The last several years have seen a mass shift in attitudes towards working arrangements. Whereas remote work used to be an anomaly in the legal industry, it’s now commonplace to find attorneys logging in from their home offices to check on client matters.
That doesn’t mean that legal offices aren’t still part of the picture, though. Hybrid work has become a popular approach for attorneys to gain the benefits of remote work while still keeping their in-person offices running.
Law firms and attorneys considering hybrid schedules will find that they have many upsides. Hybrid schedules give legal teams the flexibility to work from the comfort of home when they’re completing high-concentration tasks, but still come into the office for meetings or collaborative projects. Attorneys working from home save time and money since they don’t need to pay for transportation or deal with a daily commute.
Additionally, the hybrid model can reduce the cost of office space for firms, since less space is required to accommodate a smaller in-office workforce presence.
But some aspects of the hybrid work model may make firms hesitant to adopt it. According to the American Bar Association, 25% of firms experienced a data breach in 2021 after transitioning to remote work. Firms may also worry about other issues like training and onboarding new employees remotely, ensuring access to shared information, and creating meaningful mentorship relationships between attorneys.
Firms should consider these four tips to make sure that the benefits of hybrid working outweigh the potential drawbacks.
1. Prioritize communication
Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working alone. To ensure that all members of the firm are on the same page, intentional communication is key.
Meetings can be helpful for sharing information, collaborating, and aligning expectations, but if employees are only occasionally present, it can be difficult to keep everyone up to date. If all employees won’t be present in person at a meeting, provide a virtual meeting link and consider recording the meeting for employees who can’t be there.
For some firms, it may be beneficial to schedule a weekly, biweekly, or monthly meeting in which attendance is required. This can help build and sustain relationships and keep all team members aligned with firm goals and expectations.
Regular check-ins between new and experienced attorneys can bolster relationships and give lawyers a chance to voice concerns, ask questions, or get support with complex cases. Holding regular one-on-one meetings can ensure that this practice doesn’t fall by the wayside.
2. Stick to a schedule
One peril of remote work is the risk of lawyers feeling as if they’re always on the clock. After all, when your home is your office, how do you truly step away from your cases at the end of the day? Establishing a set time to clock in (and clock out!) can help attorneys make time for other priorities each day and preserve their mental health.
Attorneys have long struggled with work-life balance, even before the rise of the hybrid model, but increased remote access to case files, documents, and emails can make the problem even more challenging. Lawyers practicing the hybrid work model may want to establish firm working hours to help preserve work-life balance and avoid burnout.
With lawyers experiencing more mental health challenges, it is more important than ever to prioritize practices that reduce stress. Build in healthy habits like a short “commute” around the block on foot before logging in.
3. Use the best legal software
The law is a collaborative field, with professionals at all levels involved in various stages of legal workflows. From paralegals to managing partners to office staff, all members of the team need to be able to access documents, send messages, and share case information securely.
Investing in the right software can help legal teams collaborate while maintaining client privacy and security.
Cloud-based legal practice management software helps hybrid teams stay connected and coordinated by making matter documents available from anywhere, whether team members are in the office, in the courtroom, or in their home office.
Legal-specific project management is critical for firms of all sizes. Not only does it connect emails, documents, and calendar items to the appropriate matter, but it supports all-important legal compliance needs as well.
4. Rethink IT Security
Cybersecurity threats aren’t new for law firms, but with more protected client and case information now being stored online, firms should ramp up security practices to ensure that all data is backed up and protected.
Cybersecurity breaches can really hurt firms, leading to increased costs, loss of billable hours, and loss of documents or files that can result in ethics violations. Unfortunately, security has long been a neglected aspect of law firm practice management, with many firms adhering to outdated practices like using paper files or neglecting to use even basic security methods like firewalls, antivirus software, or mandatory passwords.
If firms don’t have a dedicated IT department, IT security should be outsourced to a competent, legal-specific firm to guarantee that data is kept secure. All files should be stored on the cloud for increased security and protection from natural disasters and theft. Additionally, cybersecurity training should be completed by all members of the legal team in accordance with best practices for both remote and in-person work.
To support your hybrid workforce, use CosmoLex
CosmoLex’s cloud-based software helps diverse legal teams get more work done. Our matter-centric approach to practice management makes it easy to keep cases organized, and our intuitive billing and accounting features make getting paid for the work you do smoother than ever. With flexible contracts, all-inclusive pricing, and a fully integrated platform, firms get full matter management with one convenient subscription.