Lawyers working from home

To Win at the Practice of Law we need the right tools and the right mindset. The #WorkFromHome trend was not created by the Coronavirus, the trend was already already happening in various industries. The current #lockdown has simply fanned smoldering embers into a massive bonfire. But, #WorkFromHome is a misnomer. The idea being that work can still be done by employees when they are not at the office, implying that the employees must work from home. But this is not true. Work can be done from anywhere: at home, in the car, on holiday, rather the term we should use to shape our thoughts is #WorkFromAnywhere.

#WorkFormAnywhere requires a new mindset and new skill sets to survive and thrive in this new reality. All our efforts must be geared towards collaboration with colleagues and staff we may physically never meet.

 1. Adopt the ROWE mindset.

ROWE stands for “results-only work environment,” and it allows focus on what is really important, because it helps remove concerns managers may have around employee productivity. With staff working away from the office, employee access monitoring systems have become redundant. What is the point of a check-in if nobody can track your presence and activities for the duration of the working day?  This places the focus on results, not time spent keeping a chair warm. Results and metrics go hand in hand and it is useful to develop KPI’s with relevant staff. In the end it’s not about the time spent, but about the results achieved.

 2. Accept People for Who They Are

High performing teams reply on strong interpersonal bonds. This means we have to accept and embrace the eccentricities and quirks of people we work with. If some prefer to do their work at 3am in the morning, leave them be, as long as the deliverables arrive on time. Relax when tired, and work when primed. Set clear cooperative schedules and goals so that everybody works towards the same goals, but avoid micromanagement.

 3. Time Management

An Eisenhower Matrix is an excellent tool to determine priorities and a zero-based planner are excellent tools to identify missing time. Plan each day realistically, including all the all the interruptions and frustrations #WorkFromAnywhere can bring. Using KPI’s and the ROWE model above, and deviation should be easy to identify early.

A simple example: At an hourly rate of R1000, and attorney working from 8:00 to 16:00, a total of 8 hours, should be able to bill R8000 per day, and with 21 working days a month, bill a total of R168000.00 per month.

 4. DDD

A simple, effective delegation technique rests on the Three D’s. Do Now, this implies that a task is both urgent and important and requires immediate attention. Delegate means that the task can be passed on to someone else to do. Discard what is irrelevant. Email typically requires this kind of approach. Check all email throughout the day, act immediately (Do) upon what is important, Delegate with instructions that which can be more efficiently by someone else and Delete what is irrelevant. This technique obviously does not apply to email only, but it suits the environment perfectly.

 5. Fibre, 4G, 5G, LTE

How do we connect? Online collaboration depends on stable, fast connections that can carry the workload we need. All major mobile ISP’s allow Data Transfer, from Cell C “Data Transfer allows you to share your data with anyone on Cell C. Friends can share with friends, parents can share with kids, employers can share with employees, just about anyone can share their data.” Many fibre operators offer “free to connect, pay for use” no-term contracts.

6. Communication Tech

#WorkFromAnywhere requires that we make use of of a whole new set of software solutions not typically associated with the practice of law. Strategic software selection means that a variety of devices should be loaded with a variety of work software. This promotes productivity by making you as flexible as possible. 

Zoom — for videoconferencing

Slack — for chat

Confluence — for internal wiki

 7. Voice-To-Text

It’s not too late to find a good Typing Tutor, but if a keyboard is not your thing, digital recording and voice to text technology is essential. It lets you use your voice to create documents faster than typing, Dragon has been around for along time, but did you know both Apple and Windows both have on board voice-to-text solutions? To set up Speech Recognition on your Windows computer, click on Programs > Accessories > Ease of Access > Windows Speech Recognition. Then, click on the Speech Recognition option.

8. File Sharing

Microsoft’s OneDrive and Google’s Google Drive promises business the freedom to work from anywhere‎. For free options Dropbox is available, but the standard version is not recommended for business or sensitive documents. For a really low tech solution, document can of course still be emailed as attachments.

9. Professional Operations software

The Conveyancing practice area requires dedicated software solutions to comply with SLA’s and continued operational efficiency. In a highly competitive market space e4 provides such solutions as  STORDOC and SearchWorks. A serious consideration at this time is one of necessity: what are we paying for, that we do not really need?

10. Accounting software

Cloud-based is a term that refers to applications, services or resources made available to users on demand via the internet, from a service providers server. Why would we maintain a legacy system at the office, when all our other professional resources are online? The obvious choice should fall on a cloud-based custom attorneys accounting solution. If we are going to #WorkFromAnywhere, we may as well bring the books, right?

Finally a good-fit between the various choices should enhance operations and increase productivity. Costs do play a roll, but a well structured selection will benefit any organization.

Carl Holliday is an attorney specialising in practice management and compliance.


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