Whether it is from a coffee shop, home office, or library, more people than ever are working remotely. This includes employees at a law firm or business, but many of the principles could be applied to a solo lawyer working at home. The benefits of working from a remote office include shorter commutes, potentially flexible work hours, saving money on office space, and having the best employees for the job regardless of locale. Drawbacks include production-based judgement on employees, isolation issues, and a reduced opportunity for learning directly from coworkers. Despite these drawbacks, many companies are now allowing their employees to work remotely. If this is your company and you are already working from home, or thinking about starting to do so, what are the main considerations and best practices to put into place?
In this episode of The Legal Toolkit, Heidi Alexander interviews Tim Baran, a remote employee at a cloud-based legal software company, about the benefits and drawbacks of working remotely, the hardware and software needed, and how to overcome the core issues that many remote lawyers encounter. Baran discusses how the benefit of bringing the work to the employee often outweighs the inability for those workers to interact with and potentially mentor other employees. By spending more time with friends and family, getting involved in industry associations, and going out for lunch, he explains, remote employees can avoid emotional isolation. This advice applies equally to solo lawyers who often do not have a lot of personal contact. Alexander and Baran then go over the practicalities of working remote. While you only need a computer and a phone as hardware, there are many useful apps for practice management, organization, communication, reading and writing, social media, and even encryption (see episode notes for a list of products mentioned).
Obviously, it is important for a remote employee to stay connected with their office and other employees. Baran recommends regular video meetings, daily standups, visits to the home office, communication even with non-urgent matters, and even a fun video activity that includes the whole company. The more communication the employees are able to have, he explains, the more opportunities for feedback, connection, and therefore productivity. At the end of the podcast, Baran gives some succinct but very thorough general productivity advice to all employees, whether remote or not. His systems include: touch everything once, keep a checklist, set a pomodoro timer, develop consistent habits with a calendar, plan the night before, and Alexander adds that the Getting Things Done (GTD) process by David Allen has worked for many lawyers.
Tim Baran is the Community Manager for Rocket Matter, a cloud-based legal software company that makes a law practice management tool. Previously, Baran ran his own CLE company, and has worked in library services at a law firm, a law school, and for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.