Tips for lawyers on adjusting to the new normal

While lawyers and law firms have adapted to many changes over the last decades, there’s often been reluctance when it comes to remote working – despite the known benefits. However, attempts to slow the spread of COVID-19 by governments mean there’s now little choice for lawyers who want to keep working through the crisis. Working from home is fast becoming the new normal for many legal practitioners across Australia and the world.

If you’re new to remote working or are now working from home more often than usual, here are some tips to quickly adjust to your working environment. By making the effort to embrace the change, you are giving yourself, your firm and your clients the best chance of being in a good position when we find ourselves on the other side of this crisis.

Create a work routine

Humans are often described as creatures of habit, and there are so many habits woven through our working days. While we’re in this period of upheaval, we can still create work routines that give us that familiar sense of expectation and help us gain control over our working day.

Think about the routines that will help you. Will you feel better to make an early start and get a couple of hours in before the kids wake? Does getting dressed into regular work clothes help you feel motivated? If you normally chat with a colleague for ten minutes every day, perhaps line up a video chat each day.

Establish boundaries

Commuting to work each day and sitting in an office is an exercise in setting boundaries – physically, mentally and timewise. These boundaries help you stay focused and productive throughout the day.

Working from home also requires setting boundaries. Find a physical workspace, ideally a spare room but a section of a room will also work. When you’re in that space you’re at work. Set your working times, remembering that you may need to stay flexible and experiment with different ideas to drive productivity at home.

You could try the pomodoro technique, which involves setting a timer so you work for approximately 25 minutes. You work on a set task and stop for a 5-minute break once the timer goes off, before starting the timer again. After four periods of working in these 25-minute bursts, you then take a longer break of about half an hour.

Do some practical planning

To ease smoothly into working from home, you’ll need to make sure you have all the practicalities covered. Questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Do you have the equipment and technology to continue working?
  • Do you have access to the right software and information services?
  • How will you contact clients and colleagues?
  • If you have children, how will you manage their care while you’re working?
  • How will you manage distractions that may crop up at home?
  • If you normally buy your lunch, have you got a range of quick and easy lunch ideas ready to go?

Focus on fitness

Going in to work each day generally involves physical activities, whether that’s walking to the station, walking a few blocks to get lunch or hitting the gym during your lunch break. While distancing restrictions have closed some of these options, it’s important to stay active.

Research shows that exercise has many health benefits, including assisting with memory and thinking. So, schedule in a walk around the block, discover an online fitness program or give your garden a little TLC while you’re working from home. You can find more ideas on the Australian Government’s ‘Find your 30’ website, which encourages Australians to do 30 minutes of physical activity each day for a happier and healthier lifestyle.

Protect your mental health

Lawyers are known to experience high rates of depression and anxiety The current crisis, and the associated worries and changes, are likely to exacerbate mental health issues.

There are, however, ways to tackle this. Physical activity can boost your mental health. Make sure you also keep in touch with colleagues, family and friends and share how you are feeling. While the news cycle is 24/7, your intake of news doesn’t have to be so consuming. Stay up to date but don’t make it an obsession – watch a favourite TV show, bake up something special and focus on other positive things around you.

Continue to collaborate

One of the great advantages of being in a physical office is the opportunity for collaboration. Whether it’s just running an issue past a colleague to get their take on it, or a more formal brainstorming session or team project, collaboration can help you see the bigger picture and solve problems more creatively and efficiently.

Remote working doesn’t mean the end of opportunities for collaboration. It just means you need to turn to tech tools to overcome the geographical distance. Popular options for lawyers include:

  • Slack: a comprehensive team communication app
  • Zoom: a video conferencing tool
  • Google Drive: file management made easy
  • WeTransfer: simple file sharing
  • Lexis Advance: annotate, highlight and share documents in online work folders and stay current with notifications when folder documents change.

Do the things you’ve always wanted to do

While the COVID-19 situation is deeply troubling, the isolation that comes with it need not be a negative thing. Instead of focusing on the “what ifs” and speculating about an impending recession, use the time wisely and you may come out on the other side stronger than ever. Learn about social media marketing. Investigate those tech tools your competitors use. Create that contingency plan you know you should have. Reflect on how you want to move forward once this over.

By adapting to the new normal of working from home, you can reinvent the way you work and do business – and that might transform your work and life well beyond this crisis.

More information

Find the latest news, business updates and research materials to keep you on top of the current pandemic crisis at LexisNexis' exclusive COVID-19 information centre.