Center For Practice Management, Cloud Computing, Productivity, Technology

Essential Technology for the Remote Office

Whether you are taking your firm paperless, practicing virtually or working remotely the tools for success are remarkably similar. What technology is essential to reducing paper in your office while also providing the flexibility to work at home, in the office and while mobile? The right mix of hardware and software can help!



You may want to upgrade or replace older desktops to get a laptop or tablet for portability. The best brands and specs vary, though for Windows Lenovo and Dell are always solid choices. Make sure to buy a business device, with specifications and warranty and operating systems designed for use in a business environment. John Simek and Sharon Nelson’s book 2020 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Buying Guide is a great and comprehensive guide to buying legal tech.


In the past law firms relied on servers in the office. But to be truly mobile/virtual/paperless many are moving to the cloud. Whether by switching to a SaaS (software as a service) model for your office suite, practice management or document management system or by moving your client/server software to a hosted server from the provider or using remote servers like AWS or Microsoft Azure, leveraging the cloud is cost effective, secure and provides greater mobility.


While you may still have a floor model multi-function scanner at the office, necessary for big scanning jobs, to make sure that paper becomes digital getting small individual scanners such as the Fujitsu Scansnap iX1500 will make it easy to scan as paper that comes into the office (wherever that may be). The latest iX1500 can work with both Macs and PCs and have some significant improvements over prior versions such as WiFi scanning. You will also want to get the Scansnap Cloud software to manage your scanned documents to save to the cloud.

For more portable scanning the Fujitsu Scansnap iX100 is a small wireless device that connects to your laptop via wifi or USB and is small enough to fit in a laptop case. Great for small jobs, receipts, business cards and more.

Of course, you can use your smartphone to scan documents when you are on the go.


The benefits of having two (or even more!) monitors on your desk are easily demonstrated. You can have your reference information on one screen (or on one half of an exceptionally large screen) while you craft documents on another. Having two monitors helps to keep you from being tempted to print out documents.

External Keyboard and Mouse

For your primary workspace if you have additional monitors it also makes sense to get a keyboard and a mouse. Check the ergonomics to make sure your computing area is as comfortable as possible. Logitech has great options for peripherals.

You can also get a docking station from the manufacturer of your laptop or port replicator to make it easy to pop your laptop in and out when you need to go without having to remove cables.


Whether you use an iPhone or an Android based phone, a smart phone is a computer in your pocket. While you do not have to have the absolute latest and greatest model, having an up-to-date smartphone will provide a lot of computing power. From viewing and editing your documents, adding events to your calendar, taking a note, or billing for time on the go, apps for your smartphone are powerful and portable. Learn to leverage all the features of your smartphone to get the return on your investment.


You can certainly use the onboard webcam on your laptop, but an external webcam will give you more functionality like filters, movement tracking, built in microphones, HD (high definition) video, and more. Some even come with lighting, like the Razer Kiyo! Plus you will not have to put your laptop on a stand or shoebox to keep your webcam from looking up your nose.


You may have to have a printer – but do you need a giant one? There are lots of small printers you can use to make do. If you have a really big print job you can send it Fedex Office (use a cover sheet indicating the materials are confidential).

Fax = efax

You may be faxing to the court or with hospitals and other health care providers. But, faxing now belongs in the software category because there are lots of ways to fax without a fax machine. You may already have electronic fax options if you are using a VoIP system like RingCentral, so first check if that is an add-on option. If not you can get an inexpensive plan through stand-alone electronic fax services.


PDF Manipulation Software

Whether you choose Adobe Acrobat DC Pro, Kofax Power PDF Pro, Foxit Pro or one of many other (paid) products on the market that let you go beyond reading a PDF document to converting and manipulating PDF documents, a paperless or remote office needs a powerful PDF manipulation tool in your arsenal. PDF software allows the user to: combine multiple files into a single PDF document; run OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to turn scanned documents into searchable files; add, remove and rearrange pages; insert and extract pages; redact files, Bates ™ stamp electronic files; comment and markup; share files; digitally sign documents; create fillable PDF forms; and even edit PDFs.  Remember that a PDF document is easily editable, so if you are looking to share a “locked down” file you can follow these three steps.

Office Suite + Email

Microsoft 365 is a popular office suite for law firms of all sizes. In addition to MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you get Outlook and hosted servers like Exchange and SharePoint. You get cloud-based document storage through OneDrive. Google is providing a competing office suite through the Google Workspace, and other options include the Zoho office suite + email.

Practice Management/Time & Billing/Accounting

Practice management applications are specifically designed for law firm and can help manage all aspects of a law practice. Offerings are often divided functionally between “front office” and “back office.” Front office functions include document assembly, docket and calendaring, email management, document management, conflicts checks, contacts management, time tracking/billing, and task management. Back office functionality includes trust accounting, general ledger and accounting. The document management in most practice management software allows the user to save a document or email into the centralized database. Users assign a case/client and matter to the document, which is stored with all the work regarding that matter. The tools often install add-ons to common office suite software, making the process of saving the documents directly to the system easier. Likewise the workflow can be initiated from the case/practice management software itself. For a list and comparison of case/practice management software see 20 Best Legal Case Management Software Programs for Small and Medium Law Firms and Capterra’s listing and review site.

Choices abound for practice management software. Newer entries to the field are the “cloud based” or web accessible programs such as Clio, RocketMatter, MyCase, and PracticePanther for small firms.  The principle behind “the cloud” is leveraging the internet to provide access to computing power and storage. Cloud based applications require no installation or IT support and are available as long as the user has access to the Internet. These applications charge per user, per month. Most of these applications have a trial period.

If your practice management application does not include accounting functions many firms use QuickBooks Online or Xero to manage their business accounting. These integrate with many practice management applications.

If you choose to forgo using a practice management application, there are many products designed to help firms handle tracking time, generate invoices and manage their trust accounts. These tools are often far more effective than trying to track time and create invoices through spreadsheets and help you stay mobile – and paperless!

Document Management

Document management software is designed to save all documents, including email, into a central storage space on a server or in the cloud. In many cases the system “forces” the user to save documents to the system, though the user can mark certain documents private. When the user saves the document, the software invokes a screen that requests information about the document, for example, client and matter number, keywords, folder structure and other information designated by the administrator at setup. This structure ensures that all documents are organized, categorized, and available for full text searching. The system also provides for version control, check-in/check-out of documents, and is fully integrated with your primary office suite. Some additional functionalities may include records management, which offers automated file destruction based on rules set up by the administrator.

The document management programs commonly used by the legal profession include Worldox, iManage, and OpenText’s eDocs (formerly DocsOpen). NetDocuments is a web-based application that has been in the market for over a decade. Like other web-based applications, this is priced per user, and has the benefits of being available anywhere you have an Internet connection. NetDocuments also provides a “local” copy, so that if the Internet is down, the product still works.

Document management systems are remarkable tools for managing, collecting and searching documents and email for an entire office, or group within an office.  It is robust, and often relatively expensive, software. However, considering the benefits it provides, the cost may be justified.

VoIP and Video Conferencing

For ultimate mobility consider switching from a traditional non-internet-based phone system to a hybrid system (hosted PBX) or VoIP system. You can get a whole lot of features including apps for your smart phone, “soft” phones to replace traditional land line phones, calls through your computer, voicemail transcribed to email, call forwarding, auto attendant and more. Optional or additional features bundled into VoIP systems include electronic faxing, SMS messaging, and audio and video conferencing.

VoIP telephone system include services like RingCentral, Ooma, Jive, Line2 , 8×8, and VoiPly. NCBA members get a 15% discount on a 2-3 year plan on RingCentral through Lightwave Consulting. Other VoIP systems are available through Comcast, Spectrum, AT&T or your business ISP.

Many have free trials. Most VOIP systems have number porting, however, there is usually a delay of 7-10 business days. Corvum, which integrates with Clio, is a VoIP phone service designed specifically for law firms. Zoom also has a VoIP option.

If you do not get video conferencing through your VoIP system, but you have a Microsoft 365 Business Plan you can use Teams for audio/video conferencing. If you need specific features for mediation, depositions, etc. many lawyers are using Zoom (which now has end to end encryption). Slack also has audio and video conferencing, and the paid Slack plans have Slack Connect to work with people outside your firm. Video conferencing tools specifically designed for lawyers include Legaler and RDO.


There are so many tools you and your firm can use to reduce reliance on paper, work remotely and provide virtual services. Assess what you need and explore what tools you already may have through your existing subscriptions. The tools above are just a baseline. There is document assembly, project management, form and contract management tools, and practice area specific platforms to consider. With a few extra tools you may be closer than you think to working in the new normal.