Teamwork is a lesson we learn as children either through organized sports or impromptu games in the schoolyard. Often, as we get older and move through college and law school, our mindset shifts and we become more individually oriented.
After years of pandemic, social isolation, and remote work, coming back to the office has been challenging. How can you encourage a team atmosphere and what actions or circumstances hinder it?
Do have in-person meetings. In law much of our work requires independence and initiative. But in fact, having an open dialogue and collaborating with team members in person can in fact promote productivity and encourage creative approaches to management of cases.
There are valid reasons our team members want to continue remote work including increased gas prices and commute time. We have also seen the use of technology makes meetings easier without the burden of travel.
My experience during the pandemic was a few firm meetings in person with the benefit of lunch available for everyone. These in-person meetings allowed everyone to share an update on their caseload and allowed for candid dialogue about ideas on how the firm was managing the pandemic and how our team members were handling the pandemic.
Don’t have unrealistic expectations. After vaccines were available and reported cases were declining, our initial in-person meetings were encouraging and welcome.
However, that period of positive news did not seem to last long. As we moved into fall of 2021 and numbers were spiking again, our in-person meetings felt awkward. There were periods of dead silence and overall sparse attendance. I know from my perspective, I did not have much to update because as a litigation paralegal, my work was slow with the court closedown. It was anxiety producing to not be able to share a robust work schedule.
Do encourage open dialogue: Having an open dialogue within the team is crucial. A friend of mine reported that her mid-size firm used a simple communication tool, an email chain with the subject line “does anyone have the answer?”. The email was sent to the whole firm as a quick way to share experiences or ask a question. For example, “I’m having a hard time reaching the trial court administrator to ask a specific question about a local process. I have searched the local rules but if someone can give me some advice, please let me know.”
It’s often the simple insights we share that can make our cases run smoother, creates a more productive work process, and encourages teamwork and collaboration.
My experience and that of my colleagues indicates that the more teamwork is encouraged the more successful the cases, the happier the clients, and the better firm moral. Teamwork does not require retreats or trust falls but creating an atmosphere where there is respect for each other’s knowledge and encouraging everyone to share their experiences for the benefit of the firm.
About The Author
Jessica Riley is a graduate of the Meredith College Paralegal Program and a Marketing Assistant with Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services.