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7 Tips for Navigating the Return to Offices

As the U.S. begins to cautiously reopen, we are hearing from many of our law firm clients about how they are approaching the return to offices. Some have already started to bring in a limited number of lawyers and staff to offices, while others don’t foresee any return in the coming months.

The circumstances of each firm will vary greatly depending on physical location, local regulations, number of staff, types of needed work and much more. But many firms are utilizing similar best practices, and these tips can guide your firm’s successful return to a new normal:

  1. Solicit Internal Feedback and Guidance: Firms are rightly asking attorneys and staff for their feedback on the best return-to-work strategies. The opportunities for soliciting feedback may include internal surveys, virtual meetings, internal task forces or some combination.
  2. Create Phased Returns: Firms are working in phases to proceed with caution and learn what works well. The first phase usually involves bringing in those attorneys who have a demonstrated need to be in the office and want to be there.
  3. Understand the Needs of Your People: As with so much in this COVID-19 reality, firms recognize that they must be aware of the changing needs of their attorneys and staff. What works for some attorneys won’t work for others, and people are navigating new terrain with their health, childcare and other personal needs.
  4. Work with Experts: In addition to getting internal feedback, utilize knowledge from local hospital executives or medical experts to inform plans.
  5. Be Flexible: All plans are subject to change with so much still unknown, and what is working well one week might need to change the next. The key is for firms to emphasize that need for flexibility to attorneys and staff.
  6. Keep in Touch with Clients: While some attorneys will be in the office and some won’t, all should be focused on staying connected with clients. Your clients’ needs are changing daily, and your attorneys won’t know how to help unless they are reaching out. Don’t let physical separation or changes to work arrangements distract from that.
  7. Embrace the Good: This crisis has also brought with it some unexpected positives—from people who have discovered the ease of working remotely at least part of the time to attorneys who have successfully stepped into new leadership roles. Look for those firm wins and embrace them.
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