Q: I am the manager of a legal team and with everyone working remotely, we are experiencing hiccups in our communication, causing missed deadlines and other issues with our work. Any advice on how I can help my team better interact and share information?
A: To stay organized and meet the critical deadlines that come with the nature of legal work, especially when many team members are working remotely, everyone has to work well together. Here are three ways a legal manager can improve communication and reduce frustration:
- Identify the source of the problem. If the team worked well together in the past but is now running into issues, try to identify the source of the problem. Maybe your staff is tired from the hectic pace, overwhelmed by current conditions, or perhaps communication has broken down. To identify and resolve the problem, take a timeout and hold a group meeting, making sure to include both onsite and remote staff as well as any temporary legal professionals working on the team. Sometimes the problem can resolve itself when members express their concerns and reconnect on a group level. But if you think people can speak more candidly outside a team setting, set up one-on-one meetings.
- Set the example for good communication. A team follows the lead of its project manager, so make sure you are doing a good job of communicating. Avoid future misunderstandings and frustration by setting clear expectations and getting group buy-in. Clearly define workflows and deadlines and have regular team check-ins. Encourage them to speak to you or to each other with questions and concerns. When people are sure of their individual responsibilities and know exactly which tasks they’ll be held accountable for, they have a greater sense of ownership of their work.
- Make sure you are fully engaged. As the team manager, it is your responsibility to head off conflicts. Don’t wait to address problems, and certainly don’t ignore them. Foster an environment of honesty, transparency, diplomacy, and open-mindedness. To boost buy-in and reduce finger pointing when things go awry, include the litigation paralegal team in planning and decision-making. This will help them feel that they are part of a cohesive group instead of individuals working away in their silos.
And don’t forget to hand out praise when it’s due. Acknowledging people for their hard work is a great way to build up morale.
Every team can experience communication problems from time to time. While normal, legal managers need to take quick action to make sure that these hiccups don’t turn into something more serious. Renew your legal team by following the above steps; they will likely be back on track in no time.
Robert Half Legal is a premier legal staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major North American and global markets and offers a full suite of legal staffing and consulting solutions.