Maintaining Law Firm Culture While Sustaining Decentralised Working

June 22, 2020

As we all adapt to this new reality where remote work and social distancing have become normal, businesses and law firms are facing the challenge of maintaining their company cultures. Culture plays a major role in helping law firms achieve and maintain a certain level of success and now more than ever that culture is under threat due to the global pandemic and a decentralised workforce that may be struggling with adapting to the isolation, uncertainty and other mental anxieties that may make being productive more challenging.  

Leaders in every organisation are facing the challenge of finding new ways to maintain the corporate culture they once had in their firms with a workforce that is now remote. In this blog, we will look at three major contributors that will help maintain an employee-centric culture in your law firm, even in the hardest of times. 

 

How have teams been impacted by decentralised work 

Each practice group within the law firm is expected to still perform, with little to no time to adapt and keep the firm’s business moving forward. 

Let’s start by looking at some impacts these times have had on your employees. 

  • Many may not have a home office set up and are sharing the kitchen table with their spouse or family 
  • Parents are adjusting to working from home, and homeschooling simultaneously 
  • Social interactions are at an all-time low, a circumstance that could have unpredictable mental health effects. Before COVID-19, people interacted in person, now they’re limited to interacting through a screen  
  • The lack of a structured day could cause routines to fall by the wayside, resulting in mental fog and lethargy as the days seem to blend into each other 

Even though the lockdown has been going on for several months, there is still no clarity as to when it will officially end. Remote work will be a lingering endeavour to become integrated into your firm’s culture. How will your law firms’ leadership adjust their management style and communication to fit the needs of our teams? 

 

How we can provide culture 

Creating a positive environment in every call, meeting and email will push a team towards success much more than running your practice like a drill sergeant. 

Part of this emphasis on a positive workspace in our newly remote world will be the adoption of new rituals to foster open communication, team building and an overall cohesive team. Just because your firm is working remotely, doesn’t mean your team can’t be social. Address your current corporate culture and morph it into a remote-friendly workspace. 

 

Ask yourself a few key questions:  

  • Do your firm’s mission and values still align with the new way of doing business? Making small shifts to include work for compassion and community impact can help drive a team to greater cohesiveness for a common goal aligning with the struggles of humanity today.   
  • Is your firm’s “why?” Still relevant? Though we don’t want to admit that our purpose for doing business may be becoming obsolete, we need to identify it. Pushing a team to work towards a purpose that doesn’t have meaning or impact will drastically impact their opinion of your firm’s culture and impose feelings of potential insignificance that are detrimental to productivity and wellbeing.  
  • Do your leadership’s methods and tone of communication work in today’s landscape? When morning huddles were prevalent, a morning motivation speech might have been the key to a well energised day. How do you make that possible today?
     

Shifting your practice and leadership can be accomplished making smallchanges thatll help maintain company culture and team morale. 

  1. Morning Motivation 

A great place to start is with morning huddles or water cooler chats. This can be done through a team chat function (such as Teams, Slack, Google Chat, or so many of today’s platforms). Set a meeting time each day for teammates to greet each other and catch up.  

A virtual town hall is a great idea to get everyone together, team lunches or drinks are also a possibility. You could even treat everyone with lunch delivery for the team! It’s amazing the way spiritsare lifted when free food or drinks get involved. 

Carrying on with the theme of virtual events, if your firm’s culture used to include nights out with karaoke or attending a local sports game – Keep it up! Virtual karaoke is in, make it happen and have everyone download a karaoke app. Find a game on the telly and have your team watch it together over a video chat. 

And lastly, you can turn your virtual team event into a trivia night – with prizes such as digital gift cards to local businesses that serve the dual purpose of keeping those businesses open and giving your team something to look forward to when the lockdown is over.  

 

  1. Communication is Key 

In any business, any relationship, and any team – Communication is key to maintaining culture. 

No matter who on your team needs you, the lines of communication should be open and easily accessible. If you didn’t have an open-door policy before, now if the time to adopt one. 

Even with a decomposed hierarchy and open communication for teammates who need your ear, a communication strategy is still important. Take the time to define whenhow to communicate, and for what reason. Water cooler chats can be handled over informal methods, while business strategy or confidential client conversations should be handled on more formal communication platforms. 

Your communication plan should provide links between every employee and leadership, in addition to the team they already work with. This may mean reaching out to each of your firm’s employees each week, checking in personally. Whatever your means of communication, encourage it at every level and every facet of your firm. 

 

  1. Define Expectations in the New “Normal” 

Lastly, review some guidelines and expectations for your new remote team. Let them know that everyone is in this together, everyone is trying to make sense of this but most importantly, everyone will come out stronger on the other side. Let them know that communication is more important than strict adherence to old routines. Your team should grow and adapt with you, not against you. 

Setting up some basic guidelines for video chats and client interactions lets your team know where you are being more flexible and which areas they must maintain old regulations. 

Providing flexibility in schedules can open the door to a more productive team, as many are balancing homeschool with their workloads. Establish a key set of hours where the team will all be available to each other and clients. 

 

Work Together and Lead by Example  

Open communication with your firm is essential to keeping an open and prosperous culture that will pass the test of time, and the test of remote working. The teams that figure out how to work cohesively while decentralised and distant will become that much stronger when they return to a centralised office. Set the example with your firm and focus on your people. 

Your team is essential to your firm’s success, take the time to show them they matter and focus on maintaining a culture they are proud to be a part of. 

 

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