25 May “I’m Not a Cat”– Can Lawyers Work from Home?
Work from Home Guidance for Working Lawyers
If you haven’t seen it, there is a Zoom video that went viral recently. The video shows a virtual legal hearing in which one of the attorney struggles to remove a filter that turns his face into a kitten. The laughable moment in the video comes when the lawyer assures the judge he is ready to proceed, saying, “I’m not a cat.” The video is funny but it also provides a good lesson and an answer to the question: Can lawyers work from home? In many situations, the answer is yes, but understanding the technology is critical and there are serious ethical and regulatory obligations to consider.
In this post we look at some of the important obligations for working lawyers to consider for their home offices as well as some tips for success with remote legal work.
Can You Work Remotely as a Lawyer?
3 WFH Considerations for working lawyers
Legal Obligations: One thing to note about the cat face video is a warning that appears in the video’s upper left panel of the screen: “Recording of this hearing or live stream is prohibited. Violation May constitute contempt of court and result in a fine of up $500 and a jail term of up to 180 days.”
The moral here is that it’s important to understand your legal obligations specific to virtual conferences as well as cloud computing and cloud storage. It is often your responsibility to secure virtual meetings.
Ethical Obligations: Working layers also have ethical obligations to their clients and their own firms to maintain high levels of professionalism, security and confidentiality when working from home.
Cybersecurity: As we’ve already touched-on, cybersecurity is a key consideration for remote legal work. A recent survey conducted by the American Bar Association identified these as top risks to legal firms after experiencing a data breach.
- Consulting fees to resolve problems caused by breach
- Downtime loss of billable hours
- Costs for replacing hardware or software
- Destroyed or lost data
- Notifying clients of the data breach
- Exposure of sensitive non-client data
- Exposure of sensitive client data
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10 Tips to Work from Home as Lawyer
1. Know & Test Your Streaming Technology
The “I’m not a cat” video teaches us that knowing how to remove a filter from your Zoom is important, but there are more ways things can go wrong. Know how to mute and unmute, share your screen and adjust settings for better performance for all your collaboration tools. If you don’t have time to improve your skills with meeting apps, make it a priority for someone on your team who can guide you and keep your virtual meetings and hearings professional. It’s always a good idea to test audio and video before you go live.
2. Create Work from Home Policy
A documented work from home policy will help legal teams stay productive and compliant with privacy and other regulations. In a recent article, Gartner Research offered some tips for a work from home policy so businesses can reap long-term benefits.
Here are a few considerations from Gartner to keep in mind before creating your work from home policy:
- A plan for addressing barriers and fears – many still fear working from home will negatively impact employee performance and confidentiality
- How you plan to maximize the benefits of work from home, including eliminated stress and time of commute, reduced overhead, increased size of hiring pool
- Prepare employees for work from home – clarify what requirements they will have to adhere to
- Identify suitable equipment and resources needed to enable employee home offices
- Provide adequate communication and collaboration technology – keep teams on track and on task
3. Cloud Governance
Cloud governance is a written framework of policies and guidelines a business applies to its use of cloud data and applications. The goal of cloud governance is to optimize cloud resources for network security, continuity, performance and costs. Cloud governance policies affect architecture, deployment, maintenance, operations and usage of cloud technologies. Learn more about defining cloud governance policies.
4. Connect Your Offices Through Managed Cloud Hosting
From collecting client information to sharing important legal documents, law firms face unique data management challenges. There are a number of options for secure cloud hosting for the legal industry, from VPN and virtual desktop integration, to application hosting. Managed cloud hosting is a type of tailored cloud services. With high levels of service, monitoring and control, managed cloud hosting is the best option for remote attorney work. It’s the easiest way to connect your systems safely.
Related Reading: VPN Pros and Cons for Business
5. Notify Clients & Colleagues
Communicate changes with your clients, staff and colleagues. If you are shifting from a traditional brick and mortar office to largely remote practice, transparency is vital. Send letters outlining your plans to set expectations and align stakeholders on communication and collaboration platforms you will be using. Include how clients can best reach you and what steps you’re taking to ensure they continue receiving high levels of service and confidentiality.
6. Go Paperless
Going paperless is a huge efficiency gain, particularly for a paper-laden industry like the legal profession. It’s simple to streamline remote attorney work with an entirely digital law firm. Benefits include better accessibility and flexibility, plus going paperless provides working lawyers accessibility to documents in the office, in the car, and in the courtroom.
E-filing: As part of your paperless strategy, check with the courts where you work for e-filing options as many are going digital.
Free ebook: Guide to the Ultimate Paperless Law Firm
7. Prioritize Video Chat Professionalism
Looking and sounding good on video will help you stand out with new or potentially new clients. It is best for lawyers to appear on video conferences with no filters (cat or otherwise), and without a virtual background. While many industries can present using a virtual background, there may be transparency concerns for lawyers, and an authentic, professional background will go a long way toward earning client trust. Consider redecorating your office space and consider investing in a good mic, webcam and light.
8. Be Prepared for Change
If you are transitioning from a traditional law office to work from home, the change can have more impact than you might expect. Be prepared so you can mentally adjust to the change. Here are 7 Tips for keeping your sanity and staying on task while working from home.
- Give yourself at least an hour between waking up and logging on
- Stick to your ordinary morning routine
- Create a break schedule for yourself
- Compartmentalize your workstation from your home
- Invest in your usual office supplies
- Exercise – Don’t become too sedentary
- Stay Social – connect with friends and colleagues for reasons other than work
If you want more info, we break these 7 tips down in this post.
Making sure it’s easy for your clients and team to connect with you is more important when working from home. Be sure to have multiple options for contacting you.
10. Software Automation, Tracking & Traceability
With remote attorney work, software solutions become even more important. Software like case management software, productivity management and billable hours tracking are critical to success. Collaboration tools like Slack and Teams will also help you stay on track.
How Can Lawyers Work from Home Securely
All joking about cat filters aside, cybersecurity is among the top concerns facing law firms and data breaches are a growing problem. Cybersecurity is a regulatory and moral obligation for working lawyers and securing a home office can come with its own unique challenges.
While the challenges around preventing a law firm data breach increase with remote work, the door to remote legal practice has now been opened and it is probably never going to fully close again. We recently published an in-depth article on this subject. Learn more: The Importance Of Law Firm Cyber Security And Remote Work
“I’m Not a Cat” Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGOofzZOyl8