Lawyerist’s first virtual team member was now-Product Director Ashley Steckler in 2015. While the team was in Minnesota, Ashley was next-door in balmy North Dakota. (Fortuitously, she had remote team culture experience.) So, Lawyerist co-founder Aaron Street used Ashley’s remoteness as an experiment.
Could an organization have employees in different states and still be productive and happy?
The answer? Yes, and then some. Lawyerist then widened future openings to the broader US and, in 2019, went fully remote.
Now, we have team members in Minnesota, Georgia, Colorado, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Illinois. Different time zones, cultures, and weather experiences (a favorite Lawyerist team topic) have birthed an energetic, close-knit team culture.
Systems and Tools: The Key to Remote Team Culture
But, we couldn’t keep the team together without tools. It’s true: you can’t catch a virtual colleague at the water cooler and have a 5-minute impromptu brainstorming session. Yet, with the right systems and good tech, we’ve made it easy for our team to pop into each other’s “offices.”
We use Slack as our primary communication. You can customize channels, integrate apps, and even host video calls and audio-only huddles. Because of this, we rarely use email internally.
Why Happy Hours Don’t Have the Market on Fun and Bonding
Most importantly, we prioritize a remote team culture. You don’t need a pool table in the break room and monthly happy hours to keep your team engaged. And it’s easier than you think to bond virtually. Lawyerist is intentional about staying connected as a team.
For instance, every Thursday afternoon is an optional Taco Thursday. This virtual meeting is a casual hour on the calendar to chat, play silly games like trivia or Scattergories, or have deeper discussions. No one’s required to be there, but we hope people prioritize the meeting since it’s our weekly hour to bond without work getting in the way.
Our Operations Director, Paige Atkins, plans these events with care.
“I base what I do on the state of our team that week. Do we need a fun game or a more serious conversation? Sometimes I think about what specific team members would like (‘Oh, Jennifer would love this game’), or I cycle through what’s worked before,” she said.
We also use a mental health tool, Spill, that integrates into Slack so we can stay connected to our team’s health. While you can clock that your colleague looks down or unhappy in a physical office, it can be harder to gauge moods virtually. Spill’s features allow team members the option to submit moods, talk to a therapist, or check in with a team member.
A Successful Remote Team is a Team Who Trusts
Above all, building a strong remote team and culture requires a healthy workplace, imagination, and trust. Often, you’ll read quotes from CEOs at companies (even tech companies!) saying that they don’t think remote work is possible. But, Lawyerist co-founder Aaron Street sees it differently.
“If you use the tools out there and build a tech-forward, enthusiastic team whose trust you’ve earned, who believe in your company’s vision—there’s no reason a remote workplace can’t work.”Aaron Street
Build Your Own Virtual Law Firm
Since Lawyerist has worked remotely for years, we’ve taught the lawyers in our paid coaching program, Lawyerist Lab, how to build their own virtual law firm. We often hear how it’s easier than they thought.
For help with your remote team culture or any part of your law firm’s business, check out Lawyerist Lab.
Last updated June 23rd, 2022