November/December 2020

Tech From the Trenches

Recommendations for the New Normal

Barron K. Henley

Much as been said about what the legal industry will look like post-COVID. For law offices operating on a mostly analog platform, the stay-at-home orders were significantly disruptive. Other, more digitally progressive offices were less affected. Regardless of how it affected you, the pandemic is going to change the way law offices operate going forward. From a business perspective, the new reality is going to be better than the old one. Here are few technology and practice management recommendations for the new normal.

Upgrade your web meeting game.

Obviously, a high percentage of meetings are going to occur online in the future. Therefore, it makes sense to take steps to improve the web meeting experience. The first step is to get a better camera than the ones typically built into laptops or all-in-one PCs. For example, Logitech makes a wide variety of superior webcams for every purpose. Generally speaking, you’ll look better and clearer. For better audio, a headset is an easy upgrade (see the Plantronics Savi devices, for example). Some web meeting services can blur or replace your background with photos or other images. However, you never know what you’re going to get with someone else’s web meeting service. If you would like to conceal what’s behind you, backdrops are an easy fix. For example, I have the Emart Photo Video Studio Background kit, which comes with black, white and green backdrops. Finally, even an excellent webcam cannot completely compensate for bad lighting. For that reason, it may be worth improving your lighting. If you do a web search for “videoconference lighting,” you’ll see that there are hundreds of options. I went with a pair of dimmable LED video lights so I could put one in my home office and the other in my regular office.

Electronic filing systems are required.

It’s pretty simple: If you want complete remote access to all client files, you need an electronic filing system. So, complete electronic filing systems should definitely be on the agenda for every law office. Electronic files are remotely accessible and easy to share, copy and back up. They’re also easier to update, and they require little to no physical space for storage. Lawyers who prefer to print documents and review them with a pen will find that doing the same thing on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil is a very similar experience although it’s all digital. Reading documents on a computer can also be made much easier by getting larger monitors that can rotate to portrait layout (rather than landscape) so users can see a whole page of text without having to scroll. Finally, law offices are going to need a better storage vehicle for all those electronic files (and email). A convoluted folder structure no one can make sense of and nonsensical file naming conventions will not cut it going forward. Therefore, document management systems are going to begin moving from optional to mandatory for many offices. Example programs include NetDocuments, Worldox, iManage Work and OpenText eDOCS, among others.

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