You may have contemplated joining a virtual law firm at some point, or creating your own virtual practice. Aside from the initial technological hurdle, a virtual practice can be an easy and welcome new reality.
The joy of kissing your office (and commute) goodbye. The allure of joining conference calls from your kitchen table. Admit it, setting your own work schedule and seeing your children more often, all while getting compensated in the same manner (if not more), has a lot of appeal.
Making Up for Lost People Time
Still, office life has its perks. The long hours may be lightened by camaraderie — coffee with a partner in the firm breakroom, or dare we say, our “friends at work.” And the pleasure of working in pajamas in your home den can quickly be replaced by a creeping sense of isolation. How do you overcome that?
VLP Law Group is a virtual law firm of more than 40 lawyers nationwide. All of us come from large law firm backgrounds and top-tier law schools and typically have 10 or more years of experience. We believe in providing high-quality legal services, but have re-imagined what a law firm needs to be in the 21st century.
Creating a virtual firm has its challenges, both technological and traditional (i.e., finding the right partners). But we’ve learned that one of the most important, and often overlooked, aspects of building a sustainable and enjoyable virtual work environment is building the right culture — not only for lawyers and staff but your clients, too. So how do you accomplish this?
At VLP, all lawyers and staff work virtually — not just a few of us — and there is no office or hub. Here are things we do to build and maintain relationships, with tips on how others can do the same.
- Give more than lip service to fostering relationships. Create a committee with the sole purpose of nurturing firm and client relationships to ensure you put real emphasis on them. At VLP Law Group, we created the “Virtual Cultural Committee,” consisting of staff and partners alike, that creates programs and activities to connect our firm in-person and online on a consistent basis.
- Use technology to bridge the physical gap. Use your technology platform to interact with firm members and clients. We use biweekly firm video calls, via WebEx, as a way to catch up and keep everyone informed of developments in the firm. Lawyers and staff members are encouraged to speak on topics that range from firm policy and budget issues to Oscar picks and contests. Our email “virtual watercooler” is an informal way to share a joke or pictures of loved ones. We often host client or internal webinars as a way to educate and keep in touch, too.
- Make sure the virtual does not replace the physical. Plan for in-person meetings. Trying to replace all your in-person meetings and interactions with email and technology is a mistake. We recognize the need to see our firm members and clients on a consistent basis. To that end, we hold biannual retreats, holiday events and picnics.
- Do it the old-fashioned way. Pick up the phone and call or see your clients and firm colleagues without a formalized structure. Sometimes the best approach is what already works. Meeting clients at their office, touching base over coffee or arranging to meet with co-workers in-person are fantastic ways to build community and relationships. We do it all the time!
David Goldenberg is a founding partner of VLP Law Group. His practice covers a range of clients, many of which are growth-oriented technology companies. He generally counsels companies throughout their lifecycle and helps them with a variety of contractual and corporate matters. He also counsels executives on employment matters.
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