I originally wrote this post on October 30, 2018, long before COVID-19 changed EVERYTHING. I’m sharing again because it may give you a few new ideas to mix things up a bit if you’re like us and still working from home.
This is the view from my mobile office. In an hour, I’ll take a break, hop on the paddle board for 45 minutes, and when done, circle back to get a bit more work done. Lisa’s going to join me later today to watch the sunset.
I’m convinced I could (almost) run my practice full time using this approach. Here’s a short video of the firm if you haven’t stopped by to say hi.
For now, I’m simply enjoying a few hours each week outside in my mobile office environment. I’m hoping that over time, being physically in a traditional office will be the exception and not the norm.
The reality is that most of the time I’m either in court attending hearings or trying cases. When I’m not there, I’m at my law firm meeting clients, taking depositions, and working on files. The firm is located in a traditional professional office building and probably looks very similar to how you’d imagine a law firm to look.
On select days–days when I don’t have to physically be at the firm and, where I can work from the harbor, beach, or someplace else outside, this is how I get things done. You can do the same thing. It’s all a matter of planning, mindset and a result of giving ourselves permission to do things another way.
In this post, I share the tools I use to run my mobile office. Full disclosure, while I am a Brand Ambassador for some of the services mentioned below, I wouldn’t recommend any of these services if I didn’t believe in them. That’s just not how I roll.
And one more thing. If YOU are already doing something similar or, eventually set up a mobile office after reading this post, please share a picture or video on social media and tag me. I’d enjoy seeing and sharing what you’re doing with my friends.
Now, let’s get started…
I use a MacBook Pro (15.4 screen), but any decent laptop will do. It’s the same laptop I dock and use with my office system. A large screen makes it easy to work outside.
If you’re planning on spending a great deal of time away from the grid and need power, you may want to think about a laptop that allows you to easily swap out batteries.
Most modern laptops have pretty good battery lives. If you livestream (live video) as much as I do, you’ll deplete your power supply quickly and will need to bump things up if you want a mobile office that can last all day. As I mentioned above, a laptop that allows you to swap batteries is one way to go.
Another approach is to bring a portable power source with you. If you’re looking for a top of the line mobile solution that can charge multiple devices and potentially last for several days, take a look at the very slick EcoFlow River or River Bank systems https://ecoflow.com/
The EMPower solar power system offered by EcoFlow allows you to enjoy your outdoor satellite office in perpetuity without ever having to come back to the grid. I’ll be testing it out during our next extended camping trip. The EcoFlow system will also work well in court during trial or as an emergency backup system if the power grid goes out for any reason.
3: Internet Connection
I’ve been practicing law longer than the Internet has been around– at least as we know it. Beginning with dial-up, almost every type of “Internet connection” has been part of my life. A lack of fast internet connection is what’s been holding me back over the years from realizing the dream of having a functioning office at the harbor, down on the sand, or up on the slopes.
All that has changed. Today, a mobile high speed hotspot is all you need to stay connected with the world. I really like my Verizon Jetpack MiFi system. It allows me to connect at 4G speeds for days, and even weeks, on a single charge.
If you’re in the city, then simply use Google to find and tap into one of the many public Wifi hotspots around town. Remember, if you’re using a public hotspot, make sure your Internet security is updated and on. I use and recommend Nord VPN.
4: Smartphone Number
One of the things most business owners don’t think about when going mobile is their phone. Consider the following because it will change the quality of your life.
We’ve had our local and toll-free numbers for decades. I want potential and existing clients to see and use these numbers when reaching out to the firm. When I’m down at the harbor making and returning calls, I don’t want most of the people I’m calling to know my private smartphone number. It’s reserved for my family and close friends.
Three good solutions to this problem are as follows. First, get and use a second number on your private smartphone. The new SmartLine phone service from GoDaddy completely solves this problem. After picking a new business number to use with my smartphone, it allows me to make and receive calls using this second number via the SmartLine app I download to my phone. My private number is never shared unless I want it to be.
Other options I’ve used in the past that work pretty well (but the quality is not as good as my Smartline) are Skype and Google Voice. Again, the Smartline service allows me to make and receive business calls on my personal iPhone. I’m really enjoying the service.
5: Answering Service
Because you never have a second chance to make a good first impression, it’s important to make sure your phones are answered in a professional and caring way. Our traditional front office team is trained to do just that.
Overflow calls are automatically forwarded after 3 rings to Ruby Receptionists. Their professionally trained operators take and route the calls as needed. Ruby is so good that most callers are under the impression they are talking to a front office team member and not Ruby. Some callers even ask us to compliment the “young man or women” who answered the phone. Pretty cool right?
When I’m out and about, my smartphone rings and Ruby lets me know who’s calling and whether or not I’d like the call to be put through. Each call is professionally handled, and it allows me to be in control of my life. I’m guessing that most incoming callers think I’m sitting at my desk. That’s how good the service and transfer ability is.
6: Staying Organized (CRM)
My law firm is established, busy, and was started way back in 1986. We have thousands of past and present clients. On any given day, dozens of potential, past, and existing clients reach out with new questions and needs. I also have an active presence on social media, and because of this, we also receive incoming communications from our social media efforts each day.
I’m blessed to have this kind of engagement and love every second of it. But to keep things organized and help stay sane, my team and I use a cloud-based CRM to keep track of everything.
My team and I use Clio to run and manage my law firm. It allows me to track people, events, billing, and so much more, from where ever I am, on both my phone and laptop. All of my client and case contact information, including calendar, documents and billing items, are just a click away using this powerful cloud based platform.
If you’re not a lawyer and need an outstanding CRM that easily integrates social media into the database, take a close look at Nimble. It’s my favorite non-legal based CRM solution that allows you to automagically click and review or import the social media information of your contacts or while browsing the web. It’s a very powerful CRM that we’ve used during jury selection to do quick background checks on potential jurors. I also use it to quickly “research” opposing counsel in my cases.
I also use Google Docs, Dropbox, Box and Google Calendar for other aspects of my daily professional life which include several projects and matters independent of the law. The important takeaway is that everything I need and all of the information these services allows me to access is available regardless of where I am or what I’m doing. All I need is Wifi, my phone or laptop, and I’m good to go.
7: Sound, Webcam and Communications
One of the biggest things people forget about when doing business outside via a mobile office is noise and sound. Whether you’re on your smartphone closing a deal or, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or StreamYard (what I use for my Wednesday night live video shows) with clients around the world, paying attention to your surrounding sound and the quality of sound you’re sharing with your device can make or break the experience.
To help create a mobile “virtual live video” production studio (I can control almost everything I create and share with a video), I use and recommend Ecamm. At home or in the office, this is the service that allows me to create fantastic green screen videos and live vides for all my platforms, include my live Zooms.
To easily deal with this potential problem, I usually keep things simple and use the headphones that comes with my iPhone or use my Apple Airpods. Doing so keeps the experience for everyone top notch.
When it comes to webcams, I simply use the built in camera on my laptop or phone. It works just fine for a mobile office. While I always use my USB webcam (I use the 4K pro and C922 Pro Stream Logitech webcams) when I’m in the office and docked into the network, when I’m out and about and, to keep things simple, I just use my default webcam on the laptop. It works fine.
It’s easy to get distracted when you’re working outside the office. Watching a beautiful sailboat go by can take your mind away from a brief or, crafting a demand letter.
One tool that I am using on a daily basis to help minimize mistakes caused by these real-world distractions is WordRake. It’s an automated in-line editing software for professionals that helps me write better, smarter and faster. Hey, just being real. Always double check your work folks!
One more thing while I’m on this topic. One tool that allows me to standout from most other lawyers is BombBomb. This service allows me to quickly create and share, using my laptop or phone, a personalized video inside my email. It’s powerful and for many reasons, allows you to make an impact and standout from the crowd. Especially when your background is the harbor 😉
8: Website, Automation and Productivity Apps
One of the things that allow me the flexibility and freedom to practice on the go is my digital presence, using technology, and outsourcing specific needs. I’m talking about outsourcing daily tasks and needs to third-party services that allow me the ability to automate my day while still providing an exemplary client experience.
Here’s what I mean.
My law firm website works for me 24/7 regardless of where I am or what I’m doing. Almost any need or question a potential client has is answered at the site. By the time a potential client calls the firm, we’re past the interview stage. They’re usually calling to try and book an appointment. The website frees up my time, and my team’s time, to do what we want to do. We use and recommend Scorpion for our website needs. Their technology and service are outstanding.
New clients, referring lawyers and other business opportunities find us on all the top social media platforms. Professional “must have” directory listings like ours at Experts.com is a powerful way to build your brand and generate new business.
When it comes to saving time on social media, I use social media tools and am a big fan of AgoraPulse to share content 24/7. AgoraPulse is one of my favorite platforms.
Right now, I’m also looking at adding an additional service called Lately into the mix. It uses artificial intelligence to create social media content from my blog posts, podcasts and videos. The bottom line is that I’d rather be out paddleboarding or skiing than sitting in the office monitoring and posting to social media.
We always ask clients this important question at the end of a new client consultation, “How would you like us to communicate with you?” Most respond with the answer, “text messages if we can.”
Using ZipWhip, clients can text our 800 number, and the text instantly comes into the firm (or my phone or laptop). If the system is turned on, I could be watching the sunset from the top of Strands Beach and easily communicate, via text, with potential or existing clients.
Other mobile friendly cloud based services that are useful when away from the office include the following:
Microsoft 360 (all our apps like Word and Powerpoint are available in the office or on my laptop. Other options are Google Docs, Sheets, and related apps)
Casetext is the most advanced AI based legal research engine available to lawyers and law firms. It offers attorneys everything they need to get their research done fast and in a very inexpensive fashion. This cloud-based service is a game changer.
(Full disclosure- I’m also a contributing consulting expert in “Effective Introduction of Evidence in California- Chapter 54 Electronic and Social Media Evidence” which is part of the CEB products and services)
Calendly (for allowing clients to schedule free or paid appointments without taking up your time)
Fax and Scanning: (Numerous apps and services allow you to send and receive faxes and scan documents from your mobile device)
Dropbox Business (scanner and related services)
Document Signature: (Create and distribute business documents for signature)
I enjoy practicing law, but I also have many other interests, several of which involve being outside with the wind in my face and toes in the sand, surf or snow. Creating a mobile office system, like the one I described above, allows me to “do business” from the office, my home, the sand, or while up at Mammoth Mountain skiing. The beautiful thing about this approach and system is that it gives me options. It also keeps my mind fresh and enthusiasm high.
I have the flexibility to decompress when I need to. I can practice law and work with my LegalMinds Mastermind members while in the office or down on the Pacific Coast just before going for a paddle off Doheny Beach.
Depending on my mood and schedule, being mobile allows me a quality of life that keeps things fun, interesting, and in the end, allows me to be more productive. Unless I tell them (and I sometimes do), my clients don’t know if I’m in the office or outside enjoying the all that Southern California has to offer. What they do know from my attitude and voice is that they have a happy lawyer who cares about them and, who is going a great job for each and every client.
If you want to start enjoying your day and smile more often, take a leap of faith, get out of the office, and add a mobile satellite office to your work week. I have a feeling you’ll be glad you did.
UPDATE JULY 16, 2020
Things sure have changed since the date I first shared this post. I hope each and every one of you is staying safe. Even though my law firm is technically considered an “essential business” in California, we’re all working from home, practicing safe distancing and wearing masks.
Most of these cloud based approaches, tools and resources, have allowed us to continue helping our clients from our home offices. Other than Zoom replacing our face to face client meetings, not much else has changed for the firm. These products work and I highly recommend you incorporate them into your business.
I’m hoping this little blast from the past gives you a few new ideas to help get through your work day. I know things are tough right now but please do your best to help others and try to make each day your masterpiece.