Plenty of attorneys were comfortable working from the office five days a week before the pandemic. In most law firms, it was expected that staff would be onsite during business hours on weekdays, too. But when everything got shaken up with stay-at-home orders, plenty of firms discovered that staff could handle certain tasks, a few days a week, or even full remote work just as effectively.
You might initially resist the idea of letting your staff work from home in a hybrid arrangement or total remote work. Still, it opens your talent pool geographically and, when done right, makes for happier employees. Further, you’ll get significant cost savings from letting your staff work remotely, especially if you can entirely give up your office or downsize to a much smaller space.
If you decide to work remotely in any capacity, it’s a good idea to have clear communication guidelines and a suite of tools to support you in these efforts. Here are some of our top recommendations.
Tools: Your Tech Stack
A modern law firm must have a solid tech stack that enables automation, communication, and organization. Read on to learn more about some of the basics even a small law firm needs to stay productive and on top of details.
Slack is a big time-saver when employees have questions. It’s a tool that can save your email inbox from clutter, too, by allowing you to respond to more urgent questions. It’s much like a chat tool where you can use general channels across the team, smaller restricted channels (such as for your finance or marketing team), and even personal chats with individual employees.
Beyond saving time and keeping things organized, Slack can also be a team-building tool. Share fun updates, celebrate birthdays, and chitchat on specific channels or certain days to help everyone on the team feel included.
You can indeed do a lot with Gmail and Outlook, but they often need to catch up with all of the bells and whistles lawyers might be able to use to get things done faster. That’s where a tool like Missive comes in.
Does your inbox often feel overwhelming, or are you spending a lot of time checking in with staff members who responded, when, and how? Missive is a great tool to use for remote teams. You can do things like:
- Delegate certain emails
- Comment to other people on your team behind the scenes before the email goes out
- See when someone responded to an email on your behalf
OneNote is a robust tool for keeping track of all your thoughts during meetings. It really makes it simple for you to go back and verify something when you’re working on a brief or preparing a new update for your client. Skip the old-school yellow notepad and track everything about your client meetings and internal meetings in one place.
Practice Management Software
There are plenty of practice management software types to choose from, but the most important thing to keep in mind is choosing one that will allow you to use it consistently and effectively. Every law firm, especially a fully remote one, needs one place to track cases and their important updates. Knowing the status of a case and having the ability to view critical deadlines in one place keeps everyone on the team informed. Don’t overinvest in practice management software that is confusing or frustrating for you and your staff. Find a tool that balances all you need and is intuitive.
Top Productivity Tips for Work-at-Home Lawyers
Once you’ve got the software in place to handle as much automation as possible, there’s still room for best practices with productivity. The more you can think about saving yourself time, the more enjoyable work becomes.
Thankfully, the fact that so many people went remote in 2020 provided a lot of learning lessons that all lawyers can take advantage of now. Here are some of the best ways to get more done in less time.
For one week, track everything you do on a notepad or document. At the end of the week, look back and see what things you handled that could have been delegated to a staff member. From there, make a plan to train the relevant team member so you can permanently get things off your plate. If you’re handling admin, doing too much marketing, or can remove yourself as the bottleneck for client communication, building a system now will save you hours of time and energy.
Block Your Time
There’s a huge productivity loss in what’s known as context switching. Context switching looks like this:
- Reading an email, then remembering you forgot to attach something to an email you sent yesterday
- Frantically searching your inbox to resend that message, only to be interrupted by your admin telling you there’s a call for you
- Taking the call, then jumping back into the inbox to look for that attachment and send it
- Getting a ping on your phone that someone sent a message to the law firm’s Facebook inbox and jumping over to read it
When you’re constantly spinning from one task to another, your brain has a hard time keeping up. Instead, block out specific times in your calendar for blocks of tasks that are similar, such as:
- Answering email
- Talking to clients on the phone or in meetings
- Internal meetings
Find Your Best Working Hours
Certain tasks, such as legal research or writing, are heavy lifts. If you’re a morning person and feel less “on” by 3 P.M., ensure that your research and writing time is blocked into your calendar much earlier in the day. By working with your natural rhythms, you’ll get more of your tasks done at a high-quality level.
When it comes to maximizing productivity at your law firm, start small. Don’t try to implement sweeping changes across the board and stress out your whole team. Instead, aim for one new strategy or tool at a time, allowing everyone to get comfortable before taking the next step.