Prior to COVID-19, I would say that my practice could be run 50% virtually. Enter pandemic, and with a few changes to technology, all of a sudden I’ve been able to operate 100% virtually. In fact, I’ve joked with my team that we could actually legitimately run our office from a beach in Mexico – although they laughed, then quickly realized that I wasn’t kidding!
I made some changes to my technology, and it’s made all the difference in the world. Here’s a few of the things I implemented or enhanced in my practice:
- Video-conferencing – we had been using Zoom for about a year prior to COVID-19, so we were able to hit the ground running, switching all clients to virtual meetings rather than in-person meetings. I used to only use the basics of Zoom, but now I have found there’s so many features which enhance meetings – I send clients links through the chat function, share my screen to easily review legal documents with them, and even use the whiteboard function to explain things. The great thing with Zoom is that the other participants don’t need an account to join a meeting – just send the link and away you go. I’ve looked into the security features, and implement meeting safety at all times – locking the meeting once all have arrived, using the waiting room, disabling the “chat between participants” feature to prevent mediation clients from sending private messages between them, and other features. I’ve been able to prep clients on the documentation, and then when they have to come in to sign it’s literally less than a 5 min meeting, and we have been able to put into place effective protocols on sanitization for everyone’s safety. Easy!
- Online storage – I used to have a physical server unit, and have moved to cloud-based document storage. I can now get access to my documents on any device easily. No more logging in thru the VPN and dealing with slow access to documents – that hourglass on the screen is no more!
- Cloud-based accounting – I used to use PC Law for my accounting software, and for that one needs a physical server which we didn’t have anymore. We knew we needed to modernize. We looked into a few options, and decided to go with Cosmolex. I like that it is an all-in-one solution – trust and general accounting all in one (Clio needs Quickbooks or another software for general accounting). I can now make entries on the go – on my cell phone, iPad, laptop etc. The bonus feature in my mind is the client portal. I’ve been wanting a solution like this for years! Gone are the days of email attachments! No more receiving piles of disclosure over multiple emails, battling with oversized files.
- Soft phones – I needed a solution that allowed me to make phone calls from where ever I was. Enter Telus Biz Connect (there’s lots of options, but this one worked for us – it helped that there was a 90-day free promo happening too). Even before COVID, I found myself needing to call clients from my cell phone often, and I would have to go into my settings, block my number, make the call, then remember to unblock my number after (it usually took a week before I would remember that my ID was blocked). Now, with our soft phones, I can make calls from any device – iPad, cell phone, laptop, desktop, etc. All the while, the caller ID always remains the same as my office number. When a client calls in for me, the call can be transferred to my cell through the app seamlessly, identically to when I’m sitting at my desk at the office. Even beyond phone calls, the system is an all-in-one solution actually allowing us to text out, send/receive faxes, and even do video-conferencing (it’s created on the Zoom platform but has the Telus branding). We have it set so that whenever anyone calls out or faxes out, the caller ID is always our main office & fax numbers, but for texting each team member has their own direct number. We don’t use texting for substantive matters relating to the clients’ files, but the assistants use it for quick back/forth communication to set appointments, confirm appointments, let clients know when we’re running late, etc. So handy!!!
These are a few of the features that we have implemented over the past couple months. For years we had worked with mediocre technology that was great in the office, but that was just not set up for great use virtually. Working from the beach all winter seems more in reach than ever before!