When 2020 began, no one would have believed that the world would have been faced with a global pandemic that resulted in multiple lockdowns, isolations and the entire UK working from their living rooms.
After 18 months of lockdown, it’s true to say that in the case of law firms, along with many other business sectors, the demand for physical office space has changed, with employees now accustomed to working from home.
As restrictions ease many firms have adopted a hybrid-working environment because it’s clear the benefits for both employee and practice are significant. Flexibility is key and with less commuting time and a better work-life balance, the hybrid model has become the future for law firms looking to build an adaptable and future-proofed firm.
The changes in working practices
Of the firms that responded to our survey on working practices back in 2020, few than 30% said that some fee earners worked from home prior to COVID-19, compared to the many fee earners (86%) working from home during a lockdown.
85% of those firms also said that after a lockdown, the intention was that either some or most, of their fee earners would be working from home.
It was encouraging that may firms (86%) noted no change in their ability to take new instructions or time record, despite them working across a range of devices, showing a need for greater flexibility whilst working from home.
The message is clear: a mixture of home and office working is a viable option.
This article will cover all the essential infrastructure you will need for your legal practice to succeed in a hybrid-working environment.
Reliable legal technology
Back when the first lockdown began in early 2020, firms that pull together hasty tech solutions saw them through this troubled time -with no plans to upgrade for the long term – will no doubt feel a negative impact on their commercial success. Good quality, high availability legal technology will be the backbone of your business to support a mix of home and office working, so it’s vital to act now to protect your firm’s future. Be sure to read our guide on choosing your case management system for more advice
Cloud-based case management software
Cloud-based software has made effective home working far more achievable – ‘the cloud’ means that data is stored on the internet and can be accessed securely by the team anywhere with an internet connection.
It’s likely that your emails are already hosted ‘in the cloud’ using a service like Office 365, along with your calendars and important files which everybody needs to access on a service like OneDrive.
With easy-to-install apps, along with its browser-based interface, Osprey allows staff members from all areas of the business to work on cases and accounts with any connected mobile or desktop device.
For example, electronic case management and a digital matter history means lawyers, legal assistants and secretarial staff can all collaborate on cases from anywhere. Similarly, with integrated legal accounting and online cheque requisitions, your accounts team can manage the finances remotely, too.
Top tips for working remotely
Technology enables us to complete much of our work remotely but doing that effectively is as much down to the team member themselves as it is the software. Working from home, without the structure and routine of an office, brings a new set of challenges. Here are a few tips to help you:
Separate work from home… and create the right environment
It’s important that you create a clear distinction between home and work life so that you still feel as though you’re ‘at work’ whilst also having valuable downtime.
By creating a separate office space – even if you don’t have a separate office, working at a desk or table is far better than sitting up in bed! – you’ll have that all-important professional area to carry out work.
Legal work is, of course, highly confidential and often sensitive in nature, so think about ways to retain your privacy in a dedicated space. Do you have somewhere that any paperwork and related matters can be locked away securely? Speak to family members to ensure that they appreciate this.
Resist the temptation to take your laptop to the sofa. It might seem like a great idea, but it’s a slippery slope!
To help you get into the right mindset for work whilst at home, it’s a good idea to stick to your usual daily routine before starting work – as much as that’s possible in the current climate. Doing so helps to set the tone for the working day ahead.
Communication is key
Communication is the single most important thing you’ll need to be aware of when working at home, with clients and colleagues alike. More than ever, clients will appreciate receiving regular updates, and of course, you can schedule calls and virtual meetings to keep on top of collaborative projects with colleagues too. By continuing to communicate in a variety of ways, you’ll feel less isolated and more connected with those around you.
Invest in reliable tech
Something you may take for granted is the tech you access whilst in the office. When at home, these things won’t be as readily available, so looking to improve your tech setup at home is something to consider. A solid internet connection is easily the most important component, otherwise, you won’t be able to do things like send emails or engage in video calls.
Create a daily ‘to do’ list
Sometimes you can feel as if you have a lack of direction when outside of your usual working environment. To set the right tone, many homeworkers find it useful to create a daily ‘to do’ list, which helps to ensure that you’re getting the most important tasks done for clients.
Find your most optimal working hours
Some people are more productive during certain parts of the day. Whilst there are times when you need to be available for clients during the ‘normal’ working day, so long as you’re doing the work and meeting your deadlines, working from home gives you the freedom to set your own work hours for when you’ll be working at your best. Use this to your – and your clients’ – advantage.
Support your team’s mental health
Working remotely can remove the social aspects of working life. For many, work provides social contact and time away from their personal lives. Keep as many social elements to home working as possible and look out for members of your team that might be struggling. Having meetings that are less work focused and more conversational can help make up for the loss of the traditional office environment. Read our full article for more advice on how to support your team’s mental health.
Osprey customers working from home
If you’re an Osprey customer, our support team are ready to assist you. We’re currently helping hundreds of lawyers move to a remote working environment, successfully providing continuity of service to their clients using Osprey at home.