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Remote Collaboration for Law Firms

By:
The NetDocuments Team
Posted On:
Mar 7, 2022

Collaboration is essential to the practice of law — and it can deliver enormous competitive advantages when leveraged across practice areas.

But when some or all your team is working remotely, it can be difficult to collaborate effectively. However, with the right tools and strategies in place, you can make collaboration successful and seamless, no matter how your team is dispersed. We’ll show you how.

Circumstances Are Changing

Transitioning to the “new normal” of working from home was a massive adjustment for the modern workforce. But even as teams have started returning to the office, it’s clear that law firms must remain flexible to keep business moving forward.

In the first place, shifting waves of illness have forced some firms to re-close their offices and return to fully remote work. But that’s not all. Now that organizations have proven their ability to work remotely, employees across various industries, demographics, and geographies expect to have remote work options moving forward.

As a result of these changing circumstances, law firms must be prepared to make quick pivots and handle both a hybrid workforce of in-office and remote team members and manage remote client relationships.

5 Remote Collaboration Challenges

Increased collaboration offers numerous benefits for lawyers and their firms. But it can be difficult to maximize collaboration with a dispersed team. To help you tackle these challenges, we’ve identified five of the most common hurdles in remote collaboration — and how to overcome them.

1. Videoconferencing

Whether all or some of your collaborators are working remotely, you’ll need a video and audio conferencing tool to help keep them all connected. It’s important that everyone is able to participate in the meeting, regardless of where they are physically located.

If some of your team members are gathered in the office while others are working from home, you’ll want to use a webcam and microphone that allows remote team members to see and hear those in the conference room. You’ll also need a large display so that those in the office can see and hear remote participants as well.

For large meetings, you may want to consider a smart 360° webcam that automatically focuses video and audio on the person speaking. This can create a more seamless, video meeting experience for those working remotely and help reduce distractions.

During a hybrid meeting, it can be extra challenging to keep all participants engaged. One way to improve the experience is to prioritize digital collaboration tools over physical ones. For example, if your team frequently uses a whiteboard or sticky notes to collaborate, virtual participants might not be able to clearly see all information on the board, much less contribute to it. Instead, consider a virtual whiteboarding tool. This will ensure all participants have equal access to information and the ability to contribute.

Keep in mind that other communication tools such as instant messaging or chat can also help your team stay connected and in sync, no matter who’s in the office or not.

2. Document Collaboration and Real-Time Editing

Collaborating on documents can be a challenge, whether teams are remote or not — no small issue given the amount of legal work that is captured in documents.

For hybrid or remote teams to collaborate successfully, it’s crucial that all team members be able to access needed documents and resource materials easily and securely, no matter where they are. A cloud document management system (DMS) can solve this problem. Top solutions offer web, desktop, and mobile apps so that legal professionals can find what they need, when they need it — whether they’re in the office, at home, or on the go.

Redlining, version control, and check-out wars are another common source of frustration. But fortunately, they don’t have to be such a hassle.

Modern DMS platforms like NetDocuments offer additional legal technology and features that help take legal collaboration to the next level. One of these tools is Margin Notes, a collaborative document viewer that allows multiple team members to review, annotate, share, and mark up documents in real time, simultaneously. There’s no need to pass the document from person to person, and you don’t have to worry about creating conflicting versions or missing vital edits.

3. Case Management

If your firm is using an in-house solution for organizing cases and clients, you may run into difficulties when team members are working remotely.

Manual processes and VPN issues can make it all but impossible for lawyers to access essential case details and updates when they’re working outside of the office. This can lead to miscommunication, duplicated work, and failure to report on case status… which can ultimately cost your firm time and profit.

To avoid these challenges, remote/hybrid firms should select a cloud-based case management solution like Centerbase, Actionstep, and P4W (Advanced) to organize essential case information, including contacts, bills, calendars, task lists, and more.

4. Workflow Management

One aspect of collaboration that can become particularly tricky with a dispersed team is project management. But even with a team in-office, it can be challenging to keep track of who is supposed to do what and when.

Fortunately, you can make it easy for team members in the office or working remotely to stay on top of their to-do list and keep matters moving forward.

With a cloud-based workflow or task management solution, you can easily build customized workflows, assign tasks, and track project progress. When you select a tool that’s based in the cloud, you can ensure that all team members have real-time access to the project and task list, no matter where they’re working from. This helps everyone stay on the same page, meet important deadlines, and avoid duplicating work.

Another thing to consider is workflow automation. Of course, not all tasks or workflows can (or should) be digitized. But when used effectively, these tools can reduce the time-consuming burden of administrative tasks and boost productivity while also helping to reduce human error, improve compliance, and more.

5. Billing

In today’s environment, a modern legal billing solution is more important than ever before — especially when team members are dispersed. Outdated systems can quickly lead to major leaks in billable hours; whereas solutions that offer remote and mobile access make it easier than ever for lawyers to track time and expenses.

Ultimately, cloud-based legal billing software offers more than just a streamlined billing process for lawyers and legal professionals. It also means less time wasted on non-billable tasks — and more time for billable work. Plus, these solutions often include reporting tools to help partners better understand the big picture and make more effective decisions for the firm.

How to Select Tools for Remote Collaboration

As you look for tools to empower and enhance remote collaboration within your firm, there are boundless options at your fingertips.

But whether you’re selecting software for videoconferencing, document management, case management, project management, or legal billing, there are two main things you’ll want to prioritize:

  1. Look for cloud-based solutions. If you want your team to be able to stay productive no matter where they’re working from, stick with cloud-based platforms for anywhere, any device access.
  2. Don’t underestimate the importance of integration. Make it easier for your team to get work done by selecting tools that work together seamlessly. Non-integrated apps tend to have lower adoption rates and could constrain collaboration between team members.

Benefits of a Remote Workforce

The ability of your firm to work remotely is absolutely essential to business resilience and continuity. But that’s not the only benefit you get from having a partially or fully remote law firm.

Remote work has become a major priority for top legal talent. In order for your firm to attract and retain that talent, providing more flexible work options is key. Given the high rate of burnout that the legal industry is known for, being able to split time between remote and in-office work can help lawyers create a better work-life balance that actually enhances productivity, rather than stifle it.

To learn more about how your firm can turn remote work into a profit-boosting perk, check out our whitepaper, From Perk to Profit: How Law Firms Can Implement Flexible and Remote Work.

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