I’d like to share some of my thoughts and experiences I have had along the way with building a firm and moving to become a very agile team with a fully cloud based approach to working on client matters in a law firm.
We have long moved away from the server based file system. It was one of the top two things on my list to avoid when I set up my own firm. The first was never to lease or buy a copier that will require me to fix it with an old part that cannot be easily ordered, that was a big pain in older firms I worked for. The second and probably most important to productivity over the years, was to never rely on a physical computer server sitting in some spare room of the law office that meant no one can do anything until we could physically be in the office to access the system and clients files. I also wanted to avoid those times when the server would stop or break down at the most important times during work hours and we would have to wait for a technician to come fix it for us to reboot and get us back up and running.
In daily life we are used to the modern convenience of internet banking, online shopping, and the ability to access a file anytime online for an answer, a fun break, or a video that teaches a new life hack. Surely being a lawyer should have only better ways to manage our work, our relationship with the information we hold for clients, and our know how and resources. Cloud was the only way to go for our file management. I was very lucky to be introduced very early on with a NZ based software company doing a cloud based Legal Practice Management system and we were one of the first adopters of online based systems. This allowed us to become nimble, agile and have the ability to communicate and access our files anywhere anytime.
When I set up the firm, I wanted to have a career like the one Clooney had in the movie Up in the Air (2009). He travelled light, and he could do his work anywhere from a laptop and simple carry on suitcase. I practised that a lot in my business travel since starting my firm, my goal was to become this magic business woman who could have a bag too small to be true for my female friends to understand who needed a full check in luggage for a weekend away for fun. The ability to travel and work for clients in other places has meant I have been constantly away from the physical offices and files. I had not seen how Clooney organised his notes or records when he returned to his desk at his base in the movie but concluded that he must not need to do that when he came back from his travels because that would be too boring and time consuming for him to have liked his work. Thus my work as a mobile lawyer began with my cloud based legal system at my side wherever I went.
I enjoyed the benefit of direct access to virtual file notes that are logged directly into the client matters in the cloud. The cloud based file storage allowed me to upload and download documents anywhere I went. I felt as available when on a plane with WiFi or seated in a Starbucks in another country as I was when based in the office. The cloud based system we use, to me, is that special thing that has changed how I work, how I conduct business with my clients, and allowed me to be as agile and open many doors to markets I may not have ever thought possible with paper based systems. I was able to access it from places like China where the countywide firewall could stop the world from moving on the internet, but for me I could keep working as if I was in the office. I could have the benefit of the full client history right there on my laptop and every scan and draft was available to me, as long as I was connected to the internet.
Being online and using a virtual file of documents also offers a lot more peace of mind for those who are concerned about the paper waste in the law office environment. We still have to have the copier, but the cloud based file system allows us to avoid having drafts printed out, as you can share and view the files without the need for each lawyer to have a physical copy. In fact it allows our team to work from anywhere not just for business travel restrictions but when some have to work from home for family or health reasons we were able to retain their services and consistency of work, without feeling inconvenienced by any of these necessary flexibilities we hope to achieve for one another. This was another thing I wanted to accomplish with my firm being in the cloud. It gave my team the flexibility to work from where they needed to at those times where they couldn’t be in the office because of convenience like terrible traffic or family life.
Life is hard sometimes for our lawyers. They may face health issues with their loved ones, have international work commitments for their spouses, or have significant family members who need their presence and support around home. With a cloud based system, we are still in the same work space. We can collaborate in a way which the current generation is willing to work and we embraced this change from early on in the setup of the firm. We may not share the kitchen or a bathroom every day in the office but we share the convenience and trust that we have in each other using our cloud based applications that keep us connected and allow us to keep working anywhere we need to.
I feel we have now established a great environment to work in the cloud for our team where I can feel happy providing the best and most convenient service to our clients. We feel very agile now in our approach to work and together as a team we will thrive without being restricted by any borders or need to sit in a physical office every day. Its a good thing and I feel proud of what I have accomplished and it is only one part of many things we have tried and changed in our way of doing things in my law firm which I will share more of in further articles, especially the way in which we have adopted many of the agile ways of working that you might normally see in the software development world.