By Tiana Hardison
The Covid-19 Pandemic hit businesses hard – and law firms were no exception. For many, the choice was temporary closure or a rapid scramble to take their operations off-site. Going remote meant creating systems, policies, and procedures that would allow for remote employees to perform essential law firm functions – like intake, medical record retrieval, case management, HR, and all the rest. It meant setting their systems upon “the Cloud” for many if they had not already done so. It was no small task- but thankfully, that initial learning curve and move to remote law firm capability is behind us. This “new normal” wasn’t anything any of us would have chosen- but there is a silver lining, at least- and that is the realization that law firms can operate remotely if and when it is necessary- And with that, the opportunity to leverage an increased hiring talent pool of future remote employees.
The trial by fire shift to remote law firm operations meant learning to manage a staff that was no longer working in the brick-and-mortar law firm office. With this shift came the eventual acknowledgment that law firms can successfully employ and manage staff who perform most if not all of their duties off-site. This means you now have the opportunity to hire top talent from all over the country instead of being limited to the talent pool of your town and its outlying areas.
Through the years, I’ve heard many attorneys complain about the challenges of finding great employees. For some law firms, the issue is finding qualified candidates in an area where few people possess the necessary skills. For others, the market is so competitive that the struggle is hiring talented individuals before they are snapped up by a competitor.
But the good news is that in the post-pandemic business model, you are no longer limited to hiring staff that lives in your specific market. Now- the world is your oyster, so to speak. Today your law firm’s potential Talent base is increased 100%! As a direct result of having Remote capabilities, you can now look for great talent anywhere in the country. The pandemic has shown us that remote employment is no longer “out of the question.” We’ve seen the evidence that for many positions, the work can be performed just as well, if not more efficiently and effectively, from staff members working remotely than those sitting in brick-and-mortar cubicles.
So, as you move forward, why limit your future law firm hires to individuals that live near your law firm? Why not take advantage of the gigantic pool of talent existing all across the country?
Websites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter allow you to post a job listing that will reach potential candidates from all across the country. Take advantage of this opportunity for any position that you determine can be performed remotely-
Tips for Keeping Remote Employees in the Loop:
Once you’ve hired remote employees – it is important to put steps in place to “keep them in the loop.” Your remote employees need to be a part of your firm’s culture- and be able to execute their responsibilities in a manner that is consistent with your firm’s policies, procedures, and proto calls.
Like all staff members, remote employees need to be motivated and to feel that they are truly part of the law firm –
Communication is key – so it is important to implement daily check-in meetings between your remote employees and others within their department. If the remote employee is in an upper-level position, then they need to be plugged into daily huddle meetings with the other department heads.
As with any successful business, the left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing. These daily “huddle” meetings do NOT need to be long, boring affairs. Our company went completely remote years before the pandemic. Our employees come from all across the country.
For example, our head graphic artist is in Montana. Our Member Services/Intake department head lives in one end of North Carolina, near the coast, while our COO lives in the North Carolina mountains. With all of our employees and staff working remotely, we have seen firsthand the critical importance of communication. Our daily huddles occur by telephone conference every morning at 9:37 sharp. And they never last more than 10 minutes, tops.
In each daily huddle, we each share three quick but important pieces of information with the team: 1) our “win from yesterday, 2) what we are currently “stuck” on, in the event that we have run into a particular obstacle and/or need someone else’s input to solve a problem, and 3) what our priorities are for today. If problems are identified, they are taken off-line and dealt with one-on-one so that the rest of the team isn’t stuck on a call that doesn’t pertain to them. These daily communications allow us to stay connected even though we aren’t in an office working together. They give us an opportunity to streamline our focus on the current projects we need to be pushing. Importantly, they also allow upper management to have a sense of each person’s priorities in the event that these priorities need to be changed based upon the changing circumstances or unique issues that arise from day to day.
While daily quick huddles are helpful for any company to increase their overall effectiveness, efficiency, culture, and communication- they are even more important when Remote employees are involved.
Weekly Zoom Meetings:
When it comes to maintaining remote employees, there is no substitute for face to virtual face communication.
Your remote employees need to feel that they are truly part of your law firm- And your other staff needs the opportunity to get to know your remote employees. Being able to see each other, even virtually, helps the remote members feel that they are part of your TEAM.
Weekly Zoom meetings will provide a level of communication and connection that audio calls alone cannot.
In our company, we drop the daily huddles on Tuesday mornings and meet by zoom instead. In these weekly Zoom meetings, everyone can see everyone else- and we cover a bit more ground. Instead of a quick 6-10 minute “huddle” these meetings may last an hour. This is when we review the short-term goals and projects assigned for this quarter and share what each of us thinks the company should stop, start, or keep doing. In a law firm setting, eliciting this kind of feedback from your staff can prove invaluable.
When your employees feel that you value their thoughts, ideas, and insights, they are much more likely to be productive and feel vested in the company’s projects, goals, and objectives. They will be more likely to embrace your firm’s culture. And they will be more likely to stick around rather than jump ship for greener pastures.
And frankly, your employees may have some fantastic ideas of ways to improve policies or procedures for completing tasks, for obtaining more client 5-star reviews, or streamlining lunch breaks and phone coverage, and so forth. However, your staff won’t speak up and share their ideas unless they feel you welcome them. Weekly meetings are a great opportunity for this kind of employee input.
Occasional In-Person Meetings:
While daily audio check-ins and weekly zoom meetings will help your remote employees feel plugged into your firm and its’ culture, there is no substitute for quarterly or yearly in-person communication. In our company, we make a point of trying to arrange in-person quarterly goal-setting meetings. These gatherings give us an opportunity to get to know each other a bit better, as we discuss, identify, and commit to quarterly goals and objectives- to discuss our company’s firm culture and values and to fellowship together. We believe these meetings make us all more committed to the work we do and solidify our many parts into one cohesive team.
Remote Work is part of today’s “New Normal.” Recognize the opportunity remote capabilities present for today’s law firm owners. You are no longer limited to canvassing your area for local hires. Instead, the entire country is open to you, and your talent base of potential employees has dramatically increased. Take advantage of this positive development in the “new Normal” law firm model.