LEGAL LINES - Working from home

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

I remember a review of the legal aid system being released about a decade ago by Dame Margaret Bazley. She was critical of poor quality defence lawyers who, amongst other things, did not have an office in which to meet their clients and instead worked out of their car boots. Well, it wasn’t my first choice, but like many of you I have found myself being forced to work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Here we are in 2020 and I’m wishing I wasn’t tied to a commercial lease when I’ve realised that I can be almost as productive at home! So this month I’ll share some practical tips for working remotely to help manage the challenges that come with it.

Video calling
After getting over my fear of technology, I began to venture into the great unknown that is video conferencing, using the cloud platform Zoom. One of the other lawyers in my chambers suggested it and now we have virtual meetings at 8.30am each day. Admittedly my favourite meetings are on Fridays when we have a quiz, but having the ability to communicate frequently with my colleagues about various issues they have been facing has been invaluable. Interestingly, I have also been using it to witness oaths and declarations being signed, given that the isolation rules have prohibited face-to-face meetings.

Shared email inboxes
I have a Microsoft Office 365 business licence that I never fully appreciated up until now. This is the software package that gives us Word, Excel, OneDrive and email. Something I have found very handy recently is having an email address that can be shared with any number of people within your office, without needing to pay for another licence. This is a huge time saver if you have working groups or separate employee teams, because you can avoid everyone being tagged in every email. In addition to this, users with access to the shared inbox can see it on their email address directory and can send correspondence from the shared email address too.

Print to PDF
While I do have a rather modest printer at home, it certainly isn’t up to the task of printing large volumes of disclosure or voluminous reports that I receive from time to time. For those occasions I have discovered a way of storing downloaded documents for printing or accessing later. To do so, just click on the print icon, scroll down the list of printer options until you reach ‘print to PDF’, and select that.

Time recording
Until now I have manually recorded time spent working on a file in a spreadsheet, but this is inefficient compared with some of the great new programs available. One with a free base version is Clockify (www.clockify.me). I found it very user-friendly. It also has a synced mobile phone app that is a real bonus when you’re on the go. To get set up, select a name for the matter that you’re working on, and to record your time, select the matter, type a brief description of what’s being done, hit ‘record’ to start and ‘stop’ when you’re finished.

Scanning apps
This may seem shocking, but you probably don’t need a traditional scanner. Today’s smartphone scanning apps are simply that good. They are easy to use, capable of beautiful scan quality, and some are totally free. I have been using Genius Scan, which basically turns your phone into a pocket scanner. It enables you to quickly scan documents while you’re out and about and email the scans as JPEG or PDF documents. As if that wasn’t enough, Genius Scan provides easy upload to cloud service apps such as Dropbox. I’ll be the first to admit that I had my doubts, but after having worked remotely for an extended period of time, there is definitely an upside. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and in fact, it’s been long overdue because this has been a great opportunity for me to upskill and find new ways to make my life easier. I hope some of these ideas will help you make the transition more bearable by removing a few of the logistical hurdles that come with working from home.