In recent times, from March 2020, the need to work differently has been necessary due to the COVID 19 virus pandemic. Its impact has forced many of us to think of different ways to continue working whilst in a lockdown situation.
There are certainly some challenges: social isolation means that face-to-face consultations and examinations are no longer possible. Whilst I do not normally carry these out, there has been reasons to consider alternative remote methods for examination via video-conferencing.
I have been involved in contingency planning since 2000 and therefore have tried to create resilience and prevent redundancy in the way that I have set up my expert witness practice.
The key elements
A case management system
Firstly, I have invested in a central case management system. This is so that at any one time I can see the progress of any case. As many cases can take many months or even years to be completed, a clear system enables clarity with the logging of receipt of notes, the dates of reports completed and amended, telephone conferences, meetings and court bookings and visits.
Within this management system is software so that reports can be typed and logged accordingly along with invoices raised for work completed. At any one time, I am able to check a case process and understand where the notes are. It is a time saving method along with being a working system to ensure that accountability and forward process are maintained.
Decent Internet Connection
This is imperative to a proper functioning practice. In conjunction, I have a VPN network so that if I am away from my office, remote working, I can log in securely to maintain confidentiality of all case notes and reports, and upload content as well as receive updates.
My secretary also opted to work from home using her own PC so that she could use the secure VPN too.
We also invested (initially for cost reasons) in a IP Cloud phone system so that the phone can be answered irrespective of the phone’s location. Being contactable is a vital component of a successful expert witness practice.
Probably the most important factor is that over the years I have developed a system that automated most of the admin functions of the practice allowing me to concentrate on the key aspects of the practice such as preparing reports and attending meetings and occasionally court.
These have certainly become more popular during this time of social isolation and there are now many different types of software to enable a face-to-face video conferences. I have become more confident in using this method and have set up an area at home that could even be used if I was required to “attend” court remotely without distracting backgrounds and with reasonable lighting and video / audio links using a wired internet connection.
The years of 2020 will be remembered for many things including the year that many people decided to work differently and more location independent. Setting up systems and practices that enable the smooth running of an expert witness practice in any location will lead to loss of delays and a smooth running practice.