By Stacey L. Romberg
Although this is probably difficult for many younger lawyers to imagine, I, along with the vast majority of my law school classmates, graduated from law school in 1987 without ever using a computer. I considered myself to be fairly technologically savvy by rejecting a typewriter in favor of a new word processor, specifically a "speedy" Brother WP-500, which allowed me to save my documents onto 3.5-inch discs.
In 1987, I could not have successfully operated a virtual law firm using the technology at hand. Thankfully, now I can. These days, technology plays a pivotal role in enabling a virtual law firm to effectively compete with a brick-and-mortar firm.
This month, we will take a look at two key components of a virtual firm's technology setup: What type of networking structure should a virtual law firm adopt and how can remote staff most effectively use technology to work together efficiently?
Select the Right Networking Structure
Telecommuting involves the ability to perform office tasks without actually being in the office. A telecommuter can connect remotely to an office computer or network and use it just as if she were sitting at her desk.
A virtual law firm adopts the concept of permanent telecommuting. My staff, consisting primarily of an office administrator, an of counsel attorney and a paralegal, do all of their work remotely. In establishing a virtual law firm, an initial decision must be made regarding the best networking structure for your specific staff configuration. I've utilized two approaches, both of which are fairly common.
First, the server model: Staff can connect their remote computers through a VPN (virtual private network) to the main office network stored on a server. Second, the headless work station model: Since my staff don't work in my home, I do not need to provide them with desks, monitors, keyboards or mice. Instead, each person connects his or her remote computer to a second, individually dedicated computer, which in turn is connected to a server.
I originally chose the server model, but last year I switched to headless work stations due to the lower costs, decreased maintenance requirements and easier implementation of a standard set of software. The footprint of each headless work station is smaller than a breadbox. Thankfully, a stack of these small computers along with a server can easily fit into a closet located in my home office.
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