While working remotely is a dream come true for many legal professionals, it comes with some challenges. One of those challenges is maintaining effective remote law firm communication.
How can we improve law firm communication when that office is virtual?
Fortunately, there are some effective strategies for dealing with the remote communication problem.
In addition, there are numerous technological tools that have been developed to assist with the virtual practice of law.
Below we review some of these tactics — on both the management side and the tech side — that will allow you to power your remote firm to success.
Management strategies to improve remote law firm communication
While the proper use of tech has its place, the best place to start is the leadership and management at the firm. After all, the cultural tone of the firm is often set at the top with the law firm communication policy.
Accordingly, here are some management strategies your firm can employ to improve communication.
Provide structure with check-ins and schedules
One of the biggest complaints about remote workplaces is the lack of structure and accountability. This is where having daily check-ins and set schedules can work to your firm’s advantage.
With a daily check-in, both attorneys and other legal professionals including paralegals and secretaries can check in with the rest of the team to ensure everyone is on top of their respective tasks and responsibilities.
In addition, members of the team should have set schedules for when they are supposed to be working and responsive to communications, even if those schedules differ from person to person.
One of the best ways to streamline communications is by limiting communication that is not necessary.
As most office workers can attest, one of the biggest time-wasters is unnecessary meetings. Be sure that your meetings have set agendas, are time-limited, and that only essential personnel are required to attend.
Another method of communication streamlining is the use of effective delegation.
Micromanagement is never pleasant, but in a remote firm, it’s even more toxic. To limit the endless back-and-forth associated with micromanagement, learn to delegate appropriate tasks and trust staff members to accomplish those tasks.
Learn to empower without micromanaging by making your work environment supportive, instead of punitive.
Get firmwide feedback and set goals
Your remote firm’s communication policies probably have issues that you can’t easily see from your perspective. Accordingly, you should survey your entire firm for input.
The feedback can be on topics as varied as the best communication channels, appropriate response times, and even work-life balance. Give your employees and peers a chance for anonymous, open-ended feedback.
Strive to set communication goals for your remote team, both short-term and long-term, based on that feedback.
These goals can range from concrete actions, like implementing new communication tools, to more subjective, such as increasing a sense of support and interconnectedness. You won’t know what you need to fix until you identify those problems.
Using tech tools to enhance remote communication
There is simply no getting around the fact that your remote firm will need plenty of technology to work effectively.
This is good news, as the right remote team communication tools can enhance your firm’s communications to the point they are superior to those of many in-person law offices.
Improve client communication
Client communication must be a top priority for any law firm, whether remote, in-person, or hybrid — and we cannot rely on lawyer communication skills alone.
With a remote firm, you will need to utilize tech tools to the fullest to optimize your client communication.
Setting up multiple communication channels is one important step to take.
While one-on-one video meetings will always be an option, also consider conference calls, instant messaging, and email. You can also digitize your documents so you can directly share the files in electronic format with your clients.
You may also consider a client portal where clients can log in and independently review work done on their cases. They can also set up meetings with you through the portal.
One of the biggest complaints of legal clients is not receiving status updates on their cases, so a client portal could alleviate this problem, too.
Automate client intake
Another important tech function for your remote firm is the automation of your client intake.
Relying on phone messages, emails, and spreadsheets for client intake and tracking leads is simply too inefficient for a modern legal office.
With law firm intake software, prospective clients could fill out client intake forms, then receive automatic follow-ups. The system can automate your appointment scheduling, eliminating the endless back-and-forth between leads and staff members to set meetings. This will also reduce the risk of no-shows and eliminate the risk of double bookings.
You can even automate the creation of attorney-client agreements.
Employ project management tools
An investment in legal project management technology could truly pay dividends for your remote firm.
Project management tools provide a central hub where firm members can plan and delegate work. These tools can improve collaboration, keep everyone organized, and identify bottlenecks in your projects and workflows.
The well-known collaboration tool Slack, commonly used outside the legal industry, could provide some vital benefits for remote firms. Not only can Slack be used for internal communications, it can also be used for client communications in practice areas where a great deal of client collaboration is required, such as mergers and acquisitions. Slack can even automate processes and support eDiscovery.
Utilize practice management software
Law practice management software is yet another tech innovation worth considering for remote practitioners and legal professionals.
This software can provide a comprehensive solution for numerous facets of legal practice, including calendaring, case management, document management, and billing.
Like the other tech tools mentioned above, this software can also be cloud-based, allowing any firm member to access the tool from any location. By enhancing various areas of your practice, this software can streamline your overall communications.
One last tip
The most important strategy to help with remote law firm communication is simply a willingness to try.
In a remote setting, information sharing is entirely intentional. If there’s something that you want your peers to know, you must make it a priority to tell them. Get in the habit of posting updates, talking to your teammates, and sharing information on purpose.
With the right strategies and latest technologies, your firm can maximize its remote communication and push toward greater success.