In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the importance of cybersecurity. Today’s environment has changed the complexion of most law firms and how they operate. Prior to the pandemic, the vast majority of firms required all employees to work from the office every day. Forced to work outside the office, due to COVID-19, law firms have found that profitability and revenue have increased recently, and costs in some areas have declined. With so many employees now considering a change of employment, it has become vital that law firm leaders recognize the need for a hybrid work environment. This is also a perfect time for each firm to address and improve on their human capital, especially through the use of a legal practice management system.
Creating a Flexible Work Environment
A hybrid schedule allows many employees to work whenever and wherever they choose. Once-difficult issues involving technology and cybercrime are now being universally addressed; however, the issue now has become how to keep all employees engaged with the firm and working together.
To make the hybrid environment work in your firm, leaders have to be available. This may create the issue of not really “working from home” but “living at work.” To avoid this scenario, some guidelines must be identified and addressed. For instance, if a senior partner communicates his/her schedule to everyone, it will enable others to arrange their schedules accordingly. Communication is key! The most effective forms of communication involve verbal and body language, which is why Zoom and other virtual platforms are so popular. While these solutions are great, installing a matter management system in your firm can also increase communication efforts amongst employees. By including cloud-based solutions in your firm, your employees will have an easier time collaborating by having all pertinent files and documents at their disposal, as well as the capabilities to organize their emails, calendars, and other to-do items.
Implement Mentorship Programs
Leaders need to remember that mentoring is necessary to increase productivity and profitability. In the past, leaders would mentor by asking junior professionals to join a meeting or to join them in their office. Today, must be more intentional and structured. For instance, for an upcoming in-person event, a leader should meet with the junior professional prior to the event and discuss the purpose of attending and how to get the most out of the time spent. As a mentor, the leader should then circle back with his/her mentee after the event to review what occurred. Keep in mind, if a senior partner is assigned a mentorship role, it may make sense to engage an outside professional to help. It is important to make the most of the time designated for mentoring, for the partner as well as the mentee.
Careful thought should go into assigning mentors to mentees. And mentors should meet regularly with one another to discuss their respective experiences. Depending on the law firm, it may make sense for mentees to meet regularly too, but because every professional is unique, those meetings should be monitored for progress; regularly scheduled meetings can become unproductive.
Law firms should not only arrange mentoring programs for attorneys. When appropriate, it may make sense for firm leaders to meet with support staff. Many times, support staff personnel have very useful and productive ideas with no practical means of presenting them. Give them one! Keep in mind that mentors may need mentors as well. Everyone can learn and everyone needs support.
Offer Benefits to Retain Employees
Not unlike software and hardware applications, the human capital of a law firm must be current. They need to be kept current and encouraged to professionally develop—at the firm’s expense. A firm may want to consider a tuition reimbursement policy (with limits) for all employees. A firm may want to encourage people to participate in seminars and courses. Firms can provide CLE and CLM credits to their employees as well. Employees and end users can always learn something new about current software applications. And better results are achieved from learning in a group than from learning individually.
There are also many in which to participate. A firm has to choose wisely when choosing among them. It may make sense for a few attorneys to join a local bar association. Keep in mind, however, the easy part is writing the check; the more difficult part of joining any association is attending events. It may also make sense to ask clients to what associations they belong. An ROI (return on investment) review should be done annually to determine which dues and membership fees are worthwhile.
In summary, firm leadership needs to take advantage of the positive aspects of the new hybrid work environment, using this shifting employee marketplace to improve their firm’s human capital. The challenge now has become one of keeping the dispersed workforce engaged. The simple answer is through heightened communication and proven technology. A strong mentoring program and investment in learning programs will help to get the employees working together as a team. Participating in worthwhile associations and getting feedback from clients can also help to improve the profitability and services of the firm.
Published by Zola Suite July 22, 2022