More and more small law firms are opting to put together a team of remote staff. Studies are showing that companies built around remote workers experience less turnover, because the workers are happier and more productive than those who sit in an office. However, while there are clear advantages, assembling and managing remote team members also comes with its challenges. If you’re looking to build a remote legal staff team, here are some practical tips to keep in mind:
Compare Freelance and Employment
One of the first things you want to do when assembling your legal staff is to decide between hiring freelancers or employees. Freelancers and employees share many similarities, but there are also several differences to consider. Hiring a freelancer can be less expensive, provide a sense of flexibility, and require less paperwork. However, they typically work for several law firms at once, so they may not always be available at a moment’s notice. On the other hand, employees work primarily for your law firm. They are likely to commit to your firm at a higher level, invest more in the firm’s culture, and build stronger relationships with team members. Evaluate what your law firm needs the most so that you can make the best decision.
Regardless of whether you choose to build your law firm around freelancers or employees, you need to understand essential employment laws. For instance, do your research and become well-versed in employment tax, workers’ compensation, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Doing so may help you prevent an unnecessary lawsuit or other legal issues.
Communication is key in any business setting, and it can get tricky when your team members are in different cities or countries. Also, it’s easier to ignore an email than it is to tell your boss that you’re skipping the staff meeting in the next room. Before you hire anyone, stress the importance of communication, make it clear when everyone should be accessible to talk, and schedule regular virtual team meetings and/or phone calls to keep everyone on the same page.
Rely on Technology
Embrace technology to foster better interaction and communication. Look into apps like Slack so staff can enjoy water cooler moments or stay in quick contact, and transcription services to ensure all meeting notes are recorded and readily available. This also establishes a safety net so people can easily refer to notes and conversations 24/7.
Keep it Brief
When you have meetings or phone calls, keep them as brief as possible. Particularly when you’re managing a remote legal staff, taking too long to make your points or present your goals wastes valuable time. Be well prepared and concise with all correpondence—whether it’s through email, in a group meeting, over a phone call, or any other form of communication.
Cohesion is another vital element, and it can be challenging to develop and maintain cohesion when your legal team includes remote staff. Start by introducing team members to one another each time a new staff member comes on board; when relationships develop and team members know how to share a laugh, it can improve productivity exponentially. Also, provide team members with important internal communication tools so they can talk and work together regularly.
Show Team Members That You Trust Them
Finally, nothing can breed discontent in a team more quickly than implying that you mistrust your staff. If you don’t trust that a potential staff member will produce the work you need them to, you shouldn’t hire them. While you may need to give specific instructions on projects and tasks, make it clear that you trust the abilities and intentions of each team member. Don’t micromanage every time you give an assignment.
If you want your remote legal staff to help grow your business, it’s important to come at it with the right approach. Make you sure you understand whether you need freelancers or employees, and become familiar with the various employment laws. Create reasonable communication guidelines, and keep communication times concise and effective. Lastly, take the necessary steps to develop and maintain cohesion within your team, and make it clear that you trust your team members.
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