Family lawyers working from home during the COVID-19 crisis need to keep on task (including tracking their time), set realistic boundaries for when they’re available to communicate with clients, offer helpful remote tools and technologies to their clients, and keep up with COVID-19 news and how it might impact their child custody matters.
By Chris Beck, Marketing and Sales Entrepreneur
There’s no precedent for how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. It feels like much of the world’s stopped turning. However, as a Family Law attorney, you’re continuing your work at home. The last thing you want is for circumstances to delay or derail your cases. But to keep your matters moving forward, you have to adjust to a new normal. Here are four tips for settling into a routine and helping your clients navigate shared child custody during the coronavirus outbreak.
4 Tips for Family Lawyers Working from Home During COVID-19
1. Keep on Task and Track Your Time
Transitioning to working from home when you’re used to going to the office is tough. One of the best ways to remain on top of your cases is to find the right tool to track your time, even if you don’t use billable hours.
Some Family Law attorneys rely on manual time-tracking methods, whether it’s paper and pencil or a spreadsheet. Fortunately, there’s a lot of helpful technology out there to assist practitioners. If your firm invests in law practice management software, such as Rocket Matter, MyCase, or Clio, or legal billing software like Timesolv Legal, Time59, or Bill4Time, then get to know the software’s time-tracking capabilities. These platforms let you track your time on specific matters, which makes invoicing less of a hassle.
If your firm doesn’t use practice management or billing software with a timekeeping feature, then consider a stand-alone time tracking app. Tikit Carpe Diem, iTimeKeep, and On-Core Time Master are just a few options. Some of these programs sync with legal billing software – something to check out before choosing one.
A final option is passive time-tracking software, like Time Miner. You can download programs onto your computer or phone that track how much time you spend on the applications on that device. This method has the benefit of documenting time on work-related matters you might miss in the whirlwind of distractions at home.
2. Communicate with Clients – But Set Boundaries
The best thing you can do is proactively reach out to your clients to address their concerns. Everything is up in the air right now, and they need assurance. They want to know your firm is open, and you’re still paying attention to their child custody matters. Let them know your firm is handling cases securely and confidentially while everyone works from home.
Don’t get stuck answering your phone and returning emails at all hours of the day. Working from home requires boundaries. If you’re taking care of children, relatives, and pets, be realistic about when you can answer and return phone calls and emails.
Manage your client’s expectations by giving them the most likely times you’ll be available. You might not be at a desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. anymore. Also, be honest about the amount of time it’ll take you to return messages. While you might have gotten back to most clients the same day while working at the office, it’s now reasonable to say there might be a 24-to-48-hour delay for non-emergencies.
3. Your Clients Are Home, Too – Offer Them Helpful Remote Tools
You aren’t the only one suddenly working from home. Many of your clients are navigating working from home with children out of school for the foreseeable future. There are at least 124,000 public and private school closures in the U.S., affecting at least 55.1 million students, according to Education Week’s Coronavirus and School Closure Map. Though parents should respect court-ordered parenting time schedules, they might have to figure out new childcare and schooling arrangements. Adjustments could put a parent in alcohol recovery at home with their kids for longer periods.
Handling a matter involving custody and alcohol presents unique challenges, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Children’s safety is paramount. A few months ago, an emergency room trip for a few stitches wouldn’t potentially expose the family to a dangerous virus. Now, families must avoid non-essential trips outside of the home.
Co-parents need solutions for working together and keeping their children safe. Telehealth and remote alcohol monitoring options are available to parents willing to prove their sobriety. Soberlink is a comprehensive remote alcohol monitoring system with automatic, real-time results, which a person can use daily or only during parenting time. Our FDA-approved remote testing system includes adaptive facial recognition technology, tamper detection, and wireless connectivity to a cloud-based web portal.
Everyone has to lean a little more on technology at the moment. As a Family Law attorney, introducing your clients to Soberlink demonstrates that you can offer the right solutions during the most challenging times. Parents can implement Soberlink remotely, and it gives them the tools to build transparency and trust and keep their kids safe all while staying home.
Soberlink tests can be submitted from anywhere at any time. Once the parent completes the breath test, the results are live immediately. It’s a non-invasive process a parent can complete quickly without leaving their kids unsupervised. Co-parents and other Concerned Parties can immediately receive the test results via email or text. It also allows users to view Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Reports
The children’s safety isn’t your client’s only concern, though. Ask your clients how they’re staying in touch with children who are at the other parent’s home. If they don’t have an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or a MacBook computer to use Facetime, they can use video conferencing software, like Zoom, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, or Skype to chat face to face.
Also, ask your clients how homeschooling is going. With widespread school closures, parents have suddenly become teachers. Many schools have moved classes online, but if this isn’t the case for your client, point them toward online educational resources. Many companies have made all or parts of their educational services free. Here’s an extensive list of things for children to do while they’re stuck at home.
4. Stay Up to Date with the News
The situation in the U.S. and around the world is continually evolving. Resources for staying up to date with what’s happening and how it might impact your clients include:
- World Health Organization
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
- Your State or County Department of Public Health
- Your Governor’s Office
- Your State, County, or City Bar Association
- Your Local Courts
- Your Local School District
Chris Beck is an entrepreneur who has been assisting small companies in marketing and sales services for the last 25 years. Balancing work from home and a growing family through foster care requires discipline and a strict daily routine. When he can squeeze in time to recharge, you can find him playing the local links and fueling his competitive spirit. www.Soberlink.com
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