15 valuable tips on managing distributed legal teams
Several law firms and large corporations have legal teams that are distributed across geographies and different time zones. With the pandemic, it has become even more prevalent. Though technology has made it easier to communicate with multiple teams remotely, it might get challenging sometimes when team members are not physically on the same site. Several things are to be considered when managing distributed legal teams such as members’ morale, difficulties in the processes, missed opportunities, lack of team collaboration, etc. It is the manager and the leadership’s duty to ensure the team members are comfortable and the work processes are running smoothly. Julie Wilson, the founder of the Institute for Future Learning and instructor at Harvard University explains how managers can handle remote working teams well. She says , “ Managing a virtual team requires managers to double down on the fundamentals of good management, including establishing clear goals, running great meetings, communicating clearly, and leveraging team members’ individual and collective strengths ”. In order to create and manage a robust work culture, we have compiled a list of 15 valuable tips to manage distributed legal teams. 15 Tips to manage distributed legal teams 1.) Providing support to the legal teams Like other teams, legal teams have professionals who have a varied set of skills and expertise. As much as the legal teams want to work together effectively and to the best of their ability, it is important to support them in doing so. Managers can support their team by giving them the right access to the information, new tools and guiding them whenever needed. At the time of crisis, it is important to help the team handle it and clear away any obstacles if they arise. With clear communication, complete transparency and clarity legal team members can feel secure and confident. 2.) Lead with integrity and build trust It is essential to lead with integrity when a difficulty or dispute arises. Team members feel confident when their leaders take action during difficult situations and reciprocate. It is important to listen to your team’s concerns and act against any red flags and risks they foresee. Even if the legal team is distributed globally, strong leadership helps build a trusting work culture. 3.) Use video conferencing to build relationships With multiple organizations opting for hybrid work culture, it is easy for remote teams to feel disconnected or lonely from the rest of the team. Instead of collaborating with text-only tools, a video conferencing tool helps in making meaningful and effective face-to-face interactions. Video conferencing helps the leader understand their remote teams better by being able to observe non-verbal cues and react appropriately. Similarly, the remote team members identify with each other's emotions better with video conferencing and hence, share a stronger bond. 4.) On-boarding Remote Team Together Generally, team members feel nervous during the onboarding session. With an effective onboarding process, new hires will accommodate the job faster and better. By introducing everyone together and providing opportunities to them to know each other better, teams are more likely to feel connected and comfortable. Assign a dedicated mentor for new hires to adapt to the new job faster. It is also important to help the new employees with reliable resources for them to transition into the new role smoothly. 5.) Implement the right collaboration tools The right collaboration tools help the teams to work together efficiently and make their workdays more productive. With plenty of options available online, it is crucial to select one that suits your team and your working process the best. InkPaper is one such collaboration platform that streamlines the entire contract workflow process for you. From effective communication with the internal teams to contract negotiations with external stakeholders, you can do it all in a single space. 6.) Have a one-on-one meeting regularly Regular communication is important for keeping the distributed legal teams feel connected and productive. Try to have a one-on-one meeting at least once a month on the progress of a project and the goals set for the upcoming week. Also, appreciating their work individually helps them feel valued. One-on-one meetings also give the team members opportunities to raise questions and discuss difficulties that they might not feel comfortable sharing in a group. 7.) Promote bonding activities Since for distributed legal teams, in-person interaction is not an option, having regular fun sessions or activities helps the team to bond together. Conducting virtual happy hours or game nights periodically helps in creating a fun atmosphere at work. This bonding session will also elevate harmony among team members. Additionally, hosting an in-person get-together once or twice a year also helps in getting to know your team better. 8.) Involve the entire team in the discussions During the regular brainstorming sessions or new projects discussions, it is important to make sure everyone involved is present in the meeting. Well-structured meetings which allow every member to feel heard helps in getting many useful ideas quickly. One way to ensure all the team members provide inputs into the meeting is by conducting regular workshops and exercises for project planning. 9.) Set meeting agendas In remote work culture, not keeping a track of the numerous meetings may end up draining teams’ energy. Hence, setting meeting agendas beforehand helps in being more productive. As a legal team manager, set clear goals, list down topics to discuss when inviting members for meetings. 10.) Plan short meetings It’s easy to lose track of time when discussing important project plans and statuses of a particular legal case. Along with setting a meeting agenda, it is equally important to time the meetings and keep them short and meaningful. One way to achieve this is to let people know what topics are going to be discussed and use a timekeeper to keep track of time efficiently. 11.) Create effective project communication It is important to implement an effective project communication technique for everything to run smoothly. Use tools that help all the distributed team members get a complete insight into the progress and updates of a project. An effective communication platform must help mitigate risks and provide secure centralized storage. With easy accessibility and faster reviews, InkPaper, a contract workflow platform helps distributed legal teams accelerate the crucial part of the legal system i.e. the contract workflow and reviews. 12.) Set clear roles and responsibilities of team members While working with distributed legal teams it is important to avoid misunderstandings. You can avoid it by setting clear expectations of project delivery for each team member. Assign each member a dedicated role and responsibility and describe them clearly. Also, explain to the team how each task needs to be completed in the given set of time within the relevant standards. 13.) Have a backup plan for critical tasks When working with a distributed legal team you can’t necessarily appoint any team member with a new task immediately during an emergency. Hence, having a backup plan and a team prepared to handle unforeseen circumstances helps mitigate project risks. One of the ways this can be easily managed is by assigning buddies within the team. They should be in the loop of the current ongoing work amongst each other so that they can take over on short notice if the need arises. 14.) Use your time well Often in a remote environment, there is not a specified time schedule for work. Sometimes due to long meetings, project deadlines, or unplanned tasks the working hours may exceed. Hence, using your time well is important to handle these tasks well. You can categorize your time into planning, thinking, executing, etc, to use it effectively. Making a to-do list also helps in making sure important tasks are not missed and time is used efficiently. 15.) Appreciate teams for their work Every human craves appreciation. Hence, hosting weekly or monthly meetings to appreciate team members is important in managing distributed legal teams. Especially for those who have done their work well, this encourages them to deliver great results consistently. Conclusion: People management is important in running a business, law firm, or large corporation effectively. But as people are returning to work, some are still opting for work from home. Using these tips well will help you in remote as well as hybrid work environments. A happy and well-managed team will increase productivity and revenue for your business. About InkPaper: InkPaper is a contract workflow platform that accelerates the contract lifecycle digitally. Distributed legal teams and external stakeholders can collaborate effectively to review, redline, edit, negotiate, approve, and store the contracts all in a single space. Use InkPaper and do more work in less time.