Law firms should assess, adapt and overcome for return to work

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Assess. Adjust. Overcome. These three words are benchmarks for leaders in business, government, the military, medicine, and the legal profession. Yet, since the pandemic, midlife, and the emotional toll it has brought to all of us, those three words are more powerful and compelling than ever.

The pandemic created a perfect storm that blurred the already thin line between family and work life. Professionals with already stressful schedules managed school children during the day while maintaining billable hours. Many found themselves isolated working around the clock to keep up with work that inevitably could not be completed due to the needs of caring for young children, helping with school, constant interruptions or other issues. related to working from home.

It can be argued that mental health in the legal profession is at an all-time low. Experts discussed the looming mental health pandemic to follow due to isolation, stress and anxiety, along with the loss of loved ones and general uncertainty.

American Lawyer Media Mental Health and Addiction Survey 2021 revealed an increase in depression and anxiety as more than 3,200 respondents explained that the pandemic had affected their general well-being. When asked if the pandemic made their mental health worse, 70% of respondents said it did, while 51% said isolation had a significant negative influence on their mental health.

Returning to the office: the status quo or a new normal?

During the pandemic, many companies realized that productivity could continue while teams worked from home; many, however, also recognized the loss of camaraderie and teamwork that comes from working in the office.

The firm’s leadership may be ready to get back to normal, but they must recognize that many lawyers and professionals still grapple with the uncertainty, loss and general anxiety of the pandemic. For many, it will take time to get back to “normal” and many may not wish to resume their activities as usual.

Law firms will need to be flexible, and many will need to incorporate telecommuting policies and accommodate flexible work schedules for transitioning employees who may still be anxious or experiencing other circumstances.

The most successful companies will take a step back to think, assess with an open mind, and then recreate a healthier, more fulfilling workplace. There needs to be a balance between set goals, productive and successful careers, customer care, and the long-term health of the business and everyone who works there. In reality, a healthier law firm, attorneys, and staff provide better client service.

Five choices impacting the profession and employees

There are five choices law firm executives should consider as they adjust to this transition and return to power. But first, we have to put them in the context of time.

Business, and law in particular, has monetized time. Time is the most valuable non-fungible asset we have, yet we’ve turned it into a business model that is often the driving force behind the financial success and well-being of a business and a practice. lawyers. The question is, how do we best use the time we have?

Personal well-being

Law firms should allow lawyers and staff to plan for their own well-being throughout the day. Whether it’s a quiet, meditative time in a safe space in the office or on a deck or patio, it should be expected and respected. Scheduling yourself into your day is not selfish, but rather essential in allowing yourself to be all you can be knowing that you matter and that you are not a fungible.

Family

The business must remain focused on the importance of family to any successful business. Without this solid foundation, lawyers are detached from their support systems and it is never a safe place. As a result, the company must take family and family obligations into account in its business model. Providing flexible working hours and telecommuting policies will help and should set clear expectations for hours worked and productivity targets.

Ethical support

The conduct of business should be based on clear moral, ethical and noble principles. This lets the law firm and individuals know that they are held accountable for the vision and mission of the firm. Firms and lawyers need to know and believe that they have a solid moral foundation, which makes it easier for everyone to breathe knowing that there is no need to be afraid of decisions being made.

Learning

The office should provide ongoing opportunities to educate employees on how to navigate this new atmosphere. Courses in health care or mindfulness, focused work and companionship, mentoring and time management, all should be provided and encouraged. Ensuring a healthy workspace, whether it’s working from home when needed or being in a welcoming and stimulating office environment, are options to consider and offer.

Amusing

We have a life, so we must find joy in what we do. It is not inconsistent to have a serious business framework that also offers fulfillment and a feeling of being part of a bigger story than just creating “widgets”.

Law firms should see this new era of change as an opportunity to be more daring and innovative, rather than stifling and restricting. Evaluate, adjust and overcome in ways that improve the future of the firm, lawyers and support staff. It might not look the same as it used to be, but the past didn’t work out very well initially, so maybe this is our chance to get it right.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

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Paul lipton, Director of Professionalism, Career Development and Skills at RumbergerKirk, works with associate lawyers to mentor them through skills development, building an individual brand and helping them grow personally and professionally as a successful litigators.

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