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Remote Legal Teams: Best Practices for the Long Haul

By Leslie Firtell

Remote work and remote staffing are here to stay. What can law firm leaders learn about managing remote teams from ALSPs?

As volatility continues to rock the business environment, law firms and corporate legal departments will need to keep a steady hand on workflow and staffing. Most have embraced the reality that remote staffing is here to stay — at least for the foreseeable future.

Unsurprisingly, alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) have seen a rise in demand. In recent months, we’ve seen project staffing requests from law firms double. This echoes a trend noted even before the pandemic when over 50% of those surveyed in the 2019 Tower Legal Solutions General Counsel Survey reported their intentions to maintain or increase their use of ALSPs in 2020.

And while ALSPs have a long-standing reputation for helping law firms and legal departments keep overhead in check while ensuring quality work product, now they’re also being sought after for their expertise in remote staffing best practices.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing an ALSP to help you master the remote working environment.

Monitoring and Managing Remote Teams

The key to managing remote teams of attorneys successfully is ongoing interaction and support. Attorneys should be made to feel like part of the team — as if they’re working together in the same room instead of in a silo. Just like in a traditional office setting, regular communication engages your team to work toward collective goals and lets them know their contributions are valued.

Daily town hall meetings can be valuable for identifying and addressing challenges team members are encountering. They also give everyone the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences. These regular touchpoints encourage collaboration and instill a sense of cohesiveness and camaraderie while improving efficiencies and ensuring the consistency of work product. The project manager should recap these meetings with the law firm or corporate legal department to confirm the project is on track to meet its target date, and to help them understand any issues or opportunities that can be addressed on their end.

Continual oversight is important to the remote working model as well. Productivity benefits from monitoring that ensures team members are working in accordance with the law firm’s or department’s expectations and progressing toward their goals. Enforcement of standardized hours is critical. Team members’ consistency in working eight hours a day within a specified time range is essential to controlling workflow and keeping tracking of progress.

Ensuring a Fully Defensible Work Product

ALSPs should establish a well-documented process to ensure that all remote work meets the highest legal standards and results in work products that are fully defensible. Some aspects of this process — daily status reporting and decision log documentation, for instance — should be consistent for all assignments. However, careful tailoring also is necessary to take into account the specific requirements of the case at hand.

Again, continual monitoring is imperative to ensure consistency and accuracy. Each team member’s work should be scrutinized daily, supported by open communication so that they can make adjustments as needed to stay on track.

Securing the Technology for Remote Teams

The reason many legal organizations continue to balk at the idea of remote staffing, despite the pandemic, is concern over securing the technology used to do and transmit the work. The good news is that conscientious ALSPs have already worked out the kinks and are successfully equipping and protecting remote staffs. This is an area where you need to carefully screen processes, however. Some ALSPs are allowing use of personal laptops, tablets and other devices, or are not appropriately protecting sensitive data through firewalls, patching, antivirus scanning, multifactor authentication and endpoint security.

Ideally, your ALSP will send secure devices to each member of your remote team. These devices should allow users to log in and gain access to only the resources and materials they require to do the work, only during regular case room hours. Centrally controlled devices in a controlled environment are critical to security.

Beyond the technology itself, remote staff must be made aware of — and fully commit to — established security protocols (ideally by signing a confidentiality nondisclosure agreement). They shouldn’t review documents in public places, for example, and should shut their screen down when anyone might be looking over their shoulder. No one should have access to the documents and information related to the case except for the authorized staff member.

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Also on Attorney at Work:

“Tech Tips: Remote Work Lessons to Take Forward From the Shutdown”

“Working From Home: Three Essentials for Law Firms”

“COVID-19 Will Bring Permanent Changes to Law Firm Recruitment and Integration”

“The 5 Most Common Tech Challenges in the New Remote-Work Normal”

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leslie a firtell headshot Leslie Firtell

Leslie A. Firtell is founder and CEO of Tower Legal Solutions, a full-service alternative legal services provider that focuses on project staffing, temporary attorney engagements and managed services. A 22-year veteran and pioneer of the legal staffing industry and an attorney herself, Leslie introduced the benefits of legal staffing to law firms and corporations in 2007, before it was a common practice. Follow her on Twitter @TowerLS.

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