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By Nicole Black
We’ve finally left 2020 behind us and are looking forward to a new year – and hopefully a much less tumultuous one! Of course, times continue to be uncertain and until everyone is fully vaccinated it makes sense to build resiliency into your law firm in order to ensure that your law firm is able to thrive no matter what curveballs we encounter in the coming year.
The good news is that there are a few simple and actionable steps that you can take to prepare your firm for whatever the future brings and make it possible to operate and profit no matter where your firm’s employees are located. You may have already implemented some of the following ideas into your firm’s processes, and’ if so, great job! But there are undoubtedly a few other tools you can add to your firm’s arsenal that will ensure both stability and success in 2021.
The bottom line: The key to a prosperous year in the face of uncertainty is to ensure that your firm has the technology and processes in place that will enable firm employees to handle all essential functions remotely. So without further ado, here are my top four tips for building resiliency into your law firm as you start the new year.
Communicate externally seamlessly and securely
When your team is working remotely, effective client communication is key. Your clients and potential clients need to be able to reach out to your firm and receive answers to their questions in a timely manner and in a format that works for their needs. It will matter little to clients that your firm’s employees are working remotely and thus are unable to access the necessary communications tools.
That’s why you need to put into place technologies that will facilitate communication from any location, regardless of the circumstances. The top tools your firm will need as you start the new year include VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone systems, online intake tools, secure client communication portals, and 2-way text messaging that’s built into your law firm’s law practice management software. With these tools in place, your firm’s external communications will run smoothly no matter where your employees are located.
Communicate and collaborate internally
Of course, internal communication is just as important as external communication when your firm’s workforce is dispersed. Your firm’s employees need to be able to quickly and easily communicate with each other whether they’re working in the office or from home. In 2021, email alone simply doesn’t cut it; your firm’s employees need multiple ways to communicate and collaborate remotely in order to work effectively and efficiently. This is because some communications might warrant an email or a phone call, while others are simple enough that a quick message is all that’s needed.
That’s why your firm needs to provide its employees with a variety of ways to communicate online – and if those methods of communication are built into one software program, all the better! Some of the key internal communication tools your firm should implement include law firm direct messages, internal chat that is ideally built into your law practice management software, and videoconferencing.
Complete the transition to a paperless office
In recent years, courts in many jurisdictions have begun the transition to e-filing for court documents, and the pandemic has accelerated this trend. As a result, some law firms have already started transitioning to a paperless office by investing in hardware and software designed to facilitate this process, from copy machines with built-in scanners to online document storage. However, when law firms shifted to remote work due to the pandemic, some of these tools, such as the large copy machines, remained in the office and were unavailable to law firm employees when working from home.
That’s why I strongly recommend that if your firm hasn’t already purchased desktop scanners for key employees, that you do so immediately. That way, should your firm be required to work remotely at any point during 2021, those smaller scanners can easily be transported to the homes of the employees who will need them.
Similarly, if your firm has not yet invested in document management or law practice management software, now’s the time to do so. This type of software makes it easy to store and quickly access law firm documents from any computer. Simply log in, upload a document, and associate it with the appropriate matter. From there it’s easily accessible by law firm employees and clients to whom you’ve granted access, and can easily be e-filed with the courts as well.
Set up online billing and payment processing
Last, but not least, contactless billing and payment processing systems are a must in 2021. After all, your firm needs to get paid, regardless of where your employees are working. And once you set up online billing and payment processing tools, it won’t matter where your employees are located; all invoices and payments will be processed through a single log in.
In order to make this happen, you’ll need to invest in online legal billing software, online payment processing software, or a law practice management system that has all of these tools built right into it. That way, your firm’s employees can access the software from any computer, send invoices with the click of a button, and your clients can then instantly pay invoices via credit or debit card by clicking on a payment link.
That’s all there is to it! A little up front planning and investment right now will make all the difference in the year to come. But don’t stop there! For even more ideas on making 2021 the best year possible, make sure to download this FREE guide today: “The 2021 Law Firm New Years’ Checklist.”