Whether you need flexibility to travel for work or fun, have to figure out a way to get some work done from your kid’s basketball tournament, or you simply don’t like the confines of a traditional office, you have options. In fact, you have so many options, we can’t even fit them all into one newsletter article. So let’s start with the basics. Can you run a law office without a traditional office? You bet. Which means, then, that you can most certainly leave your traditional office for a few hours or days a week, and not miss a beat. Let’s start with the basics.
Cloud - This is an umbrella term that covers several concepts. Generally speaking, though, it is software that is hosted by the vendor. The user (that’s you) simply accesses the software – and the data – via an internet connection. That means you typically don’t install anything on your computer, and your data and documents are actually stored on the vendor’s servers, not yours. Cloud based programs give you flexibility to work from anywhere, to add and remove licenses as the size of your team fluctuates, can be used by both Mac and Windows PC users, and include technical support, backup, and more.
The truth is, you don’t have to pick a Cloud application ONLY if you intend to be extremely mobile – we see firms moving to this model even though they have traditional work hours, traditional clients, and a traditional office.
You can find cloud Practice Management Programs, Cloud based Time, Billing & Accounting Programs, Cloud based Document Management programs, and more. If a law firm wants to stop maintaining servers and move their entire firm to the cloud, it can be done.
It seems, though – that it isn’t Practice Management, Time, Billing & Accounting, or even Document Management concerns that keep people from believing they can leave their traditional office. It’s things like phone systems, meetings, etc. How can you do that from the beach? The gymnasium? Your back porch?
Let’s start with phone systems. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) simply refers to a telephone system that uses the Internet to transmit phone calls. In a physical office, your office phone plugs into a network jack (just like your computer) rather than a telephone jack. In a home office, the office phone plugs into your wired or wireless Internet router. In some cases, you can use what is referred to as a “soft phone” which means your computer, and your computer mic and speakers can act as your “phone.” Not sure where to start? Check out this short list of options.
If you don’t have a physical office at all – and want to keep staff minimized – consider the idea of an outsourced reception service. You can start with this list, even though there are more:
How do you meet with clients if you are not in the office? Well, first – think about whether it really needs to be a physical meeting (we get it, sometimes it does). But if you need to review discovery, or the terms of an agreement, that is as easily done with a remote meeting/screen sharing session, and as long as both parties have an internet connection – we can make it happen. Check out these three options (there are of course more, but let’s start here!) Your client can hear your voice, see your screen, and even see your face if you use the web cam option.
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All of the above really assumes you have connectivity. When you rely on things being hosted in the cloud, your mobility is limited by the strength of your internet connection. We will assume that while you are in the office, you have highly reliable, high speed, internet. Otherwise, here are some ways to get high speed Internet from Anywhere.
Air Cards or USB Modems: All of the major cell services offer a card you can plug into your notebook computer and gain Internet access from almost anywhere. Pricing is usually $50 to $80 per month and the cost is determined by the monthly data allowance you choose.
Mobile HotSpot: This is a standard smartphone feature you can add which allows you to transmit a web connection to up to 5 computers/devices.
Tethering: Provided your phone offers this functionality, most cell phone providers offer an option which allows you to connect your notebook to the Internet using the cell phone as a modem. It is not a rocket-fast connection, but certainly fast enough for me to browse the internet, take care of email, etc. You can also accomplish this if your phone has mobile hotspot capability. This feature usually allows up to 5 computers to connect to the internet via the phone, all wirelessly.