As many states have started the phase one of opening back up businesses and loosening stay at home orders, our group at the Law Firm Leadership Collaboration Circle reflects on what changes to our office culture and client interactions may be here to stay, and which norms we are excited to see come back.

Law Firm Office Openings

Many law firms have been allowing their attorneys and staff to come in with some limitations. Below are some of the practices we’ve noticed from law firms in our circle and across the nation:

  • Staff rotating days in office and days working from home
  • Wearing masks, taking temperatures and office policies surrounding cleaning common areas and surfaces
  • Common space, elevator and stair regulations – maintain 6-foot distance and only travel with your “party”
  • Offering clients masks and hand sanitizer upon entry
  • Spreading out conference room chairs for client or team meetings

Tools & Trends That Are Sticking Around

While many offices are allowing staff to return to their workspace, some may still opt to work from home. For example, individuals who are immunocompromised may still require additional protective measures while others became accustomed to the VERY short work commute from bed to home office.

Below are some other trends that may stick around:

  • Flexibility on office hours – with childcare still in short supply and school out for the summer, many parents will still rely on flexible work schedules.
  • Work from home option – again, while offices are opening, those employees that have special circumstances (or just a personal preference) may opt to continue working from home.
  • Video conferences – this trend is here to stay. Instead of spending your day commuting between client meetings and networking events, many will find they are more productive when they can take virtual meetings from their office.
  • Internal chat tools – many firms have benefited from having internal messaging systems like Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business or Slack. Even though we may be down the hall from each other, in order to maintain social distance and remain productive, chatting via online tools can be highly effective. Not to mention, in keeps your inbox closer to zero when you remove quick internal conversations from email.
  • Options for virtual/call-in client meetings – similar to the reasons some employees may choose to work from home, many clients may also have personal reason to meet virtually.

Leveling Up Virtual Events

After attending more networking events and webinars in the past two months than many have done in the past two years, we all know what to look for in a good virtual event that replicates in-person social interaction.

  • Engagement – Making sure your audience aren’t just bystanders by using tools like polling, having an icebreaker question or even popping on some music for an impromptu dance party can liven up a meeting.
  • Facilitation – While a lot of in-person networking events operate as “open house” style drop-in events, online events need more structure. Having a facilitator ensures that most – if not all – participants on a call get a chance to speak up and provides the opportunity for connections that may have been missed at the less intimate in-person gatherings.
  • Bring in an outside element – Whether it be delivering a wine tasting kit to all your event attendees or setting up an online game, adding an in-person element to the virtual events can make the social interaction seem more meaningful. The more you can mimic the elements of an in-person event, the more your attendees will gain from the event!

In-Person Meetings

While virtual events have their benefits, after 2-3 months of far too many Zoom meetings to count, there can been a growing screen-time fatigue. And that applies not only for work-related meetings, but also for professional networking and personal social events.

As we transition into the warmer summer months, some firms and networking organizations are considering trying out in-person events with some caveats.

Below are some great ideas we’ve heard from law firms and bar associations in our circles and across the United States.

  • Socially distanced picnics and happy hours at parks – BYOB, Bring Your Own Blanket, and maintain a 6-foot distance at all times! While you’re at it, bring your own food and cocktails as well. Best practices from the CDC recommend keeping these gatherings limited to 10 people or fewer.
  • Car parades – We’ve all seen the endearing graduation videos of friends and family members driving past a recent high school or college graduate’s driveway with banners and balloons to celebrate the momentous occasion. Why not do the same to celebrate the end of a big case with your project team or a work anniversary?
  • Office celebrations – Memorable events are still occurring for the staff in your office. People are still getting married, having babies and celebrating birthdays. How can you still celebrate while remaining safe? Desk cupcake parties or parking lot luncheons could be a temporary fix until we can safely gather in close proximity.

Be sure to join us for our next Law Firm Leadership Collaboration Circle as we discuss Marketing in the “New Normal.”

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