Automating Your Family Practice: One Firm’s Journey

How can family law firms leverage legal technology to become more efficient, enhance security and visibility, and leverage remote communication and collaboration tools?

Solo family law practitioner Bob Noone shared his experiences with technology over his 37+ years in practice. His interest in and willingness to adopt legal software solutions to make his practice more efficient served him well for many years before the pandemic hit and allowed him to seamlessly continue operating.

Bob reports that it’s automation that helps him keep working solo while managing a thriving multistate practice in West Virginia, Alabama, and Wyoming. As his practice has evolved over the years to focus primarily on adoptions, Bob realized that his ability to remotely access all his case files and email from anywhere brought particular value to his clients. He discovered that rather than visit a lawyer’s office, parents and kids preferred going to a playground at McDonald’s when the discussion is not too sensitive or problematic.

“A coffee shop or family restaurant with free secure Wi-Fi offers total mobility [is best], so I can meet my clients anywhere and have my entire desktop and applications available right on my laptop.”

Leveraging the Private Cloud

The basis of Bob’s mobile practice is legal practice management hosted on a private cloud. It basically provides a virtual desktop. When he logs in over an internet connection – whether from a tablet, a Mac, a PC or even a phone – he sees all of his files and applications. They’re exactly configured to work the way he prefers. Larger firms could fine-tune access permissions and access rights for each user to see only the applications and information they need for their role

Bob first experimented with legal practice management software in 2007. Once he realized the value and time savings in working remotely, he found he could conduct virtual meetings and fly less frequently between West Virginia and Alabama. Later, when his paralegal had to move to Wyoming, he realized he could run the firm virtually with his paralegal working from home, while he operated mostly in West Virginia. As many virtual organizations do, they each maintained local phone numbers, reflecting the West Virginia or Alabama firm presence. Take a minute to learn what to look for in a cloud solution:

“Nothing Works Like Facts”

Even before the pandemic, Bob found that the various parties, agencies, and counsel involved in a case don’t always arrive in court well-prepared and in some situations would convey inaccurate information to the court. Bob would routinely have his laptop in hand, and because he had his entire virtual desktop in the private cloud, he could pull up emails and case notes, and documents on the fly during meetings before a judge. “Having the facts at your command lets the court know that you are ready, you’re organized. When I’m in a courtroom and someone can’t locate a record, I can pull the document up, share it with the co-counsel, department head, or prosecutor and tell them ‘look on your phone right now. I just shared it,’” says Bob.

“Having the facts immediately available, and freely sharing those facts, is a level of transparency that engenders trust.”

The Remote Advantage

Though he’s worked in multiple states and operated mostly on a virtual business model for 13 years, it took 2020 to make Bob realize the true value of working remotely. When the pandemic hit, people, firms, and court calendars were grinding to a halt as the in-office model was strained and organizations tried to make a transition to remote work. Bob’s practice kept humming along without missing a beat. He reports, in fact, that he completed 43 adoptions in the month of June.

State courts slowed significantly due to delays caused by the pandemic. As a knowledgeable advocate for virtual practice, Bob was instrumental in lobbying the state Supreme Court of West Virginia to change an existing rule by adding uncontested adoptions to a list of hearings that could be handled by videoconferencing.

Improving the Practice of Law

Attorneys and courts all want to do right by their clients. That requires an understanding of technology and how it can improve communications, service levels and trust. With his knowledge and willingness to share information, Bob is a productive example of how technology and automation can truly improve the process of law and the outcomes for clients.

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