I had the arguably good fortune of joining the legal profession a short time before a global pandemic threw a wrench in the (office) works and transformed most workplaces (including mine). Having started practice in the "before times", I was used to going into the office most days. I didn't have much concern about whether and when I’d get to meet my colleagues in-person. As a litigator, my time in the courtroom was quite literally in the courtroom.
But then, around March 2020, many of us began staying home for the sake of health and safety. I'm not being particularly profound when I say that this fundamentally changed the way we worked and practiced law. We quickly acclimatized to Zoom, tried our hand at virtual networking events and spent far less time in a physical office.
Now, as the world opens up again, I've repeatedly asked myself: how do you build a practice in a world of hybrid work? Here are a few tips that I've picked up from friends and colleagues as I've been trying to answer this question.
1. Do Lunch
A major benefit of being back in the office is the opportunity to network. You may be receiving invitations to a plethora of networking events. Make a habit of going to some of these events. Beyond events, invite a colleague or a contact out for lunch or, at least, coffee. If you're back in the office more often, you might as well make the most of one of the big plusses of in-person work: meeting with an actual person. As your practice grows, so should your network.
2. Hang Around the Water Cooler
A common complaint that I've heard from more senior colleagues is that the pandemic prevented people from having those passing conversations in the office that could really assist your practice. You may be struggling with a legal problem that someone else has seen before. While the "pop-in" visit to a colleague's office was previously commonplace, it became more difficult to obtain informal advice during the pandemic, where you often had to arrange a call or try to reach someone by email. Now, if you happen to be in the office, chat with people you see in the halls. Hang out around the proverbial water cooler. Talk to your colleagues about what you're working on. You might be surprised with how helpful those conversations can be.
3. Keep That Remote Work Setup
Although there are many benefits to in-person work, this doesn't mean you should dismantle that meticulous work-from-home setup you put together. On certain days, working from home may be more efficient, especially when you have a pressing deadline. Skipping your commute may mean more time to spend on work tasks…or less time spent "leaving the office" at the end of the day. If you still have the option of working from home, make sure those days at home are still as productive as (if not more productive than) when you work from the office.