Tips on Working Remotely 


By Amber B. Barlow of Kuchler Polk Weiner, LLC

Working remotely is becoming the way of the present and future of most law firms and businesses these days. Having electronic files and internet access makes it possible to work from any part of the globe at any time. This has enormous benefits for attorneys because this allows us to just do that, work from any area of the globe at any time. Some may even say working remotely is a pro and a con because having the access and ability to work remotely means you may work whenever wherever. Some may say being able to work remotely blurs the lines of work life balance; but it is times like these when working remotely and providing your assistants and paralegals with the ability to work remotely is most crucial to your success as an attorney and professional duty to your clients.

To help ease the transition between the "traditional office" and "working remote" practices of law, here are a few tips:

(1) Stick to a Schedule. Whatever your schedule may be or whatever schedule works well for you, stick to it. If you are a morning person whose work product thrives on those early hours, maybe you have a 4am or 6am start time to 2pm or 4pm. If you are a night owl who works better once everyone is asleep, maybe your start time is much later in the day around 4pm or 6pm. Whatever works for you personally, set a work time schedule and stick to it. 

(2) Create a Workspace. When deciding to work remotely, you should create a workspace within your home or hotel (depending on the circumstances) that best supports a working environment. Science shows that mixing your work space and your sleep space is usually not the best idea as using your sleep space as your work space for long durations may interrupt your sleep patterns. If possible, create a space that you and your brain (including your family and friends) know that is your workspace. Make it comfortable. Make it inviting. Make it yours. But most of all make it about work. You will train yourself to know when in that space this is where the work gets done. 

(3) Communicate and Collaborate. Working remotely does not mean being cut off from your co-workers, your team, or your clients. Thankfully, in 2020, we have WiFi just about anywhere and are able to connect to our e-mail, including on our smart phones. Send e-mails regularly and often. Communicate with your team members to let them know what you are working on, what you need, your deadlines, your expectations, and your weekly plan. Set up weekly "check-in" calls with your team members. If need be, set up daily "check-in" calls with your secretary and paralegals. Depending on your work load and management style, it is also a good idea to circulate work flowcharts listing out all the active cases you are working on, all applicable deadlines, assignments done, being done, and needing to be done and circulating to all your team members. Indicate who is responsible for doing what assignments by what deadline to ensure the work on the case is being done and accomplished. This will help to keep everyone aware and on the same page and will also give you some peace of mind that your active cases are still handled and being worked up. It promotes accountability and highlights the necessary information to communicate with clients and to ensure that no deadlines are overlooked or missed. 

(4) Be consistent. Humans like consistency, so a routine is not bad. Make sure you are being consistent with your habits and schedule so you are able to be productive and responsive to your co-workers, team members, and clients.

(5) Be disciplined. Ok so this one seems like the easy tip and the one that got most of us through law school. You do not make it through law school and study for the hell that is the bar exam without having some ounce of self-discipline. However, the reality is that the self-discipline aspect of working remotely is the toughest one for most attorneys. When people are not in a structured environment with firm do's and dont's, they struggle to flourish and accomplish the assignments at hand. This is where your schedule, workspace, and flowcharts noted above are crucial. You have to set in place those firm do's and dont's according to your own personality, circumstances, and triggers. For example, if you decide your schedule for work hours will be 9am to 6pm, then you will be doing work and only work between those hours just as if you were at the office. If you were in your office during those hours, you wouldn't be doing laundry, fixing lunches, or shopping online (ideally), so you should not be doing those extra-curricular tasks during those hours while working remotely either.

Most of all, working remotely is truly a luxury and benefit of being in the work force in 2020. It should be viewed and accepted as a positive element and a necessary one in today's world. If you and your co-workers are set up to work remotely, this promotes flexibility in the workspace but also promotes productivity. Unfortunately for us, COVID-19 and the necessity to quarantine has forced many law firms to embrace working remotely; but let's use this as a way of proactively embracing the inevitable future and use this time to adapt and execute a systemized plan to make the "working remote" option a part of our work lifestyle. The benefits will be long-lasting!

Amber B. Barlow is a partner at Deutsch Kerrigan, LLP in New Orleans in Toxic Tort and Environmental Group. Amber represents manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and premise owners in complex litigation matters, including environmental litigation, toxic tort litigation, and premises and products liability. Amber is also a member of the LADC's Young Lawyer Committee.