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The challenges of COVID-19 have forced us to re-evaluate the way we do business. While workplace flexibility may have been on the long-term agenda for some law firms, the pandemic has unceremoniously pushed remote work to the forefront. Embracing the ‘new normal’ and ‘pivoting’ have become essential for law firms to survive, but despite these 2020 buzz phrases now having as much appeal as flat lemonade, ‘remote working’ will continue to form part of the way we operate.

With remote working comes several challenges to ensure that your staff and your law firm are best placed to move forward. Whether or not you embrace the new ideology, we would suggest there are many benefits, provided you implement good strategies. Below are some considerations.

Check in with staff

Remote working has drastically changed the way we communicate, with fewer face-to-face meetings and a heavy reliance on emails or project management software to exchange ideas and information. While this is convenient, staff can begin to feel isolated when they do not see or hear from their colleagues or supervisors. Relying on emails alone and hastily written notes can also fail to properly convey a person’s opinion and tone.

Scheduling routine check-ins with your staff through platforms like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet to discuss client matters and workplace issues not only puts everybody on the same page, but can help retain the team spirit that might otherwise be lost in isolation.

Adopt flexible working hours

Many of your staff are likely juggling shared ‘office space’ with partners who are also struggling with new ways of working, caring for children, and coping with the usual domestic chaos that comes with life in general. This can make a typical 9 to 5 day impossible.

Most staff do not need to be micro-managed and efficiency can be measured by outcomes rather than the time that work is actually performed. Mutual trust is essential. Allowing flexibility for staff to work around domestic challenges can help reduce anxiety and ensure that their attention is focused during the hours that they do work. This will also benefit clients, many of whom may find it difficult to fit appointments into a 9 to 5 schedule.

Provide adequate resources

Your team will need access to technology and other resources necessary to perform their duties effectively. You will need to consider hardware, software, mobile phones, internet access, and system requirements to run cloud-based software. Security and confidentiality will be paramount.

Remote workplaces will also need to be assessed so they provide optimum working conditions. There are resources and checklists available that you can provide your staff so they can evaluate their respective workplaces. This is a time of adjustment and the household circumstances and available resources between staff members will vary considerably. Flexibility and discretion are key – staff should be encouraged to discuss their concerns openly to ensure they have the tools they need to work effectively.

Remember, resources also include adequate training and self-development.

Reset growth expectations

The goal posts have definitely been moved by COVID-19 and KPIs and growth strategies must be revisited. Areas of law have been affected differently with some practice areas dwindling to a slow demise while other areas flourish. These trends will likely fluctuate as we move through the waves and effects of the pandemic and the various government and other responses to it. Staying informed and talking to your staff about realistic outcomes is essential.

Use technology efficiently

There is a range of cloud-based technology and project management software available to facilitate remote work. Now is the time to review your existing software to ensure it meets your needs. You should also check that latest versions and maximum security is installed on all devices. Software programs are often under-utilised, so it is important that staff receive adequate training to maximise the benefits of the technology they are using.

Updating your cyber security protocols for staff working remotely should also be prioritised.

Reconsider your office needs

The implementation of a successful remote work policy can deliver benefits that may not have been considered pre-pandemic. While we are not suggesting you shut your physical office down, you might reconsider the space you need with a view to down-sizing or sub-letting with complementary businesses.

Communicate regularly with your clients

Clients with current legal matters may feel additional stress if they are not sure what is going on in your firm. Regular communication with clients, letting them know how your business is operating and assuring them of your availability can help ease anxiety. Clients with pending court matters will need updates on changes in how their case will be managed and how to best prepare.

Recalibrate your marketing

Reassessing your marketing plans to ensure they align with new ways of doing business is essential. This means utilising digital platforms such as email and social media to communicate regularly with, and deliver useful content to your clients, potential clients, and referrers.

  • Ideally, your professional staff should be spending their time on client / legal work rather than marketing work, the latter being difficult to measure in terms of outcome. Discussing and outsourcing your needs with reliable marketing experts can automate your marketing activities and ensure continuity of your campaigns, with results quantified in regular reports.
  • Reassess the value of any paid advertising in Yellow Pages, radio, print media, leaflets billboards, etc.
  • Get your website right. This is a must. Many people (your potential clients) are either working remotely, or now well-versed in the functions of Google – they are looking online for legal help, so you need to ensure that your website is working effectively for you and properly represents your law firm. If you would like us to provide a Free Website Health Check, contact us and we will review it and report to you.
  • Regularly communicate with clients who already know and trust you by sending out valuable information in the form of a newsletter. See newsletter guide.

If remote working was not already a part of your business operations, it has become a necessary consideration for every law firm. Flexible work practices can benefit your staff, your clients, and your law firm but require the implementation of sound policies and ongoing management to maximise performance.

Now more than ever, the optimisation of technology, and a sound digital marketing strategy are essential components for a law firm’s survival and growth.

Law firm marketing is all we do. Our core business is based on helping law firms communicate with clients, potential clients, and referrers either via your website, directly via newsletters or using your social media channels effectively, marketing and communication strategies to help grow their business. If you want to know more, please contact me.

About the author
Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.
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