A Guide for Lawyers Working From Home: What You Need to Know

by Bruce Policky / April 02, 2024

A Guide for Lawyers Working From Home: What You Need to Know

Remote working is not the same buzzword it was back in 2020 or 2021. Today, remote working has become an accepted and embraced part of the professional landscape.

16% of companies are fully remote and 51% have adopted hybrid work for their employees. There are now three times more remote jobs than there were in 2020. 98% of remote employees want to continue working remotely indefinitely.

But how is remote work playing out for law firms? The legal industry has long been slower to adopt trends and tends to take more conservative perspectives on workplace culture. Still, where does that leave us today? How has the landscape changed and what can your law firm do to make the right choices for how your practice operates?

Here’s what lawyers need to know about how they can most effectively work remotely and from home.

Can lawyers work from home?

Although it used to be less common, more law firms are embracing remote work models and giving attorneys the freedom to work from home. The transition to remote work within the legal profession has unfolded against a backdrop of necessity and evolving workplace expectations, clearly demonstrating that lawyers can effectively work from home. This capability has transformed not only where legal work can be done but also how law firms envision the structure and delivery of their services. Remote work, once a novel concept, has become a mainstay in the legal sector, signifying a permanent shift towards more flexible and digitalized working arrangements.

In fact, lawyers, like the majority of the working population, have embraced remote work. In an ABA report, the vast majority of attorneys (87%) stated their workplaces permitted remote work. A third of respondents stated that they primarily worked from home, but, intriguingly, another third of respondents stated they worked primarily in their office.

Attorneys who work remotely or on a hybrid basis reported that neither the quality of their work nor productivity nor billable hours have been negatively affected by their working arrangements. Women in particular stated they benefited from remote and hybrid work, as it helped them balance work and family responsibilities. So, the question is no longer whether lawyers can work from home, but how can they do so most efficiently.

Leveraging technology for remote legal work

Legal tech has helped bridge the gap between office work and work out of the office. In 2021, legal tech generated $27.6 billion in revenue worldwide and the market is forecasted to expand by over 4% annually through 2027.

While the drivers of the legal tech industry are complex and can’t be solely attributed to remote work, it has doubtlessly benefited from the development and expansion of tools used to power remote legal work. Tools that law firms rely on to work remotely include:

  • Video conferencing software
  • Communication tools such as messaging apps
  • File-sharing and eSignature tools
  • Cloud-based storage

Even tools that aren’t tied directly to remote work have thrived in the remote work environment.

Document automation, project and case management software, and online payment options have become more powerful, allowing lawyers to streamline their workflows and maximize productivity. What’s more, an increasing number of these tools are being built into legal practice management software, creating a more seamless experience for lawyers as they conduct their work.

Collaboration can happen easily (without compliance risks)

Tools like those detailed above have made working on legal matters between coworkers easy. Colleagues can use project management software to ensure everyone is on the same page with progress on legal matters. File-sharing makes it simple to exchange documents. Video conferencing allows attorneys, legal staff, and clients to meet regardless of location.

But can they do so and stay in line with legal compliance requirements?

Compliance questions need to be considered in all aspects of legal practice, but they have borne particular concern as law firms shift into remote work. That’s because the protocol for maintaining security for client information requires calibration.

Thankfully, with the right tools and policies, attorneys can strictly adhere to legal compliance standards.

Take, for example, implementing eSignature software to finalize critical legal documents. eSignature is not only recognized as legally valid but when practice management software, such as Tabs3, integrates with a legal-specific eSignature like LexSign, client data is protected by bank-level end-to-end encryption.

Client preference plays a big role in how remote work plays out

The client experience factors into how law firms consider remote work options for their practice. But which way is the wind blowing?

The answer is nuanced. While there is variation based on practice area, client demographics, and stage of a legal matter, many clients indicate that they prefer in-person meetings with attorneys during the initial stages of legal matters. However, they often prefer to receive updates through other forms of communication (phone, email, client portal, etc.) rather than coming into the office for a meeting.

Importantly, a 2021 survey by Thomson Reuters indicates that clients have not perceived a negative impact in their experience with their attorneys working remotely.

Tips for lawyers working remotely

Regardless of how your law firm proceeds with its own approach to remote work, there are steps you can take to make it more successful for your attorneys. Follow the tips below to make working from home (or wherever your attorneys choose to open up their laptops) as successful as possible.

Establish a clear remote work policy—or ask for one

Inconsistent policies about how often your attorneys can work remotely and how they are expected to conduct their work cause stress, confusion, and decreased productivity. Clear, consistently implemented policies, on the other hand, give your team confidence and empower them to do their best work.

A robust remote work policy should cover the following concerns:

  • Which team members can work remotely and how often
  • Working hours
  • Expectations for timekeeping
  • Communication guidelines
  • Technology usage
  • Security and compliance protocols

Keep your tech stack up to date

The early days of remote working are gone. It’s not reasonable to expect attorneys to cobble together software and tools so they can do their jobs remotely.

Instead, attorneys expect that their employers have considered all the resources and guidance they need to successfully do their job out-of-the-office. That means your legal tech stack needs to be configured for attorneys and staff who are not in the office.

One of the most significant pieces of this consideration is legal practice management software. While the early days of the pandemic saw a boom in cloud-based software, desktop software has caught up by establishing efficient, effective processes to allow remote workers to access their software from anywhere.

With secure access to fully integrated law firm practice management software, attorneys can complete their most common tasks from home, including:

  • Billing and invoicing
  • Time tracking
  • Planning and setting appointments
  • Sending and receiving secure emails, legal documents, eSignatures, and more
  • Managing progress of legal matters
  • Compliant legal accounting
  • And more

While it is possible to build out a solid tech stack for your law firm by combining different tools, your team may benefit from a comprehensive practice management system that combines all the tools they need.

Tabs3 has been an industry leader in on-premise practice management software for decades. But for Tabs3 users, desktop software doesn’t mean being confined to your desk. With Tabs3 Cloud, you can access all the features of Tabs3 Billing and Financials from wherever you work. For mobile users, Tabs3 Connect brings the full functionalities of Tabs3 Billing and PracticeMaster to your phone. You also get access to features like HotBackUp, Auto-Recovery, and more.

Security needs to be a priority

Security threats have been on the rise since before the pandemic, but the remote work boom kicked them into high gear. As a legal professional, you need to ensure the highest degree of security possible for your team and your clients. Steps you should take include:

  • Provide privacy and security training for all attorneys and legal staff
  • Limit access to sensitive data in your practice management system
  • Assess your cybersecurity protocols
  • Work with your IT professionals to ensure they have the appropriate certifications to protect your server

Remote work + Tabs3 is a winning combination for law firms

Remote work with Tabs3 Software is secure, compliant, convenient, and accessible. With more than 40 years of experience offering cutting-edge legal technology to law firms, we’re dedicated to following even the industry’s strictest compliance and data security regulations while offering attorneys a flexible working experience.

Check out the Tabs3 Cloud and Tabs3 Connect product pages to learn more about what each has to offer.

Request your free trial or schedule a demo to see how Tabs3 Software’s fully integrated suite of software products can revolutionize the way your law firm functions on a day-to-day basis, whether remotely or in the office.