Now that legal department employees are working primarily from their home offices because of the COVID-19 pandemic, business operations are anything but usual. Legal department managers are tasked with an important job: how to remotely keep operations running smoothly while maintaining high employee productivity.
How do managers meet this lofty goal? Many are turning to legal matter management technology to help run their department. With a centralized software platform that helps manage everything from documents and emails to meetings and notes, management can keep a close eye on employee performance, business trends and productivity metrics to determine how the business is doing and what gaps may exist.
With the new reliance on technology comes a small learning curve for some, but the benefits of selecting the right software to help automate repetitive tasks, track key metrics and help employees become more productive makes any extra effort to adopt new technology well worth it.
Challenges of Managing Legal Department Employees Remotely
There are a few hurdles to overcome when managing employees remotely. By examining each challenge, you can decide how the right technology solution may be able to help solve it.
Challenge #1: Ineffective communication and collaboration among team members.
When you’re face-to-face in the office, communication among employees is just easier, quicker and more convenient. So, when legal organizations (and the majority of others across industries) were forced to switch to remote working at the start of the pandemic, challenges naturally arose. But collaboration and communication have been cited as a top struggle by remote employees even before the pandemic. Since communication is such an essential part of any healthy work environment, it’s crucial that you employ technology that makes collaborating and staying connected easy.
Challenge #2: Employee productivity is difficult to track.
Since remote work is fairly new to the legal community, many managers fear that employees will be less productive at home when faced with possible distractions or lack of management supervision. There’s also the issue of accurately tracking employee performance at home in order to provide effective coaching and feedback. Since the option of being physically present to monitor workers may not be realistic right now, look to virtual tools you can rely on to track employee productivity and measure specific business metrics.
Challenge #3: Employees lack important documents and resources needed to do their job from home.
The physical legal office is bursting at the seams with copy machines, jumbo printers, loads of paper and file folders galore. These tools seem like a distant memory when you’re working from home and a desktop printer is as good as it gets. While working from home has its advantages, the physical office amenities can make work life much easier. That’s why it’s essential to establish a “virtual office” for employees to access all the key documents and case files they need, as well as contacts and other information that are typically stored at the office.
Five Tips for Effectively Managing Employees Remotely
While each office is different and the approach to remote work isn’t the same for everyone, here are some universal tips that can apply to almost any manager trying to navigate the “new normal.”
- Establish routines for regular communication and collaboration among employees.
There are a variety of ways managers can help bridge the communication gap when employees can’t gather in person. It’s important to keep lines of communication open so team members can get the information they need and keep projects moving. Legal matter management software provides a centralized platform for communicating across all files and documents within a particular matter. This eliminates the need to jump back and forth from email to case record to chat. Instead, everything is in one place and stored for future reference.
Through a built-in messaging system within the software, employees can receive automatic notifications of important dates—enabling better communication between users working on the same case or matter. Matter management software can also provide routing, which allows users to send a message attached to the event (calendar, to-do, note, phone message, mail log, document, time entry and expense entry) to one person or multiple people. All messages are then recorded in an audit history of communications tied to the event.
- Utilize technology tools to assign cases/workloads to employees and track tasks.
As a manager, you’re constantly juggling the best way to handle employee caseloads, as well as other tasks and other work project assignments. Legal matter management tools allow you to specifically track and review the activity of all users. With this technology, you can view employees’ calendars, to-dos/tasks, documents, time entries and other action items. It also offers an easy way to review other users’ task lists and assign or reassign workloads. Notifications can also be sent through the software triggering when a matter or case has been switched to a new status or phase.
Additionally, you can create custom reports specific to the requirements of your department and schedule with the reports scheduler. This way, you can report on case activity and have it automatically delivered to your email inbox every day, week or month.
- Create a virtual resource/document library for employees to easily access.
Without easy access to key legal documents and cases, not much work will be accomplished for your employees—no matter where they’re located. While many legal offices had already started shifting away from physical documents and file folders before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, some had still been hesitant to make the switch to an all-digital resource/document library.
Legal matter management software provides a built-in organizational system for your department’s documents. With collaboration and sharing features available, employees are able to remotely access and collaborate on all the critical case documents they need—from home. Matter management software also provides the ability to search documents by metadata like name, date ranges, status, number, type, classification, recipient, signer or author (and in various combinations). No more lost case files!
- Utilize analytics tools to track time and other trends.
With legal matter management software, you can more easily track billable hours or time spent on a matter. Choose from multiple methods that are most convenient to your team:
- At the employee level where the case is referenced on each time entry
- Directly from the case where the reference is automatically filled out
- On key actions such as calendar entries, to-dos, documents, notes, phone logs, etc.
Management can easily pull time tracking and many other user activity reports to gather insights on trends within the department, as well as other key performance metrics needed to help with employee feedback and coaching.
- Provide employees with better ways to manage expenses and invoices.
With the many responsibilities that employees are tasked with each day, anything managers can do to make the job easier is a huge win. One way employees can benefit is to implement a software system that will streamline expenses and invoices. Case and matter management software can track all files and related expenses within a single platform and tie the expenses directly to the file they’re associated with. Expenses such as research fees, records fees, copying or outside counsel fees can be entered easily into the system. Once the expenses are entered, they can be seamlessly reviewed, approved and exported to many popular accounting programs for payment, while maintaining a permanent record in the software system. Additionally, the software provides the ability to establish billing rates, set up tax rates and generate invoices based on any and all of this data.
Legal Files is the Software Tool Managers Need for Remote Work
In today’s work landscape, there’s tremendous pressure on managers to accomplish more with less resources. Legal Files provides all the support and training necessary for you to customize our legal matter management software using built-in tools to meet your own unique requirements. Our platform is on-demand and available 24/7 to help you (and your employees) be more productive and efficient in today’s new remote work environment.
Request a demo today and learn more about how we help organizations like yours manage what matters most.