Managing, Motivating, and Retaining Remote Law Firm Teams

For more than a year now many lawyers have worked remotely at one point or another. For many law firms, the shift to a remote workforce was an abrupt one and didn’t always go smoothly. But eventually law firms were able to put technology in place that allowed them to get work done seamlessly, regardless of where it was occurring.

The shift to remote work

The tools used by law firms to ensure that work could be done remotely were usually cloud-based. And once the software was in place, allowed a firm’s workforce to communicate and collaborate securely from any location. In other words, the right technology toolbox made all the difference when it came to the sudden and unexpected shift to practicing law virtually.

However, there’s more to a successful remote workforce than technology. It’s also important to ensure that a firm’s dispersed team feels connected and motivated and is thus able to get the job done effectively and efficiently.

Of course, managing a remote workforce, as opposed to an in-office team, presents an entirely new set of challenges, and it’s important for leaders to appreciate the differences and change their approach accordingly. Because what works when your team is located in an office isn’t always as effective when they’re working from separate locations.

If you’ve been trying to figure out how to successfully manage remote teams, then you’re in luck! This very topic was recently covered at ABA Techshow, which occurred last month. The presentation focused on how to motivate, and retain virtual and telecommuting teams, and included lots of useful advice for law firm leaders tasked with managing remote teams.

Below you’ll find the visual notes from that session, which were sponsored by MyCase, along with 3 highlights of topics covered by this presentation:

Leverage technology

First and foremost, the presenters emphasized the importance of leveraging the remote working technology that your firm has in place. Make sure that you’re using all of the features available that simplify and streamline the virtual practice of law, including e-signature functionality, online intake, internal chat, and videoconferencing capabilities.

Also of import is that when it comes to virtual meetings, make sure to take steps to reduce Zoom fatigue. Staring at a screen all day can take its toll, so make sure to encourage employees to take breaks and try to intersperse online meetings with other types of work, to the extent that it’s possible. Other suggestions from the presenters in this regard included: 1) avoid multitasking and focus on one thing at a time, 2) only keep one browser tab open during meetings to encourage better focus, 3) try to fit “video-closed” breaks into your day, and 4) find alternate ways to connect that don’t involve video conferences.

Create a sense of community

Next, the presenters explained how important it is to foster a sense of community even when a legal team is dispersed and working from home. One suggestion made by the presenters was to set virtual watercooler hours or otherwise encourage that type of virtual interaction. For example, one way to accomplish this is to set up an internal chat channel for that sole purpose.

Another way to encourage a sense of community is to find ways to welcome new hires that have been onboarded virtually. Creating a sense of connection and belonging is important for long term retention, but this can be more difficult to accomplish virtually. According to the presenters, that’s why warm welcomes are incredibly important for new employees and can make all the difference when employees are hired and onboarded virtually. To that end, another suggestion made was to use the buddy system and connect new hires with current employees; that way the new employees will have someone to help acclimate them and show them the ropes.

Encourage self care

Last, but not least, the presenters reiterated multiple times the importance of encouraging your firm’s workforce to prioritize self care. Because we’re facing so much uncertainty due to the pandemic and are often working in isolation for extended periods of time, maintaining work-life balance can be challenging. This is especially so when the work being done typically occurs at home.

Notably, the presenters shared that modeling work-life balance is a great way to encourage employees to take steps to separate their work life from their home life. For example, when appropriate, let people know that an immediate response isn’t required to an email or message. Similarly, suggest that employees put their work computer away at the end of the day in order to create a sense of space between work and recreation. Doing so will ensure that your firm’s team members are fully focused on the task at hand when working, thus increasing their efficiency.

So there you have it! Lots of great tips to implement when your workforce is dispersed that will keep your team happy and productive.

Speaking of productivity, for even more advice on how to remain productive in the face of uncertainty in the here and now (and in the future), download this free guide!