Routine is the heartbeat of our daily lives, a symphony of habits and tasks that provide structure, stability, and focus to each day. Whether it’s the morning ritual of brewing that perfect cup of coffee, the way you juggle getting the kids to school, how you prepare for client meetings, or the evening routine that signals the winding down of another day, routines are the silent architects of our productivity and well-being.
Most of us implement routines because they grant us a sense of control in a world filled with unpredictability. They serve as the foundation upon which we build our aspirations and accomplishments. That being said, routines can be challenging to establish, especially during transitionary periods of life where your normal habits feel uprooted like going from summer break to start of school or transitioning to a new job, specifically a lateral move from a traditional firm to a virtual law firm. This article shares routines that our very own attorneys use to help them overcome transitionary periods in their lives and improve productivity so that they have more quality time with the ones they love while also being successful lawyers.
But first, let’s talk about why establishing routines can be particularly helpful in the virtual law firm model.
The Importance of Routine in a Virtual Law Firm
The benefits of a virtual law firm typically involve regaining freedom and autonomy over where and how you practice law. It’s the ideal environment for tech-savvy and self-driven attorneys, but virtual law firms can be an adjustment for lawyers coming from a more structured and bureaucratic traditional law firm. Establishing routines for how you navigate your day while prioritizing your time is extremely helpful for those making this leap. But which routines benefit you most depend on your individual reasons for making the transition in the first place.
Most Practus attorneys come to the virtual law firm model for more than one reason, many of which revolve around freedom and autonomy within their practice. If you know why you made (or are planning to make) a transition like this, you can use those reasons to create a concrete vision of what you want your future to look like. Try writing down what your ideal day would be at a virtual law firm by considering things like:
- When will you start your workday?
- Where will you work?
- Who else will have access to your workspace (kids, partners, pets)?
- How will you transition into and out of work?
- How will working at a virtual law firm benefit your daily life?
- What do you hope to feel at the end of the day (relaxed, accomplished, excited, present)?
- Why are you making this transition?
By considering your future from both a big picture and small picture point of view, you can start to create a more concrete vision of the routines you’ll need to implement to become successful at a virtual law firm. Writing down your ideal workday emphasizes where you’ll need to establish routines and where you have room for spontaneity.
In addition to the personal advantages of establishing a routine within a virtual law firm, adhering to structured routines can enhance your effectiveness as an attorney. This reliability extends to your clients, colleagues, integration into the work culture, and utilization of available resources.
By establishing and maintaining consistent routines, you build a reputation for professionalism and demonstrate your commitment to work while respecting your own boundaries. For instance, if you consistently disconnect from work at 5:00 pm local time, clients and colleagues will recognize the need to engage with you earlier in the day. Similarly, if you have a daily commitment to take your kids to school at 8:00 am, your fellow attorneys will be aware not to schedule meetings until your return home. These routines not only bolster your personal well-being but also contribute to a harmonious and productive work environment.
Now, let’s dive into five routines shared by our experienced attorneys that play a pivotal role in the success of their practice.
1. Start your morning to prepare for the day ahead
Most attorneys’ routines kick off with their morning commute. But what happens when your commute no longer exists? This shift in structure can make it feel like your day hasn’t really started, especially if you work at home as a virtual attorney. Replacing your morning commute with a new routine that prepares your brain and body for a productive day can change your entire outlook… take it from Practus partner, Diane Melnick:
“Rather than rushing to a crowded subway, I can start my mornings with a walk in my neighborhood, smelling the waft of fresh pastries at my local bakery and admiring the glorious beauty of Central Park along the way. I use this screen-free time to get inspired and unlock the creative side of being an attorney. By the time I get back to my home office, I’m excited to develop creative solutions for my clients.”
While not everyone’s morning starts off strolling through Central Park, finding the morning routine that works for you will start the day off on a productive note, ready to practice law while finding work-life balance as an attorney.
You can read more about how Diane’s transition to a virtual law firm helped her reduce chaos and become a more productive attorney here.
2. Reassess priorities midday
Most of us wake up with a set list of tasks we need to accomplish that day organized by priority. However, what often unfolds is a dynamic and ever-changing landscape of responsibilities that can seemingly throw our well-organized plans into disarray.
This inherent unpredictability can feel even more prevalent for virtual attorneys who not only have shifting priorities with clients, but also experience changes in their work environments. These shifts in environment and priorities can leave virtual attorneys feeling disconnected from the stability of a traditional office routine, adding an additional layer of uncertainty to your day-to-day life. But all it takes is a shift in routine to feel that sense of control within the flexible work environment of a virtual law firm.
Rather than fighting against shifting priorities, you can incorporate a reassessment of priorities into your daily routine. Embracing this flexibility as a core principle of your work leads to increased productivity and a more balanced work-life dynamic. Here are some strategies to help you:
- Embrace Agile Planning: Consider adopting an agile approach to your daily tasks. Instead of rigidly sticking to a fixed plan, allow for flexibility and adaptability. This means that when a client’s urgent matter arises, you can pivot more smoothly, reorganizing your tasks accordingly without feeling overwhelmed.
- Establish Boundaries: Working from home can blur the lines between work and personal life. Create a signal to those around you that you are in focus mode when high priority client matters arise. That can be anything from keeping your home office door closed to wearing noise canceling headphones or even just sending a quick text to your partner letting them know you’re in full work mode.
- Reevaluate Priorities: Set specific times throughout your day in your work calendar to reassess your priorities. This will help you establish a new routine throughout every day where you can take a break and strategically think about the next task you take on (both in your work and personal life). This proactive approach can help you stay on top of shifting demands and ensure you’re always focused on what matters most.
3. Invest in your home office setup
One of the best parts of being an attorney at a virtual law firm is the autonomy to work anywhere that fits your needs best. And while it’s most common for virtual attorneys to work from a home office, there are many that choose to work in different locations throughout the year – whether that’s a summer home in the mountains or a dedicated office space outside the home. The key is that where you work is fully in your control.
Where you work can be part of your routine to help you be a more productive and happier attorney. Some of our Practus partners that live in the same town opt to share an office space where each attorney has specific days of the week that they use the office. This helps them establish a routine of scheduling high priority items on those days or meeting with clients in person on those days.
Alternatively, virtual attorneys that practice law from home develop routines within their remote offices to help them work most effectively. These routines are established by setting up their workspace with equipment and technology that help them comfortably work in an efficient way like Practus partner, Ryan Smith. Ryan invested in his virtual office set up so that he could take standing breaks, have a beautiful view, and feel relaxed in his place of work. Fitness wearables like an Apple Watch or FitBit can help remind you to change positions as you start establishing these new routines.
4. Get moving to stay focused
Convincing a lawyer to spend an extra hour every day for fitness is a big ask. We understand that adding yet another task to your busy day can feel nearly impossible – and at times, it is. That being said, adding even just 20 minutes of activity boosts your productivity by releasing endorphins that enhance your mood and concentration.
The flexibility you get from a virtual law firm gives you more opportunity to work in this extra 20 minutes a day, which can be even more critical when working from home. A little bit of activity not only is good for your overall health, but it also activates other areas of your brain which can give you clarity when it comes to solving complex problems (a key part of being an attorney).
At Practus, we recently initiated Wellness Webinars so that we can help provide support and information to our attorneys looking to incorporate more physical and mental wellness routines into their lives. At the end of the day, adding this type of routine to your daily life (or almost daily life) will help your brain and body develop the longevity needed to practice law for as many years as you desire.
5. Set time for yourself to unplug
Setting time to unplug daily is arguably the most difficult routine to establish in today’s digital world, and it’s even more challenging as an attorney at a virtual firm. The reality is there are nearly endless studies that highlight the myriad of benefits an unplugged routine can add to your daily life, including:
- Better sleep quality and quantity
- Reduced eye strain
- Improved posture
- Lower stress
- Increased ability to focus
- Ability to explore other hobbies
- Reconnection with nature and loved ones
And we’ll add one more based on our experience: clarity for complex problems.
Setting aside a portion of your day to do anything besides looking at a screen gives your brain time to reset and wander in a world where endless scrolling demands your constant attention. Try setting a daily alarm on your phone or setting a scheduled time in your work calendar to remind yourself to unplug at some point in your day.
Practus partner, Diane Melnick, uses her morning routine as her screen-free time which gets her excited for her day ahead (as mentioned above). Others set aside 30 minutes before bed to fully unplug to help them fall peacefully asleep. Experiment with what works best for you and start implementing it daily for a few weeks to really feel the benefits of screen-free time.
At the end of the day, routines are the foundation upon which we build our success and balance as attorneys at virtual law firms. They offer us the stability and structure we need to navigate the ever-changing landscape of our professional lives, especially during transitions and adjustments. Routines empower us to reclaim control, establish boundaries, and excel in our practice, all while maintaining a fulfilling work-life balance.
Routines in the virtual law firm model are particularly helpful by allowing attorneys to easily adapt to the flexible nature of this practice while enhancing their effectiveness. By adding just a couple routines, we not only improve our own well-being but also create a more harmonious and productive work environment for clients and loved ones.
At the end of the day, embracing routines is not about rigidity; it’s about flexibility within a framework that enables us to thrive in a virtual law firm setting. By aligning our daily practices with our goals and aspirations, we can enjoy the benefits of autonomy, efficiency, and a fulfilling work-life balance. So, as you embark on your journey as a virtual attorney, remember that routines are your allies in the pursuit of success and well-being in this dynamic and ever-evolving legal landscape.
If this flexibility and autonomy sounds like a good fit for you, you can learn more about Practus here.