Follow these simple but effective tips to create a profitable virtual law office while working from home.
You may choose to work from a home office simply because you can, or for other valid lifestyle reasons. After all, it is one of the perks of being your own boss.
Today, using a virtual law office is increasingly common, both thanks to COVID-19 and an increasingly technologically savvy workforce. But working in a virtual law office environment still poses some challenges that will set back seasoned remote working pros. It’s easy to get distracted by things that need to get done around the house, Netflix, your video game console, or pets! Being alone all day is just too hard for some people. Or if you’re not alone, your family members may not understand that you’re actually working.
But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck, here are some tips and steps you can take to make sure your virtual law office runs smoothly:
1. Make Easy To Be Found
This tip is generally aimed at small law firms with several team members, but can also be applied to solos! One of the biggest issues in working remotely is being able to connect with someone when you need them. In an office, it’s easy to ask informal questions, get quick replies, do some quick idea generation, or share resources. But when you’re working from home that is a lot more challenging.
There are no shortage of tools that you can use to stay in contact with your team members or even your clients/peers in some instances. Slack, Discord, Zoom are just a few. The folks over at Zapier put together this list of different chat apps that you can use to help. The advantage of these is that people can set their status to show that they are at work.
2. Use an Online Project Management Tool
There are lots of these: Asana, Basecamp, Monday.com, and many more. The project management tool serves as your office filing cabinet and calendar. It creates a central location helping you to prioritize and organize your work. It also becomes a place where everyone can access what they need to get their work done and communicate about the work.
Here at Law Firm Suites, we use Slack and Asana. Both provide a way to track the day-to-day of each project, post group and direct messages between team members, links, documents, and other files, create to-do lists, assign responsibility, and much much more. Being online, it allows everyone to work on the same tasks, no matter where or when they are working.
3. Build a Dedicated Workspace
Find someplace in your home where you can separate your workspace from your personal space. Preferably, this should be in a separate room with a door that you can close, and it should be as far away as possible from the noises that your family or pets might make.
Ideally, the space should be large enough to accommodate your working files and have some extra room to accommodate your practice as it grows. However, in the case of urban dwellers where space is at a premium, your only option may be to convert a closet or utility room.
If you have options, choose the room based on what works best for your personality. If morning light motivates you, choose a room that is east-facing with a lot of windows. If a room with a view will be more of a distraction, choose a room without windows.
4. Consider an Executive Suite as a Second Work Location
Your home office may be perfectly adequate to roll up your sleeves and do the “dirty work” of a legal practice (drafting, legal research, telephone negotiations), but meeting clients, employees, or adversaries in your home may not be practical.
Or, you may find it helpful from time-to-time to get out of your office and work somewhere else.
Coffee shops can be one alternative, but they can be loud, and the use of public Wi-Fi may present confidentiality concerns. Libraries are quiet, but offer very little privacy and are not great places for meeting.
Also, this will help your practice to have a professional address. When people look up your firm online or send you mail, it doesn’t look great if that address is to your home in the suburbs or apartment in the city!
5. Set a Schedule and Share it
Interruptions are productivity killers. When you work from home, your family and friends can be the most frequent sources of interruption.
That’s why you need to be proactive, set a schedule and, more importantly, share it with everyone. Explain when you’ll be working. Describe how you work best: Whether that’s “You’re free to check in with me from time to time” (probably not) or “Only bother me unless someone is hurt or the house is on fire” (more likely).
Don’t assume people will automatically respect the fact that you’re working from home. They won’t.
6. Be Consistently Reliable
Be consistently and incredibly reliable. No matter if you’re working with other team members or with your clients, reliability will be essential to the success of your virtual law office. Be on time, every time. Call into that 11 a.m. conference call five minutes earlier. Since people can not see you, they can become anxious. If you’re five minutes late, that’s five minutes they have to wonder if you’re coming at all, and then to get angry that you wasted their time.
7. Get Dressed
Whenever you work from home, one of the first things you should do is change out of those pajamas and put on some work clothes. Now we’re not saying put on a suit, but the act of getting dressed will help you get into work mode and out of lounge mode.
Even if you don’t have a client yet. There are plenty of things that need to be done each day. Getting in the right mindset will help you tackle them.