Lee 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.
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
Communication and collaboration
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