A couple of weeks ago, it was “business as usual.” Today, you may be scrambling to figure out how to keep your solo or small family law practice functioning in these days of social distancing and quarantine. Here are eight tips for running your family law firm remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.
By Burton Kelso, Technology Expert
Social distancing and quarantines have affected solo and small businesses globally. Just a few short weeks ago, you were still on the go – holding client meetings, wading through boxes of financial information, discovery, trial prep, and court dates. Punching in a time clock, dropping into customer locations to say hi, and hanging out in coffee shops to work and collaborate. All of that has ground to a halt which leaves many businesses scrambling to figure out how to stay in business. Fortunately, we live in the digital age and the Internet offers a lot when it comes to keeping your business operational, allowing you and your employees to work remotely, and keeping in contact with customers and connections. Wondering how you can use the Internet to work remotely? Here is my list of tips to help you and your business keep the cash flow coming in.
8 Smart Tips for Running Your Family Law Practice Remotely During the Coronavirus Pandemic
1. If you haven’t already done so, make sure all partners and staff are equipped with high-speed Internet.
It’s easy to say that you want to have everyone at your firm work remotely, but can you actually achieve it? The most important tool that you need to have at your disposal is high-speed Internet offering download speeds of 25 Mbps (Megabits Per Second) or higher. Does everyone currently have that service at home? To find out, visit Ookla’s Speedtest (www.speedtest.net) using the wireless or wired connection you’ll be using at home. Anything less than 25 Mbps can lead to problems connecting to your office VPN or cloud-based application. If you and your employees don’t have access to land-based high-speed Internet, look to your mobile carrier and see if a mobile hot spot is for you. Many mobile carrier plans can help you get access to higher internet speeds, and a hotspot can work as a router, allowing you to connect other computer peripherals such as tablets, printers, and routers to them.
2. Disinfect your tech.
The CDC is informing everyone to wash their hands, but dirty tech could defeat the purpose. Disinfecting computers and smart devices is very important. Initial studies indicate that the coronavirus can survive on cardboard for 24 hours and on hard surfaces like metal, glass, and plastic for up to 96 hours. Smartphones especially need to be disinfected as they sometimes have more germs than your average public bathroom. If you and your workforce have access to products like PhoneSoap, which uses UV rays to kill flu germs, encourage them to use this product to disinfect their devices. If you don’t have this UV-C sanitizing device, the company is currently out of stock but taking orders for devices to ship in May. While you’re waiting, there is a product called Pure and Clean that can kill flu viruses, or you could create a homemade disinfectant with 50/50 water and 70% Isopropyl Alcohol. When disinfecting devices with a cleaning solution, make sure you let the solution sit on your devices no less than 4 minutes before you wipe it away. If you’re thinking about using Clorox or bleach wipes to clean your devices, don’t – these products contain harmful chemicals that can damage your smart devices. Nervous about disinfecting your phone without destroying it? Here’s a helpful video showing you how to clean your smartphone safely.
3. Have an automatic backup of company data.
This should already be part of your firm’s playbook, but if it isn’t, you need to start today. Pandemic or not, you must ensure that there’s a backup of all of your firm’s data no matter where they are working from. Although you’d think this would be standard operating procedure for all companies, I still run into countless solo and small businesses that haven’t implemented automatic backups – or that only backup computers that are physically inside the office. aren’t backing up their stuff. The solution is simple. Implement a cloud solution like Carbonite Safe Backup Pro ($288/year for up to 25 computers) or BackBlaze for business ($60/year per computer for unlimited backup) that will constantly back up your data. Either one is a small price to pay to preserve your precious data.
4. Educate your partners and staff on the importance of cybersecurity.
One of the most important things solo and small business owners need to understand is that 99% cybersecurity attacks require user interaction – which means as long as no one is clicking on dangerous links (no matter how benign they may seem), you can keep your firm’s data safe. You’re probably thinking that if you are working remotely, you can’t infect the office network, right? Unfortunately, you’d be wrong about that. Lethal “Ransomware” attacks are designed to destroy the data on networks as well as local computers, and “Phishing” attacks are how most businesses are “hacked” these days. Educate you and your staff on how to avoid these attacks! Check out these sites to quiz yourself about your cybersecurity savviness:
You can also hire a cybersecurity firm like my company (Integral) to do routine checks to verify you and your employees aren’t falling for these scams.
5. Agree on a collaborating platform.
Are you and your staff going to log in to the office VPN? Will they use a remote desktop? These are questions you need to answer before everyone starts working remotely. If you’re wondering what cloud providers your colleagues are using, the 2019 American Bar Association TechReport notes that consumer cloud services are more popular than legal-specific cloud services – despite concerns about encryption security. The most popular consumer cloud services for lawyers include Google Docs (37%), iCloud (27%), Evernote (16%), with Office 365 lagging behind (7%). Popular legal-specific cloud services include TimeSolv, MyCase, Clio, and NetDocuments. If you’re looking to interact with your colleagues or clients face-to-face, I suggest Skype for Business or Zoom.
6. Have a trusted tech support team for you and your staff.
Hopefully, you have a dedicated IT manager or tech team for your company – but if you don’t, now is the time to hire one. If you need to hire an outside tech team, read online reviews and choose one that their clients praise as knowledgeable and responsive to their needs. If your tech team has to send a technician to your office or to an employee’s home, make sure they are taking steps to minimize the risks of transmitting coronavirus by disinfecting themselves and their technology, and wearing masks and gloves before they enter the building.
7. Stay social with social media.
Even before the pandemic, statistics showed that 2020 was going to be the year in which many businesses were going to have to make a major shift to using social media to stay in contact with clients and prospects. With everyone (hopefully!) practicing social distancing or isolating if they are in a high-risk group, it’s time for you to up your social media game. Keep in contact with your clients and potential clients by posting text updates, pictures, and videos showing how your firm can help them during the coronavirus pandemic. Remember: live streaming video goes up to 5x more connections, so get in front of the camera start reassuring your prospects that they can safely work with you during these scary times. In case you haven’t heard, divorce rates in China have risen soared recently because “couples are spending too much time together at home” during coronavirus quarantine, according to register officials. This trend may carry over into the West if spouses currently in weak marriages are forced to spend a lot of time in close quarters under social isolation or quarantine protocols. So you should keep up your marketing efforts – even if they take a few extra weeks to bear fruit.
8. Minimize hazards and hacking.
Take steps to make sure your devices and the information they hold don’t fall into the wrong hands. Enable utilities such as Microsoft, Apple, and Android’s “Find My Device” to locate or remotely wipe the data off devices if they are lost or stolen. Encrypt your mobile devices to keep company data safe. Encryption scrambles your data making it virtually impossible for prying eyes to see your information. With Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, it’s just a matter of putting a password on your devices. With Windows and Macintosh computers, you need to go through a more complicated process. Apple users need to enable File Vault and Windows users need to have Windows 10 Professional to use BitLocker encryption.
Finally, separate your personal and work devices, and do not use work devices for personal purposes. Letting kids play games on your office computer or smartphone can compromise your devices and your network with a virus or ransomware – which can put your firm at great risk.
Finding effective and efficient ways to run your family law firm remotely during the coronavirus pandemic can help your practice function during this period of social distancing. Make sure your firm takes the right steps and precautions so your practice will be able to ride out the quarantines and recover from any economic downturns that could follow in the wake of this pandemic.
Burton Kelso is the Chief Technology Expert and Founder of Integral, a technology company offering service, consulting and problem-solving for clients. He has worked with hundreds of customers across many different industries, and he takes pride in finding solutions tailored to each one’s individual needs. www.callintegralnow.com
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