Minimizing Chaos: Finding Control As A Virtual Attorney

NOV 10, 2022 | PRACTUS LLP

Minimizing Chaos: Finding Control As A Virtual Attorney

Authored by Diane B. Melnick

Bringing control & creativity to a chaotic world as a virtual attorney

Practicing law is a unique profession – almost everyone needs a lawyer at some point in their lives but very few people actually know what the daily life of an attorney looks like. The day-to-day of an attorney involves hours of focused review of written materials, problem solving, and creativity. We challenge ourselves to consider many possible strategies so as to provide the best advice for our clients. Each day is different from the last. 

Unfortunately, the traditional law firm model wasn’t developed to accommodate this creative, solution-oriented process. In a profession where every detail matters, minimizing the chaos around you, improving your creativity, and having control over how you work is the best way to enjoy the practice of law, while providing your clients with exceptional legal services. 

This article highlights my experience in traditional firms and corporations, as well as my evolution to a modern way of working, which led to finding happiness as an attorney again. 

1. Minimizing the chaos

I’ve been lucky to work in some beautiful office spaces in law firms and large corporations, all of which were modern, luxurious, and impressive from the moment you walked through the doors. After experiencing several different spaces and designs, I realized these impressive buildings weren’t really built for the people who do the work; they’re built to impress potential clients and candidates. The truth is that most office spaces are not helpful to the people who actually do the work. The other truth is that potential clients do not want to pay for elegant décor – they want effective and economic legal services from attorneys who practice at the very highest levels of competence and creativity.

Whether I was in a traditional large office with beautiful views overlooking the city or an open-concept space surrounded by glass walls and shared offices. I was physically comfortable.  However, a busy workplace with phones that ring constantly, a steady stream of email, interruptions from well-intentioned coworkers, and background chatter, all add up to a fractured and chaotic day (some days, even the temperature settings were never quite right, but that’s another post for another day). This is the kind of chaos that makes it more difficult to work and communicate with clients, regardless of my outgoing and balanced temperament.

My work requires focus, patience, attention to detail, and a creative spirit. So what seems like a harmless, “Hey, do you have five minutes to chat?” can actually derail a train of thought that is essential to solving a client’s problem. These distractions inevitably take away from the work I do for my clients, even for a few moments, and inevitably drain me of the energy that I would like to have at this stage in my career. I always choose to help my colleagues when they need me, but I would like to have a sense of control over my day.   

It’s not just me. The legal industry is finally realizing that a traditional office environment is an expensive and unwieldy option, especially after most of us have had the benefits of working from home during the pandemic. We experienced just how much more autonomy we had with remote setups, and this goes far beyond eliminating our commute or wearing slippers during video calls (although, those are pretty nice perks too). 

Working from home gives us the control over how and when we work. I work best when organized and inspired, and that doesn’t always fit into a 9-5 work schedule. I’m much more of a night owl and find myself doing my best work during most people’s “off hours.”  When I was in a more traditional office space, I was pressured to work specific hours that usually didn’t correspond with the hours when my brain was most productive. 

Now that I’ve experienced these levels of peace and autonomy, there is no going back for me. It’s why I joined Practus. Our firm has been “virtual” since its founding, making the control I have over my practice permanent instead of a temporary situation. Practus prioritizes the technological tools to make remote work possible and creates an environment where I can work in a creative and productive space (which looks a lot like my kitchen table). This shift has reduced the chaos in my daily life immensely.

When you remove the unnecessary chaos that comes along with a traditional firm model and reclaim control over your practice, you’re left with the parts of being an attorney that you actually like. You’re able to focus on advising clients. You have the extra energy to handle crises that come up in your personal life, instead of wasting it on distractions. You have the freedom to shuffle priorities as needed to achieve the work-life balance that makes you a better person and more well-rounded attorney. This leads to a more efficient workday, happiness as an attorney, and an improved work product. 

As an aside, I joined Practus fresh off a year of aggressive treatment for Stage IIA breast cancer. I was finally healthy and cancer-free. After taking a good long look at my past and a hopeful look at my future, I didn’t want to waste a minute on the subway or on waiting in line for overpriced coffee.  I want to work in a peaceful and productive setting, as most of us do.

2. Increasing your creativity

I smile to myself each morning as I wake up and say, “I hope the commute isn’t bad,” all the while knowing it takes no more than five seconds to walk from my bedroom to my home office. 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.

waterfall in nature

At its core, practicing law is a creative profession – you consider all possibilities surrounding your clients’ legal issues and how the different pieces of your clients’ objectives fit together to create a comprehensive solution. This concept of creativity in law applies to all practice areas – litigation, labor & employment, corporate law, financial services, and my personal favorite, trademark law. 

The freedom to start my day in ways that work best for me inspires me to work smarter and approach problems with new perspectives. One of the reasons I joined Practus is because it is  a firm that truly fosters this creative aspect of the practice of law. My experience over the last 20+ years has taught me how to do this trademark work very effectively, and now I work in an inspired environment that allows me to think creatively and perform productively. 

When I’m stuck on a problem, I often find myself staring out the window as I think it through in my head. In the past, peering eyes would assume I was blankly staring into the abyss, not realizing this is part of my process to reach the best solution. During complex matters, I’m able to spread out all my documents across my desk (and floor if needed) to connect each dot of the issue at hand. Before, I was pressured into keeping my desk looking a certain way, which ended up being detrimental to me being my most productive self. 

The opportunity to have a completely private workspace and the freedom to let my brain run free with creativity has made me so much more productive throughout my workday. 

3. Happiness & productivity

The combination of control and creativity chas made the practice of law joyful again. I eliminated the unnecessary chaos of my life so that I could focus on what really matters. And through this process, I am more productive and inspired, giving my best work to my clients each day. 

Most of us are happiest when we’re productive, and I couldn’t reach that level of productivity in a traditional firm setting. After an extremely productive day or solving a complex issue, I find myself celebrating at my desk, genuinely happy about what I’ve accomplished that day.

woman finding happiness in work

Practus gives me the opportunity to reach my objectives, both professionally and personally. Working at a firm that’s dedicated to attorneys’ well-being gives me a sense of relief knowing that my values align with the firm’s. 

“We believe in fostering a balanced environment where people live the lives they love, while loving the work they do.”

Practus, LLP lives by this value and has helped me love the work I do once again, giving me the ultimate freedom to practice in a way that’s best for my clients while enjoying my life outside of law. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs over the last couple of years.   I’m grateful that I’ve spent these years at a firm with the infrastructure and culture to support me in the ways I need and leave me to do my independent work in the ways that benefit my clients most. I am excited for what the future of law holds. 

The Authors
Diane B. Melnick
Read Full Bio

Practus, LLP provides this information as a service to clients and others for educational purposes only. It should not be construed or relied on as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking advice from professional advisers.

Search Icon