15 Remote Working Tips for Lawyers and Law Firms
A few years ago, “telecommuting” was a buzzword being bandied about by law firms, aimed at attracting and retaining millennial lawyers. The flexibility to work from home was a recruiting tool in a competitive talent market.
Even so, these were small victories and some firms remained reluctant. As David Lat – who is currently hospitalized with a COVID-19 diagnosis – wrote for Above the Law in 2017, “Being allowed to work remotely at least one day a week is quite generous.”
Fast forward to March of 2020, and virtually every law firm is all but required to enable their employees to work from home five days a week. It is a significant change, and not one with which all firms are well equipped to manage.
10 Tips for Law Firms Thrust into Remote Work
Many members of our team have spent years as practicing lawyers. Indeed, GrowPath was spun out from a law firm that embraced the cloud early on. As such, we’ve both polled our team for their remote working tips (the 10 tips on top) and canvassed the web for other tips (the 5 below) that we think will help firms make this transition.
1. Keep to your schedule
Productivity is a routine, so be sure to keep your normal working hours. Get up at the usual time. Get dressed as you usually would. Put on shoes. You’ll be surprised at how many unproductive things you won’t do when you’re wearing shoes. If you listen to podcasts and drink coffee during your commute, do those things, and start and finish work at the same times you always do.
2. Create a dedicated workspace
Designate an area of your home as your workspace and set it up just like you would at work. Get a comfortable desk and chair. A designated space gives you room to be focused. It also signals to others in the house that you are “at work” and that they should refrain from disturbing you.
3. Consider additional office equipment
Additional office equipment can make your dedicated workspace even more pleasant, which in turn will help you remain focused. Consider investing in items like a laptop docking station, USB headphones with a microphone and a widescreen monitor.
A docking station will prevent you from having to plug in (or unplug) peripherals every time you set up or move your computer. Comfortable headphones are a must if you’ll be spending time on web-based meetings or video conferencing, and your colleagues will thank you for buying a set with a microphone. Finally, a widescreen monitor is easier on the eyes than staring at a small laptop screen.
4. Negate the noise
You can’t go wrong with noise-canceling headphones. Dogs bark. Kids play. The trash trucks will come (we hope!). White noise or music without lyrics – like smooth jazz – are popular options that drown out the noise and keep you on task.
5. Minimize distractions
It’s easy to succumb to distractions at home. If things like messes and dirty dishes distract you, then be sure to clean the night before so you can start the day with focus. If you find yourself staring into the fridge when it’s time to eat lunch, consider also preparing your meals the night before. Don’t answer the door or any call you would not normally answer at work.
If you have a family at home, it’s worth discussing and establishing some ground rules to minimize distractions. For example, couples might agree to resist talking to each other during working hours. However, they might also agree to have lunch together so they can enjoy the time they might not otherwise have enjoyed.
Kids doing school work from home will need clear parameters, too. This is trickier because a child might need help understanding the assignments. Set up times when they can raise their hand, so to speak, to ask for help throughout the day. Clear parameters will also help them to settle into a routine that helps you all focus.
Working parents should also check out this piece from Harvard Business Review: A Guide for Working (From Home) Parents
6. Turn distractions into rewards
Social media can give us a sense of connectedness in this period of social distancing, but it can also waste a lot of time. If you are into social media, try turning your time on these sites into a reward. When you finish a project or get your emails up to date, take five minutes to scroll through your social media. However, set a timer so you don’t lose track of time. Let these little breaks become an incentive to finish tasks efficiently. Anything that distracts you can be used as a reward in this way.
7. Don’t forget to move around
One of the real challenges in working from home can be stillness. Most office workers move around a good bit, even if they don’t know it. Monitor your activity levels. If you don’t have a fitness tracker or smartwatch telling you to stand up or move around, set yourself a timer to do so.
8. Take time to familiarize yourself with collaboration software
Yes, you’ll still be in meetings. Don’t be that person fumbling around searching for the controls and customization settings. Spend some time getting acquainted with collaboration or meeting software. A good technique is to stage a practice meeting with someone where you can both get up to speed together.
9. Block time to manage the email volume
You’re likely to get a lot more email when you work remotely. What once may have been a quick drop-by visit to your desk is now going to be conveyed in an email. Keep in mind it’s the same amount of communication you usually have, just a different channel. One method for managing the deluge is to turn off your email alerts and block time to do nothing but answer emails. Blocking sufficient time in the morning, around lunch and in the afternoon to respond to emails leaves you large, uninterrupted periods to concentrate on getting work done.
10. Keep a positive attitude
The events that pushed the legal community into a remote working environment are beyond our control – so we have to stay focused on what we can control: our attitude and response. This is a chance for law firms to hone their technology skills, workflow and processes. Business continuity has long been a critical process for law firms and – as hard as things may seem – this is the opportunity to perfect it.
5 More Remote Working Tips for Law Firms from Around the Web
Below are additional tips from credible sources we found while canvassing legal technology news and blogs.
11. Clients and colleagues have the same challenges
“Top-tier client service is crucial, especially in this uncertain time,” writes Lauren G. Krasnow in The American Lawyer. But we are all in this together, she notes. Everyone from colleagues to clients are facing the same constraints.
Read her full piece: What Lessons Lawyers Can Learn From Week One of Working From Home
12. Update and refine remote work policies
With everyone in the law firm working from home, this is the perfect time to update and refine remote working policies, according to the Lawyerist: “Create and implement systems for when people are expected to be online, how teams communicate and assign tasks, and decide if any of your current policies need to be updated for a remote workplace.”
Read the full piece: Remote Work & Virtual Law Firms
13. Cybersecurity considerations
Most cybersecurity attacks start when employees click on malicious links in emails. Such attacks have spiked as threat actors target remote workers. A solid post by the law firm Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC lists several considerations for working remotely, including several related to cybersecurity. These encompass maintaining strong passwords, enforcing multifactor authentication (MFA) and retaining the capability “to manage and remotely wipe lost or stolen devices.”
Read the complete post: Practical considerations for employers as their workforce goes remote amid COVID-19 outbreak
14. Schedule time to check in with colleagues
Offices offer some advantages to collaboration that are harder to replicate in a remote environment. For example, you can’t just poke your head into your colleague’s office for a quick chat anymore. That can be disorienting for first-time remote workers, according to LOD [Lawyers on Demand] co-founder Simon Harper. He recommends “you schedule in regular check-ins with your colleagues. This will not only help build structure into your day but also provide important human interaction.”
Read his other tips here: Top Tips to Change the Wiring On Remote Working
15. Host a “virtual happy hour”
In a report for Law.com, reporter Simon Lock noted several creative way law firms in London were maintaining esprit de corps:
“A spokesperson for King & Spalding said that it had introduced a ‘virtual drinks trolley’ – a social dial-in to replace its usual Friday drinks trolley in the London office. DWF has a similar ‘Friday Fridigital’ where staff can chat about their work-from-home experiences, as well as Sunday brunch for staff spending the weekend alone.”
Read his full report: A Virtual Happy Hour? Firms Turning to Web to Keep Employee Morale High
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What tips have you seen for helping law firms work remotely? Tweet us and perhaps we can add your tip to the list.
Take your Firm Remote with GrowPath
Did you know? GrowPath is a secure software-as-a-service product that offers lawyers and legal professionals a better way to manage their cases, from client intake to case closure and profitability analytics. Let us help you take your firm remote! If you’d like to see GrowPath in action, please schedule a demonstration.
Ted Seward is GrowPath’s Vice President of Marketing, joining its executive leadership team in 2019. Ted is responsible for all marketing and initiatives at GrowPath including growth through the development and execution of the marketing/sales strategy, brand awareness, lead generation, and business development.