Times are changing and the support for telecommuting has never been better in the legal profession. Many attorneys are seeking better work-life balance and technology is making it easier for them to work remotely, even in truly remote locations. I once worked with an attorney who wanted to be able to reach clients from a tree stand in the middle of a forest in Montana! True story. I’ve also worked at a firm with such a strong “family” culture that two partnership candidates were voted into partnership while they were on maternity leave. That firm starting promoting working remotely in the 90’s and had great tools available, making it possible for new parents to work from home and spend more time with their family.
Telecommuting doesn’t just benefit employees –– there’s a financial incentive for law firms to support it. Office space is a large part of a firm’s annual budget, and being able to reduce space without reducing the total number of timekeepers is attractive. One firm conducted a study of the flow of their personnel and realized only thirty percent were in the office at any given time. They were able cut their office space by one-third.) With a growing number of practices going paperless, it’s becoming more feasible for employees to work from home. Another firm allowed their attorneys and staff to work from home and have conference room space in cities with the largest client base. They claim their clients haven’t even noticed.
The American Bar Association is even using a new phrase “eLawyering,” and has stated there is no formal ethical rule prohibiting lawyers from having a virtual office.
If you’re thinking telecommuting might be a viable option for you, here are some steps that can make this work option successful. (Note: If you are not a sole practitioner and work for a firm, the first course of business is to make sure your organization supports a remote workforce and find out about the tools they offer to help you.)
- Make sure you can receive work email on your handheld device. There are numerous options to use Microsoft Outlook on your iPhone or android device, including Outlook calendar.
- Use a timekeeping app. There are dedicated timekeeping apps or you may be lucky enough to work for a firm that has a mobile timekeeping plug-in.
- Try Single Number Reach. Consider forwarding your office number to your cell phone, so clients only need a single number to reach you.
- Connect to your office desktop computer. GoToMyPC can be used from a tablet, iPad or Mac.
- Set up dictation options. Siri or Dragon Naturally Speaking are good choices.
- Use a cloud-based solution for saving data. DropBox and ShareFile are popular options.
- Stay organized. Microsoft Evernote allows you to save documents, notes, recordings and many other items and access them from various locations.
- Be prepared for video conferencing. WebEx Meetings, FaceTime or Skype can be used on your iPhone or android.
So, exactly what type of technology tools should you have on hand? My list of “must-haves” include:
- Smart phone
- Portable Wi-Fi Device (available through AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc.) for security and reliability
- Battery Power Supply
- Wi-fi Multi-Function scanner/printer/copier/fax for your home office (many are small enough to take on the road)
- USB Portable Hard Drive (around $100 for 2 TB)
With a little creative thinking and a few tech tools, you could soon be with your family or sitting on a warm beach and still keeping your clients happy. Remember, you can always contact the Terrapin team to help you set up an effective and secure remote workplace.