Maintain Team Efficiency When Everyone Works Out of Office: Law Firm Experience

Remote work is not for lawyers: truth or myth

Yes, analysis and drafting of contracts, consulting and even submission of documents to some authorities can be done online today. But the lawyer must still visit the courts and some government agencies personally.

Lawyers interact not with documents, but with people. And when choosing a specialist in legal support, entrepreneurs often focus not only on the rating of a potential partner, but also on adequate communication.

Lawyers are compared to doctors – and just as a patient wants to personally meet the attending physician, it is important for a client (especially a representative of a large business) to negotiate and consult in person.

But it would be short-sighted not to use the advantages of remote control at all today. Moreover, “remote workers” are distinguished by flexibility, the ability to adapt to new conditions, a high level of personal responsibility and the use of time management technologies for the effective organization of independent work.

Optimal exit for a law firm — mixed (hybrid) format. And although building workflows in this mode, we encountered some difficulties, we still managed to solve many of them successfully.

Urgent tasks, deadlines and the importance of personal contact

With remote interaction, the speed of task execution may drop. Stable Internet can now be found even in the most remote corners of the world, and this really allows people to stay in touch all the time – but many issues with live communication are resolved much faster.

How to solve a problem

You need to understand that modern business is based not on the unity of the workspace, but on the unity of processes: the more flexible they are, the more efficient the company.

Interchangeability is one of the main principles for teams working remotely: there should always be a competent specialist ready to insure.

Several lawyers work on all our projects at once – this eliminates the risk of leaving the client in an information vacuum or slowing down the progress of work. And if colleagues realize that they do not have time, they ask each other to help.

Difficulties with air tickets, complication of visa regimes and time difference

Some of our colleagues live outside the territory of Russia, others regularly travel outside the country.

In such circumstances, the company becomes dependent on the conditions for crossing the border, the current visa rules – and the banal “will there be a ticket for the next flight” if the presence of a lawyer in Moscow or St. Petersburg is urgently required.

How to solve a problem

The principle of interchangeability comes to the rescue again. Several of our key specialists are constantly present in St. Petersburg and Moscow. They can quickly pick up the project of their colleagues if it is suddenly necessary, for example, to submit documents or come to court.

Like many remote workers, we have the problem of time zone differences. This entails the emergence of certain nuances in communication.

Read on the topic: Teamwork in different time zones: how to build and maintain

For example, Alexander’s adviser has been living in Thailand for almost a year, where the difference with Moscow is +4 hours (GMT+7). The schedule of its work has shifted from the usual 9:00-18:00 to 13:00-22:00.

Alexandra notes that the new regimen allowed her to even out her work-life balance: she devotes the first half of the day to training, study and travel, and the second to work. In our case, different time zones are not a problem, since interaction with colleagues from Russia takes place in the same format.

Moreover, the time difference sometimes helps out if you need to find a few extra hours in a day in order to have time to check and send information to the client by the next morning or contact counterparties from the eastern part of Russia or Asia from the same time zone.

Of the advantages of this mode: Alexandra’s weekends last 2.5 days.

How to keep your team productive when everyone is working from home

When the manager does not have the opportunity to observe the work of employees in real time, it may begin to seem that someone is not working efficiently enough or someone needs help.

In such conditions, regular contact is very important, otherwise it is difficult to delegate tasks or redistribute the load. Especially if you have never seen your employee live and communicated with him only online.

How to solve a problem

We do not have a goal to thoroughly track every step of an employee: such excesses negatively affect both motivation and the atmosphere in the team. The main criterion for evaluating the work is the number of tasks completed on time.

We recommend focusing not so much on control over employees as on finding new team members motivated for quality work – such employees need only minimal monitoring from management.

Read also:

Three Rules for Leading a Remote Team

Features of online recruiting: how to hire and manage remote employees

We had an experience when we tested two or three applicants for a vacancy, and then, in the shortest possible time and without regrets, parted with those who tried to work part-time with us or did not have the qualities necessary for remote work (punctuality, self-discipline, flexibility) .

But since a manager cannot do without control and analytics, it is worth using software to monitor the work of an employee and its results. For example, we track:

  • time spent by a lawyer in the workplace,
  • We use keyloggers and applications for task tracking.

For task management, we often work in Trello, and for some of the processes we have a CRM system with a high degree of data protection.

The psychological climate in the team, which meets once a year

The work team is a living organism that functions according to certain rules. The online format of employee interaction and the lack of personal contact with colleagues can cause stress and reduce work capacity.

Drink coffee together, go to a business lunch, chat at the cooler – “remote workers” are deprived of these simple office joys.

Even such simple, at first glance, ways to maintain employee loyalty, like congratulations on holidays, turned out to be a real challenge. It is one thing to send gifts for the New Year to colleagues located in two cities, and quite another to organize delivery to different parts of the world.

How to solve a problem

We are in touch every day, every employee knows what he is doing. Everyone is ready to support each other if necessary.

  • In addition to working calls to Zoom and weekly reports, we also support informal chatting in Telegram.
  • Once a week, we hold informal video calls during which we talk about non-work topics.

Like professionals in more creative professions, meticulous lawyers are no strangers to humor and empathy.

Of particular value are personal meetings in an informal setting. We have an annual tradition: we arrange a corporate party in the fall and make a joint photo shoot mandatory. This is a great opportunity for employees to communicate live, get to know each other better and improve communication.

The issue of gifts for birthdays and general holidays we decided as follows: for those who are abroad, we choose:

  • online gifts (for example, subscriptions to Storytel and LiteRes audiobook services, Okko and Kinopoisk online cinemas),
  • we are looking for the possibility of delivering flowers or gift baskets in the country where our colleague is located.

For employees who are in other regions of Russia on a holiday (not in Moscow or St. Petersburg), we gave certificates to the Golden Apple, Hoff, Poison Drop – online stores with delivery throughout the Russian Federation.

We are exploring the possibility of delivering real gifts, such as flowers, in advance. Recently, it has become more difficult to do this, but so far we have been able to find a way out of such difficult situations, and none of our colleagues has yet been left without congratulations.

Is it worth switching to a hybrid work format for large and small companies

A hybrid office is a flexible tool for transforming a business and increasing its efficiency. This is helped by modern communication tools that allow you to manage processes in a team, increase employee motivation, and improve business results.

Therefore, we recommend that startups should not be afraid to start with this format, and “experienced” companies should not be afraid to try something new.

On our example, we tested several solutions and now we can say with confidence that we were able to build remote workflows quite effectively. But we are not going to stop there, and in the future we will test new methods and tools for management.

Cover photo: Shutterstock / Farknot Architect

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