Effective Leadership in a Remote Law Firm

Micky Deming
Effective Leadership in a Remote Law Firm

Predominant characteristics of successful legal firms are confidentiality, effectiveness, and communication. 

Each of these attributes are significantly more difficult to achieve in a remote environment. With everyone asked to work remotely — law firms included — there has never been a more important time for effective leadership.

The question on the mind of most lawyers: When you aren't able to have regular meetings or in-person touch points, how do you lead your firm?

Maybe you’re still figuring it out. Or maybe you’ve already tried and things seem like they’re going off-the-rails. In this brief article, you’ll find 4 core fundamentals of effectively leading your firm remotely.

4 Principles of Remote Law Firm Leadership

1. Data-driven accountability and decisions

When teams work closely together, tasks are fluid. You may say, “Oh, I almost forgot. Would you do a search for the case I’m working on?” Or, “Hey everyone, just got a new case and it’s going to take a lot. Let’s have a quick 10-minute meeting to wrap our heads around it.”

These types of scenarios are common in any environment, especially one dependent on the actions and reactions of third parties (like judges and opposition). There’s a great deal of information coming quickly and sometimes last-minute changes will be a certainty.

For a remote team to function, tasks need to be accounted for on the front end (when they’re handed out) and on the backend (to ensure completion in a timely and high-quality manner).

Three important steps for data-driven accountability

  • Context: Giving the team access to all necessary details on a case or project, as well as clear communication within those projects gives your team the needed context to see the big picture.
  • Roles: Collaboration is important in remote work, but clearly defined roles are mission-critical. Success will not happen without each person having set priorities.
  • Metrics: Task management, communication, and law practice software solutions usually have reporting features. Use these to understand how well your firm is functioning and to make decisions based on that data.

Key takeaway: You must have accountability — with verifiable numbers — to understand that the right work is getting done in a timely manner.

2. Tech tools

Software needs have significantly increased with the pandemic, but many firms still don’t have the right “stack” put together.

Essentially, a “stack” is a set of tools, used in conjunction with one another, creating a system for a business. For law firms, your stack will likely include tools for:

  • Marketing/Sales: These are things like CRM, website tools (like live chat), etc
  • Team: Examples here are email, messaging apps, document management, project management, and many other tools.
  • Client: Document delivery tools, case management, etc.

Important: Some of these tools have the ability to impede progress, too. For instance, email and messaging can cause confusion. Live chat, managed in-house without clear roles means leads slip through the cracks. It’s important to get every function you need without causing bottlenecks. 

(Source)

A few ways to do this include:

  • Set clear team responsibilities (for instance, incoming calls and chats).
  • Research what your current tools do and the ones you use most. Increasingly solutions are increasing their number of features to add value. Perhaps you’re paying for two tools when one of them can do it all
  • Know how to use everything yourself. This way, you’re in a better position to help along the way.

Key takeaway: You must prioritize the tech for your organization to function efficiently and reduce workload. 

3. Communication 

There are three separate groups in the communication realm of your business:

  • Leads 
  • Staff 
  • Clients

Communicating with leads

Leads are different. You actually want to increase the number of ways your potential clients reach out to you. Social media, live chat, phone calls, and even text. The easier it is for them to get a hold of you, the better.

One of the best ways to manage all of this incoming chatter is to have it managed for you. You can have a virtual receptionist answer calls or setup a chatbot to qualify leads 24/7.

Having professional help increases the ways leads connect while reducing the burden on your team.

Communicating with staff

Unlike leads, this one is about reducing and condensing. Don’t use email, phone calls, text messages and PM software to communicate as a team.

“Did you get my email?”

“No.”

“You take a look at my notes on that document draft?”

“How do I do that?”

Figure out a primary form for both visual and verbal team communication (like a video conferencing platform and the messaging app of your case management tool). Then, make sure everyone is on board. Be prepared to be firm on people using the right mode of communication for the right tasks.

Communicating with clients

Keeping in touch with clients is more like team communication than it is communication with leads. It’s important for clients to be able to get a hold of your team. However, no lawyer likes surprises and unplanned communication.

It’s important to overly communicate any changes you’ve made (and will make). You’ll also want to get your current clients on board with new channels of communication (video conferencing, more email, and other client-facing tools).

Key takeaway: Utilize virtual meetings, chat, etc., but don’t overdo it. Make sure that what you’re saying, to whom and how is clear to everyone involved.

4. Provide encouragement and confidence

As a leader, there is so much to worry about.

  • Financial worries
  • Pandemic worries
  • Learning new software worries
  • And many, many, many more

Now, think about how many people you have working on your team. They’re all worried too, and they may have a lot less information than you do. At the risk of sounding counterintuitive to other points in this resource, you should reach out to individuals and discuss how they’re dealing with the crisis

Don’t make it about assigning more tasks or, worse, idle chit chat, but to offer any help you can give, give encouragement about the future, and just to show them you know — and care — about the challenges they face.

Key takeaway: Don’t lose sight of the mental health aspect of this situation. Your team is at home and uncertain of the future. Be sure to communicate in the full context of the situation.

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