Clinics: Guidance to support moving to an online/remote service

This information has been developed to provide guidance on working remotely, including tips for clinics on moving to an online or remote clinic service

Contents

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Introduction

We are aware that clinics are not operating a face-to-face service at this time. The following guidance is not intended to replace your usual face-to-face service, but to support clinics with practical steps to help move your service so that it is accessible at this time, if desired/possible.  Although we have listed these as separate elements, we realise that on the ground people will be using hybrid versions in response to their local environments.

Please also be aware that you will need to ensure that your insurance covers these activities and that supervision reflects any service changes you may make.

Delivery models

Telephone

Models

  1. Clients call within set opening hours and speak directly to an advisor. If the query is within the remit of the clinic, the volunteer can provide advice directly over the phone.
  2. Clients call and leave a voicemail, with name and contact details only.  A volunteer will call them back to triage the issue and take initial case notes.  If the query is within the remit of the clinic, a further phone appointment will be made to provide advice with a volunteer solicitor.

Requirements

  • You will need a dedicated telephone number.
  • Working remotely you may be able to redirect calls from your current number to personal phones/mobiles, or provide dedicated pay-as-you-go mobiles. 
  • By using a case management system or Intralinks (provided free by LawWorks) you can share documents in advance and store advice notes following the appointment.

Key considerations

An advantage of providing a telephone-based service is that you can reach a wider audience because you aren’t limited to a geographical area (although this might have funding implications for you).  At this stage it might be useful to decide if you do want to limit the geographical area or whether you want to become a national provider. If the service is to be limited geographically, make this clear on your website and in marketing materials. When re-routing calls, check that the number to which the call is redirected (likely a personal number) is not shown to the client, if required. Similarly, if an advisor is offering a call back service, they may wish to shield their number from the client.

Most smart phones and mobiles have key access features for people with sight loss, hearing loss and dexterity problems.  For some people in this group, however, access to a visual service can be of additional benefit - for example they would be able to lip read. 

If advice is being sought about private matters or on a sensitive area of law, for example domestic violence or partnership issues, in accordance with your confidentiality policy, when calling clients back it is recommended that you don’t leave a voice message.

If, for quality assurance and training purposes, you are recording calls then your general service usage information needs to reflect this. 

Emails

If you use a stand-alone email service or one that augments your telephone service (to email follow up advice to the client) there are some points to consider:

  • Do you need to set up a dedicated email account for this or will an existing one, for example ‘[email protected] ‘or ‘[email protected]’, suffice?
  • It might be best to set up an automatic reply which covers things like hours the service is operational and when the client can expect to hear back from you. 
  • In some sectors this last criteria is used in monitoring – for example” % of emails responded to in x number of days”.
  • A benefit to the client in using this service is that they can email you at a time convenient to them – even if you have set opening hours.

Online/Tech

Online clinics provide the face to face service which can be of additional benefit to some clients (for example people who are hearing impaired, can lip read in addition to using their assisted technology).  These clinics allow for relevant documents to be shared onscreen across multiple users.  Additionally, some platforms can also record the sessions which can be useful for training and quality assurance. Clearly in these instances permission from the client must be sought. 

Key considerations

Not everyone finds online platforms easy to use so it is a good idea to signpost the client to the relevant website where there are tutorials and then also offer to set up a trial session just to provide reassurance and problem solve.

If something does go wrong over the course of the session then you need to share contact details (e.g. email address and/or phone number) to be able to pick up and if necessary, start again.    

Tools

Whilst initially daunting, the following tools can be relatively easy to use! Each of the following has their own online ‘tutorials’ and FAQ sections, which we have linked to, to help you get started.

We would recommend having a ‘standard’ protocol, which you can send to all parties ahead of using these tools to help manage the advice session.

For connecting with your clients

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WhatsApp audio/video calls

Although mobile data or Wi-Fi is required, WhatsApp offers a free and less formal way of communication, which may be particularly useful when clients do not have access to a computer. Many people already have this app installed on their phones which allows for a swift transition of the clinic service. Clinic coordinators, administrators or volunteers may need a work mobile in order to access this platform of communication. Currently, the video feature allows for a maximum of four participants on one call. WhatsApp have a guide that explains how to initiate or receive a WhatsApp video call.

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Skype audio/video calls

Once registered with an account, Skype can be used one-on-one and group conversations. It works best when the application is downloaded on to a computer or mobile phone, however meetings can also be joined via the web-based service. Skype allows for up to 50 participants on a (video) call. Skype can also be used to call land lines or mobile phone numbers if credit is added to the caller’s account. Further guidance on how to use Skype is available online.

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Zoom

Zoom is a cloud-based platform for video and audio conferencing across mobile devices, desktops and telephones. As it is an online platform, only the host will be required to register for an account while other participants can enter the meeting room via a weblink or dial in via phone depending on the type of plan acquired. This makes the service particularly helpful when involving external parties as it does not require any individual accounts. Zoom offers a ‘Basic Plan’ free of charge, which allows for calls up to 40 minutes with up to 100 participants. Useful videos and resources on how to host and attend meetings can be accessed on the Zoom website.

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Pow Wow Now (conference telephone)

Conference calling involves three or more participants dialling into a call at an agreed time with a designated dial-in number and PIN. Pow Wow Now may be helpful to clinics where either the clinic or client does not have access to video or online platforms. The free of charge subscription allows for a conference call (without web/video) with unlimited number of participants for an unlimited amount of time where each participant bears the cost of their call, while the paid subscription allows for an additional web-based video facility. Pow Wow Now has published guidance on how to organise a conference call.

For sharing documents

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Intralinks VIA

Intralinks operates a secure cloud-based document storage system with intuitive web, mobile and desktop interfaces. Intralinks has kindly offered the use of Intralinks VIA at no cost to clinics on the LawWorks Clinics Network. Clinic coordinators can use it to share documents, collaborate with volunteers and assign different levels of access to confidential client information. If access to IntraLinks VIA is of interest to your clinic, please contact the Clinics Team.

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CLIO

CLIO is a legal document case management system based in the cloud that is offered free of charge to law schools through its Academic Access Programme. It allows users to manage cases, clients, documents, calendars and supports time-tracking and reporting.  Visit the CLIO website for further information, and their academic access offer.

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Lexis Library and PSL

LexisNexis have offered clinics registered with the LawWorks Clinics Network access to Lexis®Library and Lexis®PSL, online legal research tools to support the delivery of advice at clinics. Lexis®Library is a comprehensive online research tool for legal professionals, offering a single point of access to thousands of trusted legal and regulatory sources. Lexis®PSL is an easy way to access up-to-date practical guidance from specialist solicitors and barristers so volunteers can work more efficiently and provide advice with confidence. Although this service is equally useful in a face-to-face and remote setting, it may be particularly helpful when physically removed from colleagues you would otherwise consult when giving advice. If access to these Lexis services is of interest to your clinic, please contact the Clinics Team.

Volunteers

Recruiting volunteers 

Whilst restrictions on movement are currently in place there may be fewer volunteer opportunities, generally. Yet, at the same time, lawyers in many areas of the profession are finding their workload has diminished and they presently have more time on their hands to get involved in pro bono and make the best of their knowledge and skills.

However, please be aware that, even during these exceptional times, SRA rules and regulations, professional codes of conduct and professional standards generally still apply! Please refer to the Pro Bono Protocol for further information.

Qualified lawyer volunteers

Be as specific as possible about the volunteer role you are seeking to fill.

  • Provide a brief outline of your clinic and how it operates
  • Clearly identify the role and create a brief outline of what is involved – a brief ‘job description’ might be useful 
  • Specify the number of years’ PQE (if applicable)
  • Be specific about the anticipated time commitment (be flexible if possible)
  • How will legal advice be delivered (e.g. by email/phone/online)

Check their Practising Certificate

Check their Professional Indemnity Insurance 

  • Ensure the appropriate level of supervision is available for unqualified, or yet to be qualified, volunteers.

Check – references (if applicable)

Bear in mind that there may not necessarily be barriers to the areas of law lawyers can advise on. Training and resources are available on the LawWorks website.

Law students/unqualified or yet to qualify volunteers

There are many clinic tasks well-suited to enthusiastic, gifted and often very ambitious trainees/paralegals/law students. 

Roles include (but are not limited to):

  • Coordinating the clinic – organising rotas
  • Administration – arranging appointments; managing diaries; liaising with volunteers
  • Triage (be sure this process is clear)
  • Mapping/building effective referral links with other advice agencies currently operating
  • Interpreting/translating

To source volunteers you may wish to approach law firms or law schools directly. You could also try contacting your local law society or associate groups such as ‘Young Legal Aid Lawyers’, ‘Junior Lawyers Division’, Trainee Solicitor Groups, NCVO etc.  Alternatively, please do contact the Clinics team as we may well have names and contacts we can put you in touch with at this time. 

Offering to volunteer

If the clinic where you would normally volunteer is not presently open, would you be available to volunteer elsewhere especially given that geographical location may not be an issue at present? 

Can your clinic collaborate with another clinic to share resources and work together over the coming days/weeks during this present crisis? Can you redeploy your volunteers to help in other clinics?

If you are a lawyer, with time on your hands and you want to make a real difference, you might wish to contact clinics to offer your services pro bono.

Supporting your volunteers

There are lots of useful resources to assist you with managing volunteers on the LawWorks website, including: a template handbook, training, a confidentiality policy and more.

Anyone and everyone can make a difference, the need is greater than ever and please do remember that volunteers who join you now and enjoy the experience, may hopefully stay long term. Now is a great opportunity to showcase your clinic and find the help and support you need.

Publicity for your clinic

Your network can help you publicise the clinic and new services – remember to let your partner organisations know about your online or remote service.

Tell us about your plans so we can update the information about your clinic on our website. To do this either use the 'Update your clinic details form' or email the Clinics Team.

If you are using social media to talk to your community about changes to your clinic and services, let us know and we can help amplify your message by sharing post. (follow LawWorks on Twitter)

Consider posting information about your services on your local Covid-19 mutual support forums: see https://covidmutualaid.org/local-groups/ to search for local groups.

Funding

You may be unable to alter your service provision at this time if you are required to provide a service subject to certain restricted funding requirements e.g. geographically, client group etc. We would suggest that you speak with your funder to discuss adjustments to your service given the current circumstances. London funders are being encouraged to sign the pledge that they will be flexible and allow adaptations to funded projects, further information and a list of signatories can be found on their website.

LawWorks clinic search function

The LawWorks Clinic search function is now only displaying services that have indicated to us that they are operating a remote/telephone/online advice service.

If your clinic is currently operating, and you would like the details to be displayed on the LawWorks website, please contact the clinics team.

Please do link to the clinic search function if you are unable to assist clients at this time, so that they can make contact directly with another service.

Referrals

Now, more than ever, it is essential that clinics and advice services collaborate and coordinate their efforts. Take some time to research what other support is in place locally; build links with third party groups/agencies, which can assist clients to access remote/online services at this time.

To help keep up to date with national initiatives, please sign up to receive the Clinics Update, and for our most up to date news, please follow us on Twitter: @Law_Works

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Revision 1.1

9 April 2020.

If you have any comments or suggestions to include in this guidance please email [email protected]

Details

Year of Publication

Date of publication

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Date last reviewed

Tuesday, April 7, 2020