Responding to the Pandemic: Resources for Attorneys Working Remotely

Replicate What Works Best For You

There may be as many articles advising on best practices to work from home as there are attorneys in the workforce. While some suggestions are less applicable to legal work than others, often the simplest approach is best: take stock of what about your workplace makes you productive and do your best to replicate those qualities at home. 

For starters, it’s paramount to have structure and get into a daily rhythm. Stick to your regular morning routine, eat breakfast, and pause to appreciate the extra time you have since you are not commuting today.  If you are a morning gym person and now find yourself without a facility due to the temporary closures, try to do some sort of physical activity whether it is outside—with proper social distancing—or at home with or without gym equipment.  If your body is accustomed to morning exercise, a sudden shift away from this habit may throw your day off balance more than you initially realize. 

Next, you’ll want to assess how your work-from-home environment compares to a normal day at the office.  Are you used to a relatively quiet office with few interruptions but now have family members, especially young children, who are competing for your attention? You may need to shift to start working a bit earlier and accept that you will need more frequent breaks to attend to your family’s needs.  Creating schedules for your school-age children and sticking to them on the weekdays will give them much-needed structure by making it feel more like school. Temporarily loosening screen-time restrictions may also be a worthwhile tradeoff for the time being.

Conversely, are you used to a relatively busy office and now find yourself in a quiet apartment?  You may instead need to build in some interruptions to make your day progress more “normally.” One method that many who work from home have found focuses their attention and energy is the Pomodoro Technique. In short, this calls for you to plan your work as much as possible in 25-minute chunks (“pomodoros”), each followed by a 3-5 minute break.  After several pomodoros, you should take a longer break (15-30 minutes). Use the time to refresh your coffee, check your messages, or do whatever you would normally do at the office for a quick break. The relative shortness of the working time allows you to maintain focus while the breaks will make your day seem more like a busy day at the office with regular interruptions.

In addition to the strictly work-related conversations you have in an office every day, any communal workspace also provides daily “watercooler moments.” We may not realize how valuable these interactions are until a situation like a sudden shift to working from home occurs.  Find some time throughout the day to recreate these moments by checking in on co-workers to maintain a sense of cohesion in a chaotic time. Even better, if you have a scheduled team call, make an effort to spend a few minutes to ask how everyone is doing instead of jumping right into business. 

Move. Whether it’s a walk around the block with your dog, checking on the kids in another room, or even doing a few stretches, for many people working from home means more sitting than your body may be used to.  Listen to your Apple Watch, set a reminder on your phone, or just make a point to stand every hour.

Set “defined” boundaries and endpoints for your work.  For attorneys, this is easier said than done, but working from home means work can naturally stretch more easily into family and dinner time than if you had to leave the office and commute.  If you can, close your laptop, ask the family how they’re doing–or, if you live alone, check up on a friend who is also working from home alone–and revisit work emails after what would be your usual break to commute home.

Finally, for those accustomed to being in an office, it can be difficult to appreciate all the work you’ve actually accomplished in a day if you’re doing it in a room next to where you had your breakfast.  Take a moment to appreciate all that you were able to accomplish remotely today and take a moment to appreciate that your job affords you this luxury.

Mental Health Resources

With the shift to remote-working and social distancing comes the potential for increased isolation and loneliness and it is important to maintain good mental health.  Mental health professionals have offered specific guidance. As ATL recently detailed here, some suggestions by law firm mental health consultant and certified alcohol and drug counselor Patrick Krill are to limit pandemic-related news and media intake to combat anxiety, and as lawyers already have an increased risk for isolation and loneliness, it is important to schedule and follow-through on times to check-in with family and friends via video.   National and local bar associations also offer mental health resources for attorneys. The ABA Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs has a centralized online COVID-19 mental health resource center with a range of mental health resources for legal professionals during COVID-19, including information on crisis support lines, online support groups for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, articles and books on coping strategies, and guidelines for law firm operations and management.  The Lawyers Depression Project also offers a confidential forum and bi-monthly online peer to peer support group meetings for those in the legal profession suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

We are also grateful to see many firms implementing wellness and mental health initiatives, including resources such as licensed therapists, certified coaches, meditation programs, billable hour credit for time spent on mental health/mindfulness, and having dedicated firm-wide directors of wellbeing.

A New Tool That Can Help Firms Weather The Coronavirus

Lateral Link can quickly help law firms during this COVID-19 crisis by supplying short term interim attorneys who are Top 25 grads with major Am Law 200 experience who work remotely on an hourly basis on the most sophisticated litigations and transactions. These interim attorneys used to work at law firms such as Kirkland & Ellis, Gibson Dunn, Skadden Arps, and other top-tier firms. These are the same attorneys who were once billed out at $800 per hour as Biglaw firm associates and partners, and as these elite lawyers have been increasingly working as contract attorneys given their preference for flexible schedules, legal departments can access their skills and expertise at a relatively low cost. And because of their pedigree, you can still bill their clients at firm rate. 

There are many good reasons for law firms to embrace this shift especially given the current climate of the legal market. 

1) Fill Needs Quickly. On average, the permanent lateral process takes months from the identification of a need, to the onboarding of the associate. As the market conditions quickly fluctuate, using experienced interim attorneys allows firms to scale to meet their immediate demand in any practice, without the comparative lag and permanence of a traditional lateral search. In a volatile market, flexibility and swiftness are key.  

2) Lower Costs For The Same Experience. Interim attorneys require a significantly reduced commitment of overhead than their permanent counterparts. When engaged through a high-end and trusted staffing company, law firms are not responsible for the attorneys’ healthcare costs, payroll taxes, or equipment, and most firm malpractice policies cover “contractors” at no additional cost. Because interim attorneys are paid by the billable hour – no down time, no hours written off – they are guaranteed to generate a significant ROI with no downside risk.

3) Satisfy Client Needs. Senior attorneys with partner or counsel experience are widely represented among the interim attorney ranks. This means that rather than referring work away (and even when pitching for work), firms can temporarily add high-level expertise in practice areas or industries they otherwise could not service. As we are seeing so much market instability, interim attorneys allow firms to quickly scale up their offerings in countercyclical practices to hedge against losses in other practices and avoid a layoff crisis like we saw in 2009. 

4) Increase Profits Even In A Downturn. New revenues are generated not just from the interim attorney’s time, but also from the hours the firm’s permanent lawyers spend on the engagement. This income is amortized over the firm’s fixed costs (i.e., its permanent lawyers), making the firm more profitable as a whole. The same analysis applies to blending rates. Should we enter a fully-fledged economic downturn, it is in the firm’s interest to continue service to a cost-sensitive client even when it doesn’t fit within the firm’s billing structure (for example, when failure to do so could cost the firm larger engagements with this client). Adding interim attorneys allows for a lower blended rate while still providing the level of experience needed for the matter, and generating work for other members of the firm. The pedigree of our high caliber interim attorneys also allows the firm to bill at an equal rate to their permanent associates as the client is getting commiserate experience and value. 

Permanent lateral attorneys will always have an important place in the market. Savvy firms, however, can engage interim attorneys now to add flexibility in these uncertain times. As workflow remains somewhat unpredictable, firms will do well to hedge their bets on practice growth by strategically utilizing the talent pool of first-tier interim attorneys now at their disposal. As a premier provider of interim talent, we are happy to discuss your hiring needs to help you weather whatever storm comes your way. Please reach out to Jaclyn Genchi if you are interested in utilizing our flexible staffing offerings. 

Video Interviews: Law Firms Press On With Hiring

We are working with a number of AmLaw firms that are continuing to “meet” with lateral associate and partner candidates virtually by utilizing video conferencing during the Coronavirus crisis.  Some of the firms have hired candidates that we represent and have offered to provide their newly added lawyers with a laptop and the ability to work from home to start their careers with their new firms as research, writing and deal work can be handled remotely for the time being.

It has long been the case that the hiring process of lateral attorneys, at all levels, has begun with a telephone call or video conference where the candidate is not based in the same city as the firm’s hiring partners or heads of the group that the candidate will join.  Lawyers and recruiting directors that are experienced and skilled with the art of the telephone or video interview are able to discern whether lateral candidates are worthy of further investments of time of their firms and if there are potential synergies between a partner’s practice and clientele and that of their firm.

Should a firm wish to proceed with a partner candidate, a lateral partner questionnaire, business plan (if required), and mandatory conflicts check must continue to be reviewed and processed before an offer can be made, as was the case pre-COVID-19.  Associate employment applications and reference checks will proceed as always whether an in-person interview has taken place or not.

Law firms are proceeding with remote new associate orientation in order to acclimate recently hired colleagues and the same can be done for attorneys at all levels via video networks and online tutorials and intra-firm chats.  It is clearly important for new attorneys to have specific human resources, peer and partner points of contact to ensure that as smooth a landing as possible takes place with their new firm.  Newly added partners and groups will likewise want to continue a relationship with the Head of Lateral Partner Recruiting and, if the hiring firm assigned a “sponsor” partner to them, maintain close touch with that partner via computer and phone to facilitate partner or group integration.

However, since most big law practices continue to be tied to the billable hour, it is incumbent upon the hiring firm to clearly communicate its billable requirements and time recording systems to all newly hired attorneys.  In the case of a lateral associate who has joined your firm from another firm with comparable billing systems, once the work is assigned to the new colleague, they should be off and running with virtual collaboration and supervision.

While it would seem obvious that practices such as patent prosecution and M&A are ideal for virtual work, today’s big law litigation cases can also be managed from the home office because discovery and document review are computerized, many federal court conferences have been telephonic and now state courts must utilize phone conferences to keep their dockets moving.

Our sister company, Bridgeline Solutions, continues to provide its clients with top-notch attorneys for large scale document reviews and can report that a number of the projects that Bridgeline is involved with are proceeding on schedule.

Litigators have been conducting video depositions for decades but still need a court reporter to swear witnesses in and create a transcript.  While remote depositions are typically utilized to avoid travel expenses, attorneys are now considering this method for local matters as a means of social distancing.  Many states are enacting remote notarization legislation prompted by the burgeoning remote notary industry. Due to the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, a remote notarization through their service is admissible in most states. States requiring physical presence may still allow for a remote oath.  This new approach to the examination before trial will be critical for litigators with state court practices going forward.

We will continue to be in close contact with our clients that continue to engage us to identify new candidates and remain “open for business” when it comes to conducting video and telephonic interviews.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you are an attorney interested in discussing your career goals with one of our recruiters or a law firm that is pressing on during this stressful time and adapting to this new environment.

5 Issues On The Minds Of Managing Partners

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” in the famous words of Shakespeare. Applied to the world of law firms, it could be translated as follows: “It’s not easy being a managing partner.”

Managing partners have a lot on their minds these days. And last Thursday, at a lively panel at the annual meeting of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), five law firm leaders let us into their world.

Skillfully moderated by my colleague Craig Brown, Managing Principal of Bridgeline Solutions (Lateral Link’s temporary staffing arm), the panel featured Daniel Connolly, Managing Partner of the New York office of Bracewell; Louis DiLorenzo, Managing Member of the New York office of Bond, Schoeneck & King; Ronald Shechtman, Managing Partner of Pryor Cashman; Marc Landis, Managing Partner of Phillips Nizer; and Richard Scarola, Managing Member of Scarola Zubatov Schaffzin. The featured firms run the gamut in terms of size from Bracewell, a Biglaw firm with 400 or so lawyers; Pryor Cashman, a midsize firm with just under 200 attorneys; and Scarola Zubatov Schaffzin, a boutique with a dozen lawyers.

What did the panelists discuss? Here are some highlights (with thanks to Jack Newsham of Law.com for his excellent write-up).

1. Managing millennials.

Like it or not, in less than a decade, millennials will make up about 75 percent of law firm staff. So managing partners need to know how to manage millennials (and it won’t be long before millennials themselves are managing partners of major firms, since the oldest millennials are approaching 40).

According to Daniel Connolly of Bracewell, there is some truth to the view that millennials value work-life balance more than their predecessors. Sabbaticals, family time, and flexible-work arrangements all appeal to millennials — and, to be honest, who can blame them? But in a client service business, this does have implications for the business aspects of law firms — a topic the panel also tackled.

2. Developing business.

It’s harder and harder to be a “service partner” in this day and age. Ronald Shechtman said that at Pryor Cashman, 40 percent of partners originate $1 million or more in business, and two-thirds of partners originate $500,000 or more. While the need for a $4 million or $5 million book of business may be exaggerated, firms definitely want partners who can at least “pay for themselves.”

3. Keeping up the culture.

In the words of Shechtman, “The greatest management challenge for our firm is to maintain the culture that we have.” And I suspect that many managing partners would agree with him.

Of course, “culture” will vary from firm to firm (although every firm will claim to be “collegial”). At Pryor Cashman, for example, collaboration is key — which translates into a culture that values presence in the office. The firm also has low leverage, a partner to nonpartner ratio of about 1:1, which Shechtman credits for the firm’s strong retention.

But other firms have very different cultures, and they also manage to succeed. For example, an increasing number of Biglaw firms accommodate working remotely, which can help firms attract and retain talent (e.g., lawyers with significant family responsibilities).

4. Planning for the future.

Law firms are, to their credit, increasingly focused on succession planning. So it should come as no surprise that the topic came up at the managing partner panel.

Some firms have a mandatory retirement age, which they believe helps encourage (or even forces) older lawyers to transition business to the next generation. At the same time, in an age where people are living longer and healthier lives, some older lawyers can and want to remain very active.

Bracewell balances these considerations by having what Daniel Connolly described as a “mandatory but discretionary” retirement age — which encourages lawyers to make way for the next generation, but allows for some exceptions. All older partners must develop a plan for handing off business to their younger colleagues, however, regardless of when they plan to retire.

5. Advancing diversity.

The lack of diversity on the panel did not go unnoticed. As Marc Landis of Phillips Nizer put it, “You’re looking at five white men.”

But how — and how quickly — will law firms change on this front? Alas, that is the subject for another, much longer discussion.

Job of the Week: Boutique in San Francisco

Firm

Confidential – Register here to find out.

Location 

San Francisco

Job Description

We are working with a San Francisco-based boutique on a search for a second-to-third year litigation associate who focuses his or her practice on business litigation, employment litigation and/or IP litigation.  

About the Firm

  • This firm is a boutique business litigation law firm based in San Francisco.
  • The firm represents mature companies in bet-the-company high stakes litigation, as well as startups in a variety of areas, including investor disputes and labor and employment matters. They also handle a variety of IP issues such as trade secret misappropriation and copyright and trademark litigation.
  • They handle both plaintiff and defense-side work in both federal and state court.
  • The firm is considered family friendly and has an incredibly inclusive and supportive culture. Their billable hour requirement is only 1500 hours.

Requirements

  1. A second-to-third year litigator who focuses his or her practice on business, employment and/or IP litigation.
  2. Strong academic credentials from a top tier law school.
  3. CA bar preferred.

Contact

Liz Soderberg –

Looking To Be A Legal Recruiter? Lateral Link Is Hiring

Over the past decade, Lateral Link has become the prominent player in the legal recruiting industry. As we continue to grow our global footprint, we are looking to add recruiters to our San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York offices.

Our Success

Lateral Link has made thousands of placements with almost every Am Law 200 law firm in the nation. Not only do we have personal relationships with decision-makers at the biggest and best firms in the nation, but our exclusives with — and insider information about — some of the most desirable law firms separates us from ALL of our competitors in the field.  We are a market mover, not a follower.

Moreover, we only hire the best and almost all of our recruiters are law school graduates with extensive Biglaw experience.

Highest Compensation in Our Industry

We understand that hiring and retaining the best legal recruiters requires spreading the wealth.  Not only do you deserve it, but you should demand it.  Lateral Link’s recruiters earn 50-85 percent ABOVE the market.  Also, our Principals partake in real profit sharing. Our compensation formula also favors hard workers and high earners, and the more you make, the more you keep.

Teamwork & Culture

If you have to define the legal recruiting industry, you would probably say it is a “dog eat dog world.” At Lateral Link, our recruiters find working together and collaborating on searches gives us an edge over our regional or national competition.  If you don’t have access to decision-makers and your brand isn’t opening the door in a meaningful way, why are you bringing more to a platform than what you are giving?  We encourage you to look at the contributions you make.  Is your platform really helping you?

Many Perks

We know the business aspect is important, but we also like to have a bit of fun at Lateral Link. We believe it is important to bring all of our colleagues together, from across the nation, annually at our company retreats.

If you are interested in working for us please email  or click here to apply.