Remote work, hybrid models, and family lawyers: strategies to help increase productivity, decrease stress, and excel when working remotely.
By John Bui, Family Lawyer
Remote work has become increasingly popular across various industries. Even within legal professions, the options for remote work have so far been welcomed by many.
Interestingly, because of the restrictions placed due to the pandemic, even many court sessions were conducted online in the past few months. “Zoom courts” are novel avenues that are being embraced by many.
With our society constantly changing the way it functions, all law firms have increasingly adopted hybrid working arrangements. This also holds true for family law firms.
Remote Work and Family Lawyers
For family lawyers who deal with cases related to divorce and separation, having face-to-face consultations is very important. It is during these consultations that family lawyers and their clients discuss the details of the case and chalk out a solid legal plan.
Without these face-to-face appointments, the process of understanding the details and circumstances of each case might be difficult for family lawyers. This might be because some clients feel uncomfortable with online meetings and therefore hold back and fail to give out crucial information regarding their matter.
However, there are some strategies that can be implemented to make the transition from offline to online work more smooth for both lawyers and clients.
3 Success Strategies for Family Lawyers
This article aims to highlight three important strategies which can ensure effective and hassle-free remote work for family lawyers. Incorporating the following strategies will be necessary to make remote work as efficient as possible.
1. Store all Case Files and Documents Online
For family law firms, case files and documents are their lifeblood. Traditionally, case files were stored in physical folders and stored in cabinets at workplaces. However, continuing to store physical case files in a brick-and-mortar building will make remote work very difficult.
If you are still resisting using technology to store files and cases in “the cloud” – allowing all lawyers, paralegals, and others to access some or all files and documents regardless of where they are working that day – then you may find success increasingly elusive.
Similarly, when you need to file documents with the family court, look into e-filing services wherever possible.
2. Ensure Seamless Communication for Staff and Clients
Needless to say, communication is an important factor to consider – both in the office and especially when working remotely. Because family law cases are deeply personal, communication and responsiveness are crucial when dealing with clients.
Communication is also extremely important for firms that have transitioned from an office environment to a work-from-home setting to a hybrid model.
The lack of communication can create many hurdles, especially for busy firms where lawyers work on cases collectively. It’s good practice to decide on communication channels and set regular online meetings with your team before changing how and where everyone will work.
You also need to let your clients know about the communication channels you will be using, and when you’ll be available. In the wake of COVID, your clients may be unsure of whether they have scheduled a traditional face-to-face or a virtual appointment – especially if you are now using a hybrid model.
Let clients know how what videoconferencing service(s) you use and make sure that your client is comfortable with all modes of communication your firm employs – from text messages to email to phone calls to in-person meetings.
Good client communication also means setting up easy alternatives when people call the office numbers. Enable call forwarding when you’re out of the office, and offer other options for reaching you if practicable.
3. Know When to Unplug to Protect Your Well-Being
When you’re out of the office, you may miss external clues that the workday is over – such as everyone shutting down their computers and leaving the office – which can lead to overworking. Working too many hours without enough rest and relaxation will eventually lead to burnout.
Depending on the complexity, lawyers may need to invest significant time working on a case. Especially for family lawyers with workaholic tendencies, it is important to set time limits and unplug – even when working from home.
To be at your best, you need to care for your mental and physical health. Allowing time for exercise, eating healthy meals and snacks, and knowing when to take a break from work are all essential.
Remote Work and Hybrid Models
Keep these strategies in mind if your family law firm continues to embrace work-from-home as well as new hybrid work models. This will help increase productivity, reduce communication crossed wires, and enable you to handle stress better. Your firm will be able to excel by working remotely, making good use of technology, and following evolving best practices.
Communication is key when it comes to making transitions easier. Keep the lines of communication open and accessible with your colleagues and clients alike. In a similar vein, being alert and responsive to your colleagues and clients will make everyone’s remote working experience better.
John Bui is the Principal Solicitor of JB Solicitors – a family law firm based in Sydney, Australia. He has over 10 years’ experience in family law and commercial litigation. John is also a nationally accredited family law mediator and arbitrator. jbsolicitors.com.au
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