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Working Remotely

Smokeball's Top Five Tips and Tools for Successful Remote Work

Discover practical tips and tricks, plus innovative legal technology that will enable your law firm to work productively from any location.

1. Maintain Effective Communication

While many firms may initially rely on email and text messaging to remain in touch, it’s best practice to have a central place that is not only set aside for work conversations but can also be archived as needed in the future. Likewise, for data security, make sure that your central communication hub is secure and can handle large files.

If you’re a Smokeball user you already have Communicate, which is a secure file sharing and messaging platform plus internal messaging service all rolled into one. With Communicate, you can direct message every user in your business, keep a paper trail on what was said, and automatically save messages to your relevant matters. Internal Matter Conversations gives you the ability to correspond to a specific matter. Additionally, Channels are a great way to create a group discussions around key topics like Firm Policies & Procedures, Coffee Club or Social Committee.

Your clients, too, can access messages that you designate for them so that they don’t feel left out if you shift to remote work. By using the Communicate app, you can give your clients 24/7 access to their matters and files, thus increasing your transparency and ultimately your reputation.

Video conferencing is also a realistic way to get literal face time with both your team and your clients. Doing so helps to keep engagement high and adds a level of authority and trust for clients who are unable to meet with you in person. Smokeball includes seamless Zoom integration, so firms can use Zoom directly in Smokeball — users no longer have to use a third-party app, and no longer have to take extensive notes to save back into a matter later. It’s all in one place.

2. Leverage Hybrid Cloud Technology

Cloud technology means all data is available almost immediately on all your devices in any location. Implementing practice management software that utilises both hybrid cloud technology and live data syncing is highly beneficial when working remote because it gives users you all the benefits of working in the cloud, while also giving you the freedom to work offline. One of the major assumptions is that users will have access to reliable and speed-sufficient internet access. But due to power failures or dead zones, may not be able to safely assume connectivity.

Smokeball operates in a hybrid environment and provides a failsafe alternative to other cloud software by ensuring that your work gets completed and saved regardless of internet coverage. This means that all your data and functionality work on your computer, whilst in the background all that data is syncing up to the cloud. If there is no internet available – no problem! The sync will pause and resume when it finds the network again and in the meantime you can keep working away producing documents, viewing your calendar, checking off tasks, recording time and getting work done. Smokeball is the only legal and conveyancing software on the market that delivers you this must-have functionality.

Live data synchronisation, like that in Smokeball allows multiple users to work seamlessly on the same matter without any delay. You can back up your data locally with one click or simply request a copy anytime. The minute a document is created, it’s saved in the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere.

3. Gain Complete Visibility into Staff Workload

To maintain high levels of productivity when working away from the office you need complete visibility into what your team is working on. You require full visibility into your practice. Visibility into each matter, not only the documents on it but the last piece of communication, whether it was a phone call or an internal chat conversation.​ Plus, visibility into your staff’s workloads so you can easily assign work to another staff member if someone is out sick or has to look after a child, so you can ensure that work is balanced evenly amongst your team.

Firms can't run their businesses on blind faith. Fortunately, if you use Smokeball, you already have tools for  total transparency: Firm Insights. Using our law firm insights and analytics capability you can see how many hours are spent on each task, which matters colleagues are working on, and which emails are being read and written. It’s also easy to assess where staff may have extra time to take on more work or where staff may be overused.

Do you also know if you are making money on your matters? Given the current environment, you must focus on the most profitable work for your firm - don't overwork your staff on matters that simply are not paying off. Firm Insights feed you profitability details in real-time. Smokeball shows how tracked time actually affects your bottom line and provides daily updates to easily keep track of your teams activity. Know how much time a matter is taking your staff and whether that means efficiency and more money in your pocket. Whether you work within a billable hour or fixed fee structure, get detailed breakdowns of new business, referral sources, time spent, and practice-area-specific data. Over time, you will see which clients and practice areas are the most profitable. Learn where you need to adjust your fees or increase focus.

Additionally, Firm Insights help business owners regain a sense of control. Even if everyone is working as productively as possible, the data analysis and projections contained within Insights allows firms to have more productive goal-planning and strategy sessions together. Instead of regular check-ins that can be vague, Insights allows all members of a firm to talk about specific goals, setting times and putting a price tag on that time so that everyone can feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when a matter is finally finished.

4. Stop Wasting Time with Time Recording

Long gone are the days of recording your time on slips of scrap paper and sticky notes. By leveraging legal software that automatically track every minute you spend on a matter, you will save serious time and find value in your work. Whether you bill hourly or fixed fee, automatic time-tracking tools will hand you the information needed to ensure your firm runs efficiently while you work remotely.

True automatic time tracking software like that found in Smokeball will capture everything you and your staff do within your practice management software, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Outlook. It is timed, tracked, and associated with the appropriate file automatically. No need to start and stop multiple timers or try to keep up with your busy day minute-by-minute on paper.

One of the biggest benefits of automatic time tracking is that it doesn’t depend on behaviour to track time. All they have to do is the task at hand and every second is tracked, recorded, and associated with the appropriate matter. No more “memory reconstruction” and no more time wasted trying to figure out exactly how much time was spent doing a task; the software does all the hard work for firms.

The benefits don’t end there, automatic time tracking helps you understand just how productive your firm is, but it also provides accurate and detailed information to clients. Being transparent with clients is especially important when working remote. Letting clients know specifically what a staff member did on a matter will help them understand their bill, and it has been proven to decrease billing disputes. Choosing a time-tracking system that is automated, accurate and comprehensive helps your firm get the most out of every second spent working on a matter. This is so important when working remotely as with the time you save on this, you can spend trying to add value to your current clients or try to get new business.

5. Boost Team Collaboration

Implementing software with shared Tasks and Workflows and Calendars is not just a productivity capability, it's the front line of effective collaboration as your team works from home. Fortunately, Smokeball users already have a solution built directly into their practice management software.

Tasks automate your team’s daily to-do lists. Assign tasks to yourself or colleagues and be in touch with everyone once the tasks are completed. Tasks save directly to relevant matters, so every message and file worked is automatically saved directly to the shared matter. Smokeball users don’t have to ask employees if they’ve done what was tasked to them; the Task list is shared, and the work is saved to the cloud, meaning everyone can access it from any computer running Smokeball. Best of all, Tasks won’t be overlooked as firms can set up shared Reminders, helping employees stay on top of tasks when they are not working together under one roof.

One-off to-do lists are one thing. But most firms require tasks that have to be completed repeatedly for similar matters. By bundling your team’s tasks into a Workflow capability, you’ll not only keep everything moving forward when working remotely. You’ll also be able to assign tasks to different members of your team, so that even from afar, team members can work together to advance a matter to completion. No members will be out of the loop either, as Workflows are displayed as a Daily Digest, auto-populating in employees’ calendars and appearing in daily emails so that members of a team can schedule their day as soon as they open Outlook in the morning.

When working remotely it is vital to establish clear and consistent communication with your clients and co-workers. Regardless if you’re the only one working remote, or if your firm has shifted to a "virtual" office, you need to make sure that your entire team is in constant communication to sustain productivity and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

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