A home office was once considered to be a luxury by some lawyers. Now every dining room table, laundry room and guest bedroom in America has been in the running for a home law office.
But what if today’s pandemic response becomes tomorrow’s norm? What if the benefits of working from home start to outweigh the idea of spending money on rent and other overhead costs?
The benefits of a home law office can include:
- Less time spent commuting leaving more opportunity for family time, exercise, relaxation, etc.
- Better ability to focus (unless your family is more distracting than your co-workers).
- Flexibility to break up the workday and as a result, be more productive.
Much of the success of your work-from-home endeavours depends on you setting up your home office the right way. Read this article for everything you need to do when setting up your home office as a lawyer, from furniture to technology.
Is a home office right for your legal practice?
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the nation and governors across the country enacting shelter in place orders, a home office is right for just about all attorneys right now. But is a home office right for the long term as well? Here are some questions to consider for when social distancing becomes a thing of the past.
Are you able to be as productive or more at home as in the office?
A dedicated workspace within your home makes this easier, but the office may have a faster printer to print that draft brief for review, or other attorneys to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with. I’ve often worked from home during the school year and opted for an office space in the summer when the kids are home to limit interruptions.
Are you able to communicate with your clients as effectively at home as in the office?
Some practice areas are easier to accommodate than others from a home office. A good litmus test: Do your clients need to meet with you in person, or will video conferencing accomplish the same results?
Are you able to communicate with your team as effectively at home as in the office?
In-person collaboration is often best, but collaborating remotely may be easier than you think, especially when in-person isn’t possible. Instant messaging and video conferencing can help reduce the number of emails back and forth and still allow for effective communication.
Do you have both the discipline to focus in your home law office as well as the ability to leave it behind?
A dedicated workspace within your home can help you focus on work while you’re there but feeling like you’re always working can be draining. And, taking care of your mental health and wellness when working from a home office is of the utmost importance. Make sure your lawyer home office has a door that you can close, a curtain that you can pull shut, or a room that you can walk out of when you need your distance from legal work to preserve your sanity.
Setting up your law firm’s home office
Just like the office you commuted to; you’ll be spending a lot of time at your home office so putting some thought into your physical space is highly recommended. In fact, if you’ll be splitting time between a traditional firm office and your home office, being able to duplicate the workspace as much as possible may help maximize productivity.
Don’t save the comfortable chair for the office while you’re tolerating the hand me down chair at home. Buying a second ergonomic chair for your home office will save your back while getting more done. Here are a few recommended options.
You’ll also want to make sure that your home law office is in a place that you enjoy spending time. According to the University of Southern California’s Applied Psychology Department, lighting, decor, and layout can all effect how you feel when you walk into the room and in turn, how productive you’ll be in the room.
Are you energized when you walk in to your lawyer home office space, or do the piles of dirty laundry in the corner distract you from getting things done?
If you have limited options for your home office, simply do your best. Forbes has a few suggestions for a makeshift home office space, including an alcove, the corner of a quiet room, or a spot in the kitchen. Anywhere you can expect at least some privacy is best.
Home offices for law firm team members
While you may appreciate being able to dock your laptop at either your regular office or in your home office if you have one, your team may not have that same level of comfort.
Other team members may not have the same ability to dedicate space within their home to a home office. Or, they may not have the same resources at home as they do at your law firm, such as faster Internet speeds and office supplies such as toner, paper, etc.
Where possible consider supplementing these resources for your team. Paying for faster Internet will undoubtedly make your team more productive and still costs less than paying rent for office space. Consider the return on your investment and invest in those resources that will pay off in terms of productivity.
Home office equipment and technology for lawyers
As attorneys, computers play a huge role in being able to represent our clients and be compensated for it. It is arguably the most critical tool in the office. As a result, this is not where you want to cut the budget because any time you or your team spends waiting for a slow computer, is money that you are losing. Spend as much money as you are able to and be productive with your time. If you’re looking at buying a laptop for your home office for the first time, here are a few options.
Computer accessories can also make you more productive while in your home office. Some examples:
- A good scanner (or scanner app on your phone) can help you achieve the dream of a paper”less” office and avoid scraps of paper floating around the room where team members cannot access them.
- A good pair of headphones with a microphone will help to improve the quality of your videoconferencing. Bonus points for Bluetooth headphones that will work with both the computer and your phone and are easy enough to switch back and forth. (Think AirPods that connect to both the iPhone as well as a MacBook Pro.)
- Identifiable charging cords will keep your technology up and running. I have a set of cords that live in my office and have been wrapped in decorative washi tape to identify them as mine when they inconveniently disappear. The added bonus is that the designs make me happy and my family members wouldn’t be caught dead with pink flower cords!
And lastly, the more cloud-based software you are using, the easier it will be to share info with your team members from your respective home offices. Both Clio Grow and Clio Manage can act as your firm’s shared brain full of institutional knowledge. As a result, you and your team will have all the details and documents that you all need to be productive from a home office, reachable in just a few clicks. You’ll be able to service your clients as well as or better than you did in the office.
Whether your time in your law firm home office is limited to this pandemic, or whether a home legal practice becomes the new normal, spending some time setting up your home office will pay dividends. Focusing on the location, the tools that you need and how you will communicate with your team will enable you to not only feel comfortable, but be more productive and successful in these challenging times.
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