Working Remotely: How Lee Rosen Moved His Law Firm to an All-Remote Workforce

Lee RosenLee Rosen, whom I’ve long admired for his practical and actionable writing, took his law firm all-remote. He graciously agreed to be interviewed for this “working remotely” series – a law firm case study, if you will. Thanks, Lee!

Tell us a little about yourself

In June of next year, after my daughter leaves for college, my wife and I will give up our apartment in Raleigh and head off to explore the world with nothing but a carry-on bag. I’ll continue to run my practice – remotely. I’ll interact with our lawyers and clients just like I do now, but I’ll do it from other continents.

Family law in North Carolina is the focus of my practice. I started practicing in 1987 in a 10 attorney firm. After three years I struck out on my own. For 25 years I’ve built my practice with aggressive, persistent, innovative marketing. We’ve grown into a multi-million dollar business offering traditional legal services, unbundled services delivered online as well as books and software applications.

How did your firm go all-remote?

It was an easy decision. Many of our clients work remotely for large technology and pharmaceutical companies. We just did what they’d been doing for a decade. We learned from them.

We started by outsourcing numerous functions including I.T. support, bookkeeping and accounting, courier services, phone reception services, paralegal support and administrative support. By assembling a team of vendors and independent contractors we were able to cut our team in half eliminating more than fifteen positions.

The decision instantly gave our remaining employees more freedom to relocate and/or avoid a daily commute plus it slashed our real estate expense by seventy percent. We retained space for conference rooms, but otherwise let go of our offices.

Our clients never noticed. We set up ten conference rooms in four locations for client meetings. They come in through our lobby and sit in a conference room. The space we relinquished was the hidden space used for attorney offices and support personnel.

Those who can have dispersed. Our people have worked from all over the world. Of course, much of our team remains local so they can appear in court and interact with clients.

working-remotely

Where do you work from?

I’m on the road about half of the time. I’ve worked from coffee shops, co-working spaces, Regus locations, hotel rooms, Airbnb apartments and in borrowed conference rooms. My office exists in my briefcase. I’ve got my laptop, a phone and a pair of headphones. I can do everything I need to do with the contents of that bag.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now. I end up stopping by one of our offices at least once every few months just to check on things.

Any advice to anyone wanting to make the switch to working remotely?

First, create an evaluation system based on performance. Second, go paperless – it’s essential. Finally, adopt internal communication systems designed to build and maintain connection within the team. Use technology along with a structured meeting rhythm.

Working remotely is easy. Managing remotely, and insuring accountability, is more complicated. Build your systems while you’re still in one place. Then you’ll have the flexibility and security to set your people free.

The systems and technology are the easy part of practicing law. Getting clients is what’s challenging. Whether you work in an office or remotely you’ve got to build a practice that draws people in. You’ve got to offer something that people want. When they want what you’ve got then where you work becomes trivia. The key is creating the demand.

POSTS IN THE SERIES:
Working Remotely: The Many Benefits
Traits of an Effective Telecommuter
How to Manage Work-at-Home Employees
A Productive Home Office
Managing Solitude
Communication and collaboration
Managing Distractions
Managing Time, Boundaries, and Balance
Evaluating Employee Performance
Company Culture Beyond the Office Walls
How Lee Rosen Moved His Law Firm to an All-Remote Workforce
Working Remotely: Have Computer, Will Travel

8 Responses to “Working Remotely: How Lee Rosen Moved His Law Firm to an All-Remote Workforce”

  1. Ezia on your Brain - One Smart Place

    […] As part of a series on “Working Remotely” inspired by “Remote,” the book by the 37Signals guys, and the author’s own experience working remotely for many years, this is an interesting article for lawyers and other professionals. Read about it here. […]

    Reply
  2. Micky Deming

    Keep these coming! Lots of great insight on how to work remotely and efficiently.

    Love this and find this true for me too:

    “My office exists in my briefcase. I’ve got my laptop, a phone and a pair of headphones. I can do everything I need to do with the contents of that bag.”

    Reply
  3. Zachary Strebeck

    Great article! I have been doing this for the past 5 months. It’s surprisingly easy, once you get the hang of it. It has allowed me to travel to Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore while growing my new law practice. I think that one important consideration is the type of client that you cater to. I work with software developers and other tech-focused clients, so their different mindset is helpful. No one seems to mind that I’m halfway around the world. In fact, many are excited when they hear it!

    Also, I second the suggestion of Regus. I worked from a Regus workspace the entire time I was abroad, and it is extremely useful.

    Reply
  4. Scott Key

    Interesting. I’m curious, though, about court, depositions, etc. Family law, like criminal defense (my practice) has lots of things that come up requiring physical presence. Often, it’s an emergency that starts a case (“Mr. Smith was just picked up by the police”). And those sorts of things require you to be in a particular location at a particular time. How do you work all of that out?

    Scott

    Reply
    • Zachary Strebeck

      I think there are certain types of attorneys that can do it, and others who can’t. Personally, I am a transactional and IP attorney that doesn’t touch litigation, so it works well for me. Those who have to be somewhere at a particular time may not find this to be possible, of course.

      Though if those times are few and far between, it could be worth a trip back for that specific in-person appearance.

      Reply
      • LVivoni

        I am not quite emotionally ready to take it all remote (in-office once or twice a month) although I am all paperless and highly intercommunicative with my team electronically. Now, I have been pondering methods to formally create an evaluation system based on performance and also how to implement an effective/practical and structured meeting rhythm. I am highly interested in sharing ideas on these topics. Best!

        Reply
      • Ben

        I know this is an old thread but working remotely is a subject I’m really passionate about. For years, my wife and I have been dreaming of living aboard a sailboat and working remotely, but figuring out a practical way of doing it is a challenge. I’m a lawyer (litigation and commercial advisory) qualified in England and Hong Kong. I’ve been in law for 10 years but I don’t run my own firm – I’d really appreciate any suggestions anybody might have as to how I can achieve the goal of remote working. Going to court isn’t a big part of my work – the biggest obstacle I can see is building and maintaining a client following.

        Reply
    • Richard

      Scott, I can’t see handling criminal defense remotely for the obvious reasons. However, for many years I’ve researched and drafted appellate briefs in criminal cases without the need for a physical office. Here in NY the need for oral argument has greatly diminished, so most briefs are simply submitted. Some pre-trial motion practice can be handled remotely, as can some post-conviction work (e.g., federal habes; cert petitions to the U.S. S.Ct., etc.), but you still need local counsel for appearances. Perhaps your best bet would be to have arrangements with several criminal defense lawyers (solos or two man offices) to handle their research and drafting needs.

      Reply

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