I hope everyone reading this is safe and well. In the coming weeks, there is a good chance that many of us will take measures to protect our health, possibly including quarantining at home. Some of us may already have done so. With this in mind, I wanted to reach out and share some of the resources we use at FORWARD Lawyer Marketing and know of for working remotely.
I believe the contents of this article can help you limit any potential remote-work-related disruptions for your clients. Just as importantly, all of these tools and resources are free (or free with a premium option), sustainable, and take minutes — not hours or days — to start using.
I would recommend keeping things simple and familiar. You probably already have access to more remote-work tools than you know, and compatibility will always be better “in the family” so to speak. Here are some essential free (often with paid upgrades) remote tools grouped with their corresponding company:
As you start to get comfortable working remotely, you might consider expanding your toolkit. Think about Toggl for time tracking, Evernote for to-do lists, Dropbox for secure file-sharing or Slack for group chat. Some of these may offer additional utility, better free features, or an easier-to-use interface than the more integrated option. All are appropriate for small-to-medium-sized teams and scale up if necessary.
In any case, a web search should take you to a sign-in or download page for most of these applications. Most will contain a brief (1-3 minute) tutorial for new users, which I would suggest following if you have the time.
Temporarily it is probable that some existing and new clients will not be walking through your door physically, but you can automate the handling of incoming leads with a service that provides support for managing and analyzing customer relationships — CRM, in other words. There are many options, including Salesforce, Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Mailchimp, and so on.
I would recommend Zoho specifically because it integrates easily with some of our partner services at FORWARD marketing, such as the call-tracking software we use. There is an “entrepreneur” edition that is free for up to three users. We are happy to help get you set up on this platform as well as integrate with your call tracking if that is a technology you are currently utilizing. Zoho also has well over 60 million users globally!
For more traditional leads, your receptionist can take calls from your office number on any phone you choose. To do this, you will need to set up call forwarding. You should be able to find instructions on how to do this on your phone company’s website. For example, on a Verizon or AT&T landline, the steps are as follows:
If you decide to have your office work remotely temporarily during this time, hopefully, you can do this before you relocate home, but you should also be able to change your settings from anywhere by using an app, an online portal, or by calling customer service. The details could be different based on your service provider.
Video conferences will help you maintain an “in-person” interaction with your clients and potential clients. You probably already have an account on two of the most popular services for this: Skype and Hangouts. These also double as text and voice chat programs.
As I mentioned above briefly, Microsoft owns Skype. Just download the application and use the same password and user name you would with Outlook or any of the Office cloud products. Similarly, Hangouts is part of Google. You may not even have to sign in to use it. Just navigate to the Hangouts page and start a “New Conversation” with the contact or contacts you wish to speak with.
Most other video apps are simple to use and require only a phone number to start a new account. If your client asks to conference with you via a particular app, you can probably agree. Chances are that the process of downloading a new application and getting started will take you five to ten minutes at most.
Most of these options, including Facebook and WhatsApp, work on phones, tablets, desktop computers, or laptops — some even have apps for smartwatches. You can use the same account across all of your devices. You could conduct professional initial consultations with your computer and make quick responses on your smartphone, for example.
Currently, it is very easy to register for remote-signing services that will allow you to continue contracting with new clients remotely. You can do so in just a few clicks by navigating to the website in question and using an existing account, such as your Google ID, to access the service.
DocuSign is the leading brand in remote signing. It is also relatively expensive. There is no free plan, and the cheapest option is an annual contract for $120. Although this is a competitive entry-level price, it will only get you 5 signatures per month and some extra features, such as reusable templates. Here are some alternatives with free plans for low-volume signing:
These three services all have higher-level plans if you need more signatures, with prices similar to DocuSign’s lowest level of service. You can also find various free trials, including one with DocuSign. However, I would recommend establishing something sustainable if at all possible.
Even seasoned trial lawyers sometimes feel uncomfortable on video. It’s unnerving, akin to hearing a recording of your own voice played back to you. You will get used to it, but there are also some steps you can follow to improve your appearance on video calls with clients. You can accomplish all of these without buying any new equipment:
From a managerial and leadership standpoint, I would recommend erring on the side of too much interaction and oversight when transitioning to remote work. If nothing else, this will let you keep abreast of changes in your team’s dynamics.
This would be my process for a firm with no remote tools or experience:
As you can see, I would prioritize communication before processes. I believe this is the best way to minimize interruptions. After all, you can only address your most pressing challenges if you know what they are.
I hope this resource will help. Overall, each suggestion here is based on up-to-date information (as of mid-March 2021), representing a cost-effective and simple resource for conducting your practice safely from home until the current crisis passes, which it will!!!!
If you have any questions at all or if there is anything we can do to help facilitate if you decide to implement any of these processes, please don’t hesitate to contact our office by calling (888) 590-9687 or talk to a live chat representative on our site, and someone will be in touch with you shortly thereafter. If you are a law firm that we don’t work with, we’d be happy to help as well. No expectations and no strings attached. Thanks and be well.