It's been more than a year since COVID-19 first hit Canada, and although the general public has started to adjust to the new norm, it's still important to practice safety in order to continue to halt the spread of the virus.
Like other businesses, law firms also received a heavy blow from the impacts of the pandemic. Since a lot of courts were mandated to close for a couple of weeks, and even months, the amount of legal work for trial lawyers became more and more limited.
Some of the existing clients who can no longer afford extra expenses had to terminate or suspend the firm's legal services, cutting down the law firms' revenue . Same is through with new cases, walk-ins were rare and the economic crisis was taking a toll on the people meaning they had to be on a tight budget.
But as explained by Toronto Lawyer Jeremy Diamond, Senior Partner at Diamond & Diamond Lawyers, lawyers and law firms can still weather through the effects of COVID-19 by making some adjustments, specifically by leveraging what today's digital technology can offer
Jeremy Diamond: Embracing Tech for Remote Staff
Due to the nature of the COVID-19 virus, the government asked the public to practice social distancing when going to public places and urged them to stay at home as much as possible. However, people had to earn for a living. That is why, companies had to make arrangements to prevent their employees from violating the safety protocols set by the government.
According to Jeremy Diamond, it's pretty much normal for law firms to have work-from-home arrangements for their staff, in order to minimize the risk of contracting the coronavirus while going to or coming home from the office.
The good news is that the law firm's staff can continue to work remotely by embracing technology. There are applications that companies can use that let them communicate with their employees real time, and exchange and edit documents anytime.
Jeremy Diamond said that he has always been proud that Diamond & Diamond Law has always kept a good record of using digital technology even before the pandemic hit. From his previous interviews, he always mentioned that digital technology is one of the key elements for the company's success.
While it's true that other law firms haven't quite made that leap yet, it's not too late for them to adapt.
Getting Used to New Tools for Practicing Law
It is true that the pandemic has forced law firms to learn to use new technology in order to keep business going. We know that new tools are being introduced to the market every day, and keeping up with each would be a tough task.
According to Jeremy, Diamond and Diamond Law has picked a set of user-friendly technologies they can use to maintain the productivity of their employees while on a work-from-home arrangement. He added that it was quite easy for the whole team to adapt to the new technologies they introduced since most of the applications were being used by them anyway. They just had to attend a couple of workshops to have a deeper understanding of the advanced features of the applications to maximize it.
It also helps that there is no shortage of workshops and webinars that lawyers can take advantage of in order to learn how to use these tools. These workshops and webinars often focus on the usage of electronic signature tools, e-notaries, video conferencing platforms, and online or mobile payment platforms.
Jeremy Diamond: Communication Remains Important
Jeremy Diamond stresses that even with numerous tools at your disposal, their effectiveness will remain limited without proper communication. He said that the apps they currently use help them monitor the progress of the cases and strategize their course of action. Plus, it even lets lawyers and clients who can't meet personally talk over the internet and discuss a case's status.
In monitoring the remote staff, Jeremy requires them to attend the regular meetings set by the company through Zoom conferences. Still, the usual digital communication channels like emails should still be kept open as normal as possible, and even boosted with online messaging platforms
Don't Forget About Cybersecurity
It is not uncommon for cyberattacks to happen, especially in companies that hold a lot of personal information. Without proper cybersecurity programs in place, the clients of a law firm are left vulnerable to an attack that could put them at risk of cybercrimes.
When asked about this, Jeremy said that apart from the quality of their service, protecting the clients' confidentiality remains a top priority, even when working with remote staff. He gave us some of the cybersecurity practices that Diamond and Diamond Law follows to give other firms an idea on how to protect their clients' information. Some of the practices include:
Updating passwords regularly
Complying with the firm's security protocols
Exercising care when sharing the screen or when grabbing screenshots, to avoid leaking sensitive information
Purchasing a reliable antivirus software or anti-malware software, and keeping it updated
Take care of hardware (working at home may expose the employees equipment to kids, pets, or household accidents)
According to Jeremy Diamond: "Here at Diamond & Diamond Law, we were able to continue with our business by taking full advantage of technology and whatever tools we can use in order to help our staff and more importantly, keep on serving our clients even with the danger brought on by COVID-19.
This is our way of assuring our clients that even by remote, we can still fully function as their law firm and let them know that whatever happens, we're here to provide legal services whenever they need them.