Managing director of First Law
About four years ago I packed in my role as managing partner of a traditional law firm and embarked on the novel idea of a law firm where lawyers worked remotely from their homes.
This was unheard of back then and was met with derision by some in the legal fraternity. There was even a mention of my then venture, Online Lawyers, in Law Talk, the Law Society magazine. The editor kindly acknowledged my forward thinking but could not help make the point that face to face interactions were best.
I recall doing a presentation at the Future of Law conference and watching a couple fellow boomer lawyers shake their heads when I explained the mechanics of my model.Haven’t times changed!
All my staff have been set up to fully function as an independent business unit from their homes.
That folks is a key to success; don’t go half-heartedly.
First thing, make sure your staff member has a dedicated and, ideally, separate space for work. Go and check out their premises yourself to make sure they have the right set up.
Secondly, fully kit them out with a comfortable desk and chair, two screens, a docking station, a laptop and printing/scanning facilities.
Make sure you use an IT expert to properly configurate the set up with good security and firewalls. Ideally, you should be operating in the cloud.
Office 365 with its multitude of great apps is in my view critical to success.
We use SharePoint and Teams. Teams allows us to stay in touch and communicate instantaneously. We rarely use Outlook for internal communications. Staff even have their own private channels as does management.
Once your people are working remotely, you must alter how you manage performance. You cannot manage the staff the same way you would if they were in a 9 to 5 environment.
Let me explain.
When working from home, people think and act differently. They do not need to be at the task non-stop. Chill out and focus more on outcomes.
It does not matter if the staff member wants to sleep in or alternatively, wants to start work at 5 am and then have a break during the day. What is important is the final outcome.
We work on trust. I do not micromanage their lives because I do not have to.
Yes, make sure you measure performance but be more results focused, rather than a time dictator.
Anyway, welcome to our world. Who knows, once we have got through this crisis, maybe what we do at First Law will have become the norm. Just do it right folks.