In March 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide shelter-in-place order in California. On March 25, 2020, I, alongside Diane Camacho of DLS Consulting Services and Brittny Bottorff of the Law Office of Brittny Bottorff, presented a panel entitled “Change in Plan: Practicing Law at Home & Off-site in Peace, Comfort & Confidence During Times of Stress” for the Bar Association of San Francisco’s (BASF) Solo and Small Firm Section.
As of the date of this publication, many solo and small firms, especially those who had office space, are still working from home, many months later. This follow-up article provides a brief summary of the technologies and topics we discussed during the March 25 presentation, as well as updated advice in light of the continuing struggle to contain the pandemic in the United States.
During our March 25 panel, Diane Camacho focused on a number of technologies that solo and small firms can employ in order to increase productivity and efficiency when working from home. Specifically, she discussed the pros and cons of using cloud-based software such as Microsoft OneDrive or G-Suite subscription for email and file sharing; voice over IP (VOIP) options such as RingCentral, Dialpad, 8×8, and Google Voice for receiving calls to your cell phone when working remotely; cloud-based billing and project management software such as Clio, PracticePanther, MyCase, Harvest, Asana, and Trello; conference/international call platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet (with G-Suite), Skype, and WhatsApp; obtaining electronic signatures through DocuSign, HelloSign, Adobe Acrobat Pro, ClioGrow, RightSignature; and accepting client payments via LawPay.
Team Management and Business Development
Brittny Bottorff discussed the importance of daily team check-ins via the aforementioned conference call platforms so as to help maintain a sense of connection and normality, and to ensure that the members of the team are paying attention and not multitasking during team meetings. When working remotely, she emphasized being clear in communicating tasks and assignments, and the importance of repetition in order to avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding instructions.
Brittny Bottorff also discussed how to continue business development during times of physical distancing and isolation, specifically using video calls via FaceTime or one of the aforementioned conference call platforms to keep in touch with business partners and colleagues. She explained that during times like these, it is important to share your knowledge, insight, and information that may be relevant to operations during COVID-19, such as client letters and/or blog posts to help inform your clients about relevant developments in your legal area related to COVID-19. Additionally, she suggested that if you have downtime, you could work on your website or brainstorm about your business plan and client development strategy.
At the time of our presentation on March 25, we had only been in “shelter-in-place” for a couple of weeks here in California. Preliminarily, I had discussed how social connection was vitally important in a time of enforced physical disconnection, and recommended that attorneys practicing from home schedule social calls or videos, virtual happy hours, virtual walks with friends/family, etc. to keep in touch with their network of family and friends. I had also discussed the importance of structuring one’s work day and allowing for downtime in the evenings. I had talked about the importance of physical health to avoid getting sick, as well as eating healthy meals and exercising outside in nature if possible. Finally, I had recommended mindful alone time if there were others working from home in the same space.
The advice I provided generally remains the same on my end, but some parts bear repeating and others maybe are less relevant many months in.
So, here’s an updated list of additional wellness tips, especially in light of the BASF’s Wellness 2020 theme, that you may want to employ if you’re struggling to be productive, efficient, and happy when working from home and social distancing in 2020.
- Decide what type of social interactions you are comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with, and be clear about it. There’s no right answer to this question, and it is entirely a personal question. Know yourself, vocalize your opinions on the matter, and enforce your boundaries.
- Be empathetic. Everyone, including yourself, is struggling after seven months of quarantine. Be kind to yourself, and be more forgiving of others at this time. We’re all trying our best.
- Get support if you need it. There are plenty of online talk therapy options if you have already emotionally exhausted your existing support circle. Additionally, there’s no shame in getting help from a dietician/nutritionist who can help you streamline your fitness goals and ensure that you are taking care of yourself physically.
- Work on yourself. The usually prescribed advice of yoga and/or meditation certainly help to clear the mind and discover the answers to some of these questions, but a lot of this transformative work can also be done through journaling, reading self-help books, creating lists, etc.
- Get away. If you’re comfortable with traveling, can you drive or fly somewhere where you feel comfortable and safe so as to spend some time relaxing and taking your mind off things? This could be a solocation or a vacation with family and friends, depending on your comfort level.
I hope that these wellness suggestions provide you with some idea of how to move forward successfully in 2020. And as always, keep in touch with your BASF friends. We’re here to help make your life better.
About the Author:
Lindsey S. Mignano is a founding partner at Smith Shapourian Mignano and represents emerging and small businesses in the Bay Area. She provides businesses with counseling and transactional services, including business formation and expansion into US markets, contract drafting and negotiation, and financing matters. Prior to launching Smith Shapourian Mignano PC, Lindsey practiced law in the San Francisco office of an international law firm.