Remote working tips for independent lawyers

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

You’re sitting at your desk in your specially-designated place of work in your home. Your personal laptop is open and ready, your music is pouring into your ears and a steaming cup of coffee is sitting by your side. No intrusive chat from colleagues discussing their weekends. No boss barking orders. Just you. Only one problem: what now?

For most lawyers, the notion of complete self-direction must be something of a misnomer. After all, independence isn’t something you’re necessarily taught when you’re making your way through law school. Throughout your education and much of your law career, you’re being directed. Everything is mapped out. You know what stage comes next. When you’re accustomed to all of the aforesaid distractions, reliant on a structure that’s been imposed by others, used to being told what to do, the question is: how do you actually work remotely? Here are six quick tips for successful remote working.

Establish a routine

Just because you’re free to work as you wish, that doesn’t mean you can be completely haphazard. In fact, it’s all the more reason to keep yourself directed and disciplined. Make sure you have a basic routine in place. You might allocate certain times of the day to certain tasks, such as reading and responding to emails first thing in the morning. You might know that you’ll be away from your computer to take your kids to school and pick them up again, so you’ll need to weave your competing professional and personal responsibilities around each other in a way that makes sense for you, in a way that allows you to maintain your work-life balance.

Use your time wisely

Working remotely means you have more hours to play with. If anything takes longer than you anticipated, you can make up the lost time whenever you want. The lack of a commute, for example, means you can catch up with certain tasks without eating into your personal time in the way you would if you were working in the office. By staying disciplined, you allow yourself to stay focused, to stick to a plan – and lessen the likelihood of distraction.

Take breaks when you need them

It’s important to recognise which times in the day you’re most productive and which times you need a break. If you tend to hit the wall in the middle of the afternoon, scheduling a short break will do you a lot more good than ploughing headlong through it. You know how you work best, so trust yourself.

When you work in a law firm, it might be difficult to get out for a few minutes for a bit of fresh air. But as a self-directed lawyer, you can allow yourself to recharge your mind in whichever way you see fit: whether it’s getting away from your desk, performing a task that requires less concentration or even doing a job round the house. By deciding what you do and when, you’re allowing yourself to be more productive – both professionally and personally.

Track your time

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you still have to deal with targets and timesheets – but as an independent lawyer, it’s important to keep detailed records of how long you spend working on individual projects. This allows you to evaluate your productivity throughout the day, to keep track of what you’ve done and to know how you’re spending your time – all of which is crucial to maintaining the required level of discipline to succeed as an independent lawyer.

Devise a business plan

Any business venture requires a coherent and comprehensive business plan. The same applies to independent lawyers. This will not only give you direction, purpose and an understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, but it will also allow you to consistently benchmark your performance against your objectives. At gunnercooke, our business team works with every lawyer to agree a business plan, ensuring they get the support and guidance they need to bring it to fruition.

Take responsibility

Being your own boss also means that you’re the boss of a host of other things. You’ll need to think about bringing in an accountant to do your monthly accounts, registering for VAT, getting personal financial planning advice. You’ll even need to think about insurance and healthcare. That’s why gunnercooke has an extensive network of experts in place to support lawyers with every aspect of running their own business.

Similarly, make sure you have all the tools you need to do the job: a computer, access to the right systems, legal resources, basic equipment. Working in a law firm, there’s an abundance of such amenities as printer cartridges and post-it notes. But these aren’t necessarily the first things you think about when you’re starting out as an independent lawyer. The onus is now on you to keep yourself well supplied.

If you’d like any more advice on remote working or would like to speak to a gunnercooke lawyer about setting your direction and executing a business plan, speak to us now.

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