Running a virtual law office – if only partially and temporarily – has become the new normal for most law practices.
And for some firms, especially those who have employees with young children, the change will be permanent. This will require a paradigm shift. Firms will have to change their concept of what being “at work” means.
“Firms take pride in their offices and encourage client meetings in their conference rooms,” says this post on the ABA GPSolo blog. “Many firms have an old school perspective dictating that employees must go to work to be truly efficient, allow for collaboration, and develop a collegial work environment.”
Unfortunately, some firms might not have a choice but to go virtual – at least partially – says Jeff Coburn, the article’s author. Health imperatives and the needs of employees might make it a matter of business survival.
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Health, safety and survival. “Recognize that this is the best strategy to maintain the health of your employees and clients. Families are being impacted due to school and daycare closures. Those firms that aren’t making this move will likely lose clients and employees.”
The technology already exists. “Office 365 is perhaps the most efficient and comprehensive system. It is a cloud-based, integrated experience that empowers your employees with the tools they need to collaborate efficiently, communicate on the go, and access files with ease. Its business apps allow you to manage bookkeeping, customer scheduling, and referrals in a secure environment. The key element, though, is to utilize the communications tools such as video conferencing, conference calls, etc. Many firms have these capabilities. Now the critical issue is to use them all the time.”
Stay connected daily. “Start each day with a short, five-to-ten-minute quickie meeting to address anything team members need from each other. Hold weekly conference/video calls to review files, challenges, and workloads. Most importantly, continually use the technology to enhance the corporate culture. Look at this as creating a virtual water cooler to focus not only on work, but also on camaraderie, social interaction, etc.”
Monitor your team members. “Use Office 365’s ability to monitor employee calls, e-mails, hours, and progress on files. Initially, this may seem Big Brotherish, but it’s no different than checking on these issues in-person at the office.”
Focus on security. “Make sure all security protocols are in place and that files are password protected. It’s best to set up your employees with company laptops as opposed to allowing them to use personal computers, which are more likely to be compromised. If they must use personal devices, bring them under management and help to secure and clean them before they can connect to the corporate network.”
Look for business development opportunities. “Consider providing tutorials to clients on how to best set up virtual workplaces.”
Avoid burnout. “It’s easy to burn out when working at home. Establish a schedule. Set boundaries by turning off the computer and walking out of your home office at the end of the day. Maintain the separation between weekend and weekday rituals.”
Recognize some of the advantages. “Employees will take fewer sick days related to children, as they can still get in a full day’s work even with trips to the doctor. Workdays will start and end earlier, providing employees more time with family. When hiring, your law firm will no longer be restricted to a local talent pool. With a virtual workplace, firms can recruit and hire talent in other parts of the country.”
And face the biggest challenges. “Maintaining communication with the workforce, whether it’s virtual or face-to-face. This transition to virtual communication can’t be done overnight. There will be a time for adjustment, so consider small steps as big victories.”
Lawyers Mutual is the only legal professional liability insurance company that has been protecting North Carolina lawyers continuously since 1977. Our motto, “Here Today, Here Tomorrow,” is more than a tagline. It’s our commitment to the lawyers in this state.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create a saner, more successful Law Life. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations. Contact email@example.com or 919-619-2441.