Remote work in the legal industry is here to stay with 70% of lawyers wanting to continue working from home at least half of the time. The Littler Annual Employer Survey also reveals that 71% of employees would prefer a hybrid work environment over the classic office-only model.
These stats indicate that the majority of law firms are likely to stick to a hybrid work model for good. Part-time remote work continues to boost productivity by as much as 55% while office time gives your team enough time to interact in-person, meet up with clients, and go on the field.
But getting the best of both work settings does come with its challenges.
To help you prepare your attorney team for hybrid work, we’ve gathered 4 of the best tried-and-tested ways of handling hybrid work productivity challenges.
1. Define what productivity looks like for your firm
You define productivity. But there’s a couple of general metrics you can monitor in the legal practice industry to ensure your team is on track:
- 360-degree feedback: Use custom surveys to get a better look at how every team member is feeling, what they’re struggling with, what distractions are breaking their focus, and more.
- Planned-to-done ratio: This metric lets you measure how many tasks an individual has completed within the given timespan. You can track employee performance this way by comparing the planned-to-done ratio for different employees to spot discrepancies.
- Tracking how much time people spend on a task on average: The easiest way to see if an employee is stuck on a task or is dedicating too much time on a relatively easy activity is to have them track their time. Employees spending more than usual on a task can indicate burnout, poor motivation, or a lack of training on a specific case aspect.
Outline remote vs. in-office tasks
Above all, you need to clearly define what activities should be done remotely and what needs to get takencare of in the office. Task organization can guarantee productivity and help you hit deadlines without overworking your team — but in the legal industry, a fully remote work setup makes handling cases much more difficult.
A recent McKinsey study on over 2,000 tasks revealed that some activities are better suited for in-person work. While making phone calls or arranging schedules are a fit for work at home, representing clients in legal proceedings and contract authentication will have your organization opting for a hybrid work instead.
Tip: Teach your team to plan these tasks in advance. Coming into the office vs. doing work from home requires different kinds of setups. At home, they’ll have more time for deep work as well as extra flexibility to schedule activities whenever they want to. In the office, your legal teams depend on one another for collaborative work and meetings.
2. Track your team’s time while maintaining their privacy
Employees can stay productive with minimal external motivation if you’re able to maintain their trust. To increase trust in the context of a constant run between home and the office, you’ll have to ditch any bossware trackers you’re using.
WiseTime’s automatic tracker runs in the background as you work so you won’t have to keep an eye on the clock and interrupt your flow. Time on each task is accurately captured so you can increase billable hours and decrease manual administration time. Users’ timelines are completely private unless they decide to share it. This helps employees know that they aren’t being tracked and only the information that they choose to share will be able to be seen.
Note: To maintain your team’s trust, employ regular, transparent feedback policies that go both ways. One-on-one meetings aren’t just for the tech industry. Use them to better understand your team members and help them enjoy their time at your firm.
3. Get your team to adopt remote work best practices – even in the office
Most of the time, you won’t get to have the entire team in the office at once. So employees coming into the office should still maintain documentation and communication digitally so anyone can access it at any point.
This is handy when you’ve got multiple lawyers working on the same legal case. Every individual needs to be kept up to date with what’s going on with the case even if they’re away from the office. Storing information helps you better manage knowledge for when another attorney has to either take over or co-counsel.
Write all updates down, take meeting notes, and record your calls so attorneys on the case can review them. Remember that law firms are a common target for hackers so, as a best practice, you’ll want to use specialized document storing tools like HighQ or LexWorkplace to protect your data. Diversify your document storage methods and evaluate file retention/destruction schemes with your clients at the start of a new case.
4. Change office paths and seatings
Along with productivity, you’ll also want to ensure the safety of your employees and provide the comfort they previously didn’t have.
Lawyers are returning to offices where office paths are not set ahead of time to provide safety. Seating should be assigned ahead of time, ensuring attorneys won’t overlap in the same space. Teleconferencing rooms are another addition to the traditional workspace with advanced audio and video communication systems ready to eliminate the virtual border forever.=
Perhaps the most notable change remains how law firms are ditching owned office spaces for shared rooms. 75% of law firms are considering having attorneys share spaces rather than having dedicated offices when they work remotely for two to three days/week. Focus rooms will allow them to work independently and without distractions on their cases. This “hoteling” setup as well as an activity-based working model (ABW) will also support more attorneys in the same space:
So, is the hybrid model right for your law firm?
Productivity doesn’t go away with hybrid work. In fact, maximizing productivity in a hybrid work environment brings along multiple other benefits. Here’s just a couple of them to help you see if the hybrid model suits your legal practice:
- You’ll turn the physical office into a space that supports socialization and culture.
- Your team will gain long-term control over their work schedule, reducing the burnout risk and helping you retain talent.
- Reducing the number of seatings or rooms gives you space to improve the design of your office so it’s more welcoming for clients.
- You’ll be able to focus on building personal connections in the office and work towards increasing trust within the firm.
- You’ll be paying more attention to your productivity metrics and finally get to act upon those feedback surveys.
- You’ll work with [and even hire] collaborators from different cities without worrying about communication issues.
- You’ll get a clear look at where your team’s time is going to continue improving your practice.
Editor’s note: Web image sourced from CBRE Design and Unsplash/christina-wocintechchat