COVID-19 has brought booms in caseloads for most litigation practices, while also demonstrating the importance of using the latest technology both inside and outside the workplace. Here are a few tips for improving efficiency while working remotely.
- Transition to a paperless law firm. COVID-19 has increased the need for paperless law firms. Generally, two or three people may handle a law firm document in one day. It is difficult to sanitize a document in between use; however, there is a solution to the problem. Law firms can transition to a paperless system that reduces paper handling by several office staff. Upon receipt of documents from other parties, law firms can assign file clerks and/or legal secretaries to scan documents into the firm’s electronic file-storage system. There are several types of systems: (1) law-practice-management software; (2) private cloud storage; (3) and remote VPN (virtual private network). All three types of systems will allow all office staff to access documents remotely, which eliminates the need for paper handling by multiple staff members.
- Take advantage of PDF software editing. It is typical for attorneys to print documents to prepare for depositions and hearings. The documents are often printed so that the attorney may highlight, write notes, and or circle key items on the documents. If Adobe Acrobat Pro or similar software is used, the attorney can add notes, highlights, and/or other annotations to the documents. There are also other features such as combining multiple files, OCR (optical character recognition) the document, reorder pages, and edit text/images. Because depositions and hearings are occurring remotely, the attorney can view the documents on screen while simultaneously conducting the hearing and/or deposition.
- Use Slack for in-office communications. We do not anticipate an elimination of email; however there are modern-day alternatives to in-office communication. Slack is a platform that easily allows large-scale collaboration. It may be difficult to work on multiple cases with other staff members remotely; Slack reduces the need to send multiple emails about one case. All correspondence related to each case will have its own chat room. Within the chat room, law-firm staff members can communicate, share documents, assign tasks, and schedule video team meetings. This amazing software allows you to follow the communication of a case in one platform.
- E-File. Although courts now offer e-filing for documents, there are a great deal of law firms that use court runners to file their documents in person. Most often, each court system has its own e-filing system that requires a subscription. The subscription allows attorneys to file original documents into the court’s system, which eliminates the need for a runner to get a clocked copy, wait for a signature, and bring the documents back. Also, e-filing eliminates the need for mailing in the original to the court. E-filing can be simple and efficient.
- Use E-Discovery Software. E-Discovery software generally is a cloud-based platform that allows law firms to electronically review and produce documents. The software significantly reduces the need for paper handling while simultaneously streamlining document review.
Incorporating these tips into your law practice can help promote social distancing while also increasing efficiency—all to your benefit and the benefit of your clients.
Darrinisha Gray is an attorney with the Law Office of Robert T. Garrity, Jr in New Orleans, Louisiana.