It’s a bit dramatic, and probably clichéd, to say that COVID changed the world. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Certainly the legal world was thrown for a loop; courts were closed in many parts of the US, and suddenly conference rooms became conference Zooms.
Now that we’ve moved into a post-COVID world, things haven’t exactly gone back to pre-COVID “normal”. Hybrid and remote work is more popular now than ever before, and businesses of all kinds are making that shift. But adapting can be difficult, especially if you’re not prepared. Below, we’ll discuss how to make sure your switch to a remote or hybrid law firm goes smoothly.
The Post-COVID World Needs More Organization
The pre-COVID world ran on serendipitous and chaotic interactions because everyone was always in the office. For example, if you had a question for someone, you knew when you were going to run into them based on their usual schedule and yours. You could just pop by their office or run into them in the hall and run that question by them.
Nowadays, however, these interactions are rarer than ever in hybrid workplaces, and just don’t exist in remote work environments. Returning to 100 percent in-office work may not be the solution, either; recent studies show that 97 percent of workers want some kind of hybrid or remote work. Rather than ignoring remote work, you should be embracing it, or at least organizing to be prepared for it.
Your Firm Needs A Mentality Shift Before Going Remote
If your firm is used to spontaneous, in-office interactions, jumping into remote work without preparing for it will leave your team stranded and struggling to communicate. Studies have shown that communication issues top the list of remote workers’ concerns, year after year, along with isolation and poor work-life balance. If you’re not careful, your firm will flounder; you won’t get things done, and your staff will feel like lone soldiers, rather than part of a team.
Moving to a less spontaneous, more structured workstyle will allow you to make the shift to remote work successfully, and that all starts with structured team-building. Below, we’ll talk about how to build a team that will succeed, whether that’s in the office, at home, or somewhere in between.
Building The Best Team
On a recent episode of Answering Legal’s podcast, Everything Except the Law, host Nick Werker and Benjamin Sachs, author of the book “All Rise: Practical Tools for Building High-Performance Legal Teams”, discussed structured team-building, and its effects on remote work. Benjamin Sachs laid out his steps for building a great legal team, built from a career of consulting and observing effective teams: trust, ownership, productive conflict, and accountability.
Elements Of An Effective Team
We’ll start with trust, as all the other qualities build off of it. According to Sachs, the key to trust is vulnerability. Your team has to be able to ask for help, and to ask questions and make bold decisions without the fear of looking dumb. That means letting go of micromanaging, and moving toward building work processes together. Don’t look for finished products; rather, set goals and work through thought processes to make sure your team gets it right the first time.
Once your team trusts each other, ownership comes naturally. When your team isn’t afraid of failure or looking dumb, they will put the success of the firm and the client’s interests before their own goals. In addition, you’ll combat a “not my problem” attitude. When people step up to solve problems they didn’t create, you’ll know they feel like they’re valuable members of the team.
Also building off of trust, encouraging productive conflict will enable your team to work together to find the best solution. According to Sachs, most conflict stems from ego; people want to be right, and want their way of doing things to be the right way. Once you establish that there are multiple ways of accomplishing a goal, you’ll be able to facilitate discussion toward finding the best way to get things done.
Finally, you need to encourage accountability. To do that, you have to get everything out in the open. Meetings should involve as many members of the team as possible, and everyone should be encouraged to contribute. Trainings should be run the same way. That way, the team members can be held accountable by their peers, and are encouraged to get things done.
Common Concerns With Remote Work
Overall, you should be building a team you can trust, one that can work where they are most productive. Everyone, from the 100 percent remote employee to the 8 to 6 in-office worker, should have an environment where they can work the way they want.
But even aside from laying the groundwork for a flexible work environment, such a massive change in the way you run your firm can be daunting. It comes with its own challenges and concerns, ones we’ll tackle next.
It Worked Fine In The Pandemic!
Many firms went fully remote during the pandemic, then shifted back to in-office work once things opened back up. Having seen the value of remote work, it’s easy to think that what worked well during the pandemic will work well now.
That isn’t necessarily true. Going into the pandemic, firms had a strong culture and a unifying problem. Everyone was coming out of the office and banding together, and not just at each firm. The whole world was dealing with the same problem. Every worker could bond over technical issues —remember the Zoom cat lawyer?.
As time has gone on, however, the work environment has shifted. Turnover rates in 2022 were 20 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workplace cultures don’t have the momentum they did going into the pandemic. And since not everyone, everywhere is going remote, mixtures of in-office, hybrid, and remote staff require different systems than the shift to remote during the pandemic did.
How Do I Know Everyone Is Actually Working?
We’ll answer that question with another question: how do you know they’re working now?
You probably walk down the hall, see people at their desks, and that combined with getting tasks done on time makes you feel like everyone’s working. But it isn’t the walking down the hall part that tells you anything; it’s the getting things done part. You need more concrete ways of measuring your team’s productivity, regardless of where your team is working.
These solutions shouldn’t reach into micromanagement, or you’ll wind up investing way too much effort, and demoralizing your team. Rather, you should be setting realistic expectations for your team, and making sure you’re reaching those goals. Work with staff to help set these expectations, and hold them accountable when they aren’t met.
Once you have a structure in place, it won’t matter when or where the work gets done; it will get done. Surveys have found that 77 percent of remote workers feel that they are more productive. As long as your team’s productivity improves, you have nothing to worry about.
Gather The Best Tools For The Job
Whether you’re planning on going fully remote, hybrid, or just taking advantage of some advice to make your in-office teams more efficient, you’ll need more than just our advice. Tools will help you do everything from communicate to monitor productivity more effectively.
One of the best tools for going remote is a legal answering service like Answering Legal. Our 100 percent bilingual virtual receptionists make it easy to work from home while still keeping your firm on track. From custom legal intake to detailed message-taking, we’ll provide you with everything you need to make the shift to remote work.
If you’d like to learn more about Answering Legal, check out our blog here. You can click here to see what services we offer. If you prefer to book a discovery call with a member of our team click here or call us at 631-686-9700.
Leave a Comment