After the first Legal News Exchange event (Let’s get together) on the 27 March, it became clear that legal professionals were embracing the leading communications software on the market (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc) but there were still some gaps in terms of the more specific applications that can support work in practice – from bundling apps to some of the features within existing case management systems.
William Whawell, lead practitioner at Auxilium – legal project practitioners, auditors and analysts based in Cardiff, has worked from his home office for years and has shared some of his tech tips to enable you to work from home efficiently and safely – from the basic to the outrageous.
In these trying times many professionals have had to adjust to home working. This isn’t so easy as numerous things,(aside from children, husbands and wives getting under each other’s feet and the dog thinking it’s a holiday), it can go wrong.
My top tips list is in many ways limitless. I have restricted it to tools we use a business as these are ones I know, but that is not to say that there aren’t others you can try.
As a Legal Project Practitioner and as a firm who are ISO 9001 certified, we find a structure for our work essential so these tools assist in that.
That includes everything from Case Management Software to printers and copiers, scanners and fax software, dictation to bundling. By learning how to do it internally the costs savings are vast, and the ability to work as an agile firm will pay dividends.
I’ve listed some software, applications, cloud tools, communication platforms, legal apps, hardware and machine set up tools below.
Case Management Systems should have as standard numerous apps to help you, from client portals, to shared drives, text messaging, calendar apps and invites. If they aren’t being utilised, ask why. If the price is excessive, challenge. This stuff isn’t expensive.
Some practical & software tools to help you survive:
- Powerline connectors to extend broadband around the house and provide both an ethernet port where you need and wifi in each room.
- Ethernet is essential for stable working and especially if there is more than one of you using a standard broadband line which aren’t the best.
- Useful hardware: Performance powerline
Office 365 – the staple of any office and provides access to the whole family of Microsoft applications such as Outlook, Word, Excel and Teams. This isn’t as expensive as you may think and is well worth the investment. Sharing documents within and externally from the business are safe and easy to do. The Teams application is fantastic and replaces ‘Skype for Business’.
G-suite for business
This is the cheaper alternative to Office 365, has the same functionality as Office and can be downloaded and used offline. G-Suite for business.
Applications & Communication:
WhatsApp & Telegram
Your clients will all probably have one or the other – and I’m sure most lawyers have already benefitted from WhatsApp in a personal or professional capacity.
Didi you know? Both also work on a PC so you can save conversations with a client or colleagues. They also have end-to-end encryption so they are secure.
Skype & Skype for Business
- Skype allows you to make calls over the net.
- Video calling is also possible
- Skype for Business is now MS Teams (as above)
Microsoft Teams takes Skype further: it can be used a central hub for you the office and your clients. Share files, make calls hold a hearing and have separate rooms so if you need to separate out clients, the other side, experts, etc, and you. Click here to download MS Teams.
Zoom is a sophisticated application allowing conference calls, video calls, screen and file share. Questions can be typed in and replied to via the Chat function and you can keep a video record of the entire session for reference (including the text content).
Like many apps there are levels of membership that are available.
Zoom does allow you to choose a background for any calls you make via video either built in or you can add your own image – just be mindful of the choice dependant on audience.
Legal News Exchange events are all hosted via Zoom – so if you’d like to see how they work and what the platform can offer you, join our latest event (visit our events page to see the latest schedule).
Law firms should have long ago invested in voice recognition software and many case management systems have this built in.
Dragon Dictate has an app for use on the road or on your phone, reduces overheads in terms of support and is very simple to use. It is not as expensive as made out.
Efax still has a place. Again, your CMS should have it built-in, but if not, there is Efax. As the name says, you can send a fax electronically and receive a fax. Every fee earner can have their own number and it’s a low cost per month.
Box is simple to use and lots of in-built functionality to allow for files to be shared, etc.
MS OneDrive is built into your Office 365 account. I highly recommend you get to grips with the full potential of its features.
If using a laptop, invest in an external monitor and good HDMI / connecting cable. A 24 – 27 inch screen is perfect, and invest in two monitors if you can afford the costs and space that they take up.
Docks laptop riser keyboard & mice
An external keyboard is far superior to any laptop and an external mouse will reduce strain.
You need to have Windows 10 Pro (not home) and a good anti – virus software with ideally a firewall built into it. A decent printer isn’t an expense the current range of Brother (we use, so bias) are excellent all in one choices.
Webcam Speakers & Microphones
A good webcam will have a mic built and your laptop and or monitor should have speakers.
If not, then there are a whole range of speakers that also double as a conference phone as well and can be used with Zoom, Slack etc. Here are some of the latest Techradar ‘top rated’ components.