Balancing Law Firms with the Modern Telecommuter
BY Hannah Felfe
Law firms are in the perfect position to take on telecommuting as a solution to limit spending, increase productivity, decrease burnout and optimize office space.
Telecommuting can heighten productivity by giving employees a chance to work in a comfortable and familiar setting.
Working from home also strengthens communication by adding value to discussions. There are exponential benefits to have partial or full work-from-home employees, but security expectations must first be established.
Matt Pinsker, a criminal defense attorney in Virginia, explains, “Attorneys are entrusted in protecting a client's secrets which can be damaging if revealed. It is possible for a law practice to set up a system with adequate protections to allow telecommuting, but practitioners without putting in place enhanced measures are putting themselves and their clients at risk.”
Cybersecurity is an enormous concern to telecommuters. Attacks are on the rise and some law firms are not aware of these threats. Logicforce surveyed more than 200 law firms in the United States on cyber awareness. The results:
- Each assessed firm was a target for private client information during 2016-2017.
- Around 40 percent had no idea they had been breached.
- 100 percent of the assessed firms were not compliant with their respective clients’ standards.
Employee education is the foundation to a secure law firm. If lawyers are not educated, they will not adhere to the correct policy standards of the company and client. Security barriers, training and policy testing are all necessary points to cover before considering taking on telecommuters. If your firm does not have a conducive cyber security policy, create one. While creating these policies for telecommuters and cyber awareness, keep in mind:
- File accessibility
- How paper copies will be treated, including storage at remote offices
- How the files can be shared
Clarity is crucial when establishing expectations for working from home. Whether it is maintaining up-to-date cyber security protocol or educating employees so they can complete their work remotely, communication is the base of a strong employer-employee relationship.
“The employer has to make [their] expectations clear from the onset if this arrangement is made,” said Elad Hakim, a Florida personal injury attorney with the law firm Elad Hakim, P.A. “If this is done clearly, it can be a win-win for employer and employee.”
Once security protocol has been established and communication surrounding work expectations is complete, your firm is ready to take on telecommuting employees. If you are still hesitant, take a closer look at the positive outcomes of working from home.
1. Productivity is important for law firms due to billable hours
- With no commute, more hours can be worked at home and lawyers can finish their day earlier.
- Working from home does not require dressing up, in turn allowing the telecommuting lawyers to start work earlier.
- There are fewer distractions at home. Consider an in-office day and how many people you talk to, how many questions you get asked and all of the distracting noise at work.
- There is less stress at home, furthering productivity.
2. Increased income comes from having telecommuting employees.
- With fewer employees in the office at a given time, lawyers can share work space so less total space is necessary.
- Lawyers working from home may attract new business by having another available office, whether this is a remote office or at home.
- Small firms will not require further expansion, while larger firms will have reduced need of space.
3. A personalized environment gives employees more comfort.
- With reduced stress by having more control over the space, lawyers will likely feel more at ease and in turn be more productive.
- Having flexibility is the most important aspect to telecommuting, allowing lawyers to work from home some days and go to the office for meetings other days.
The existing stigma surrounding telecommuting comes from law firms that have not experienced the growth potential of employees working partially from home. Taking on telecommuters is without a doubt a step in the right direction.
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