have an agnostic solution that makes it easy to view documents even if, for example, a PDF reader is not natively installed on the device.
Finally, with legal documents security and privacy are of particular importance. The information in your files will be travelling back and forth over the internet. You need a solution that offers adequate authentication and encryption in transit so that your team can focus on operations and not dwell on the security implications of their work.
With technology decisions, like all business decisions, the virtual law office needs to think about the business needs first. The products and services you’ll need do exist, but the technology you choose to implement should be more about the people using it than the bells and whistles it offers or even the price of the product.
What are the compliance, security and functionality requirements needed to achieve your goals? A software consultant with expertise in legal solutions or your IT Services or Managed Services Provider should be able to address your specific needs so that you do not make a decision that isn’t the right one for your firm.
If you are looking to establish a more efficient virtual operation for your Fort Lauderdale Law practice and are looking for a qualified Fort Lauderdale Managed IT Services Provider to guide you through the process, User Friendly Technology Services would be happy to talk to you.
We have successfully supported dozens of law firms moves to a virtual environment throughout the South Florida region and offer a No Contract, No Monthly Fee with very reasonable rates. Contact us today to learn more about how User Friendly Technology Services can help your Fort Lauderdale or South Florida-based law firm moved to a more efficient and secure virtual office environment.