Managing a Remote Small Firm During COVID-19

working from home during COVID-19 crisis
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If your practice was already prepared for remote work, or if you had to figure it out on the fly, here are some tips for making sure you are practicing safely in this strange, new world.

Let’s start by talking about managing your facilities and team.

Managing a Remote Team

Make sure you are communicating with your team on a regular basis. Use Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom for calls or videoconferencing to talk about work projects, answer client questions, or check in to see how everyone is handling the crisis personally. At Lawyers Mutual we are using Microsoft Teams. We have a channel for all employees and a channel for managers. Through Teams, our IT department can screen share and troubleshoot technology or workflow problems as soon as they develop.

Our Employee Committee is working hard to keep morale high. The committee created a Home School channel where people can share advice, offer tutoring, or answer questions for one another. They also created a channel for a Virtual Scavenger Hunt. An item is announced in the morning and once you locate the item, you send in a photo. Names of participants are collected throughout the week and a weekly name is drawn for a gift card. Our Employee Committee also sent a gift box to our employees. It contained a personal note from our president thanking us for our dedication during this time of crisis and contained goodies such as hand sanitizer and mini packages of M&M’s. Anything you can do to let your employees know you are concerned about them and you appreciate the extra effort of managing a remote work environment, along with the added roles of homeschool teacher or cruise ship entertainment director will be appreciated.

Cyber Safety

While working remotely, it is essential that you have safeguards in place to protect your clients. Provide your staff with the ability to only use office issued equipment, rather than personal devices for remote work. Always use a VPN connection to provide a secure communication channel. Setting up multi-factor authentication is highly recommended. At Lawyers Mutual, we use the file-sharing programs Citrix ShareFile and Dropbox.

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Fraudsters will use this crisis as an opportunity to scam, so be very careful before clicking on attachments or links in emails. This is a good time to implement password policies requiring strong passwords, as well as online training on scams. Lawyers Mutual uses a security awareness program called KnowBe4. Monthly video training keeps our employees up-to-date on the latest scams and how to avoid them.

Checklists

If you are working remotely for the first time, this is a great opportunity to create process and procedures to make your office flow more efficiently. Now that you are having to think through how everything is done in order to move it offsite, memorialize the process in a checklist. This is helpful now, but the checklist can also become a part of your procedures manual and assist in training moving forward. The checklists also provide a safety feature by confirming procedures and who is responsible.

Conclusion

Managing a law practice is always an exercise in juggling multiple balls in the air. You are used to the chaos. However, COVID-19 presents a new challenge. Ask for help if you need it. Or offer help if you can. Together, the legal profession can come out on the other side of this stronger than before.

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