A woman works at the computer.

As they struggle to fill open positions, law firms are offering more than just competitive salaries to attract premium talent. Top candidates are looking for law firm training and mentorship, sustainable work performance expectations, and the ability to work remotely or in a hybrid work environment.

Participants in Smokeball’s Law + The Great Resignation survey were most likely to say employees expect to work from home 1-2 days a week (38%), followed by 2-3 days a week (31%). Firms recognize the importance of a hybrid workplace to attract and retain employees.

It would appear, however, that the desire for training and the desire for remote work are somewhat contradictory. In a remote setting, it’s far more difficult for new hires and inexperienced team members to identify expertise and observe senior lawyers and other experienced colleagues in action. This raises an important question for firm leaders: Is it possible to provide training and mentorship in a remote or hybrid workplace?

The answer lies in tech tools that make knowledge readily accessible. Let’s explore one such feature of Smokeball’s legal practice management software: Workflows.

What are Workflows?

Stated simply, a Workflow is a series of tasks. Much like project managers, attorneys manage their cases by creating checklists made up of a series of tasks. A Workflow takes the simple checklist further by automating it and providing visibility across each step, including key dates and deadlines, attached templates, and an assignee responsible for completing each task.

Enter important deadlines into your workflow to use as a starting point for other key dates in a project or case. For example, you can enter a statute of limitations deadline and work backward to create a timeline for all other important due dates.

How Workflows help with training and mentorship

While working remotely, new hires and even seasoned staff may struggle with lack of onsite supervision and guidance. They lose the ability to lean across the desk and ask “Which pleading template am I supposed to use for this case? Or “What information are we still waiting on so that we can finish the production request?” It makes it much more difficult to find answers quickly.

Workflows manage those challenges and take the uncertainty of the next step by setting clear expectations and performance metrics. Workflows also shorten the learning curve by ensuring new staff members can join the team and immediately learn what needs to be done. They make training employees easy and efficient.

Each task in a Smokeball Workflow includes a details section for providing specific instructions on how you want the task completed. Furthermore, you can attach a document template to any task so there’s never a question as to which document to use.

Workflows eliminate confusion and give employees a clear sense of the work that needs to be done and how to do it. They give them the structure they need to exceed expectations, which results in employees who have a sense of fulfillment and purpose. A defined system brings sanity to a team; everyone knows exactly what their responsibilities are and how these contribute to the bigger picture. It’s an empowering way to work — and empowered people are productive people.

Workflows handle the minutiae of training and create space for seasoned colleagues to spend more time mentoring and less time explaining how to work up cases. Real professional growth comes from thoughtful discussions between mentor and mentee, where the mentor can become a coach instead of a mere instructor. This gives the relationship freedom to explore goals, career advancement and business development. Time spent mentoring shows employees you care about them and creates a sense of loyalty, leading to longer retention rates.

Troubleshooting your Workflow training

The only obstacle to making Workflows part of your practice’s training process is time. You must be willing to carve out a bit of time in the present moment for the reward of saving an unlimited amount of time fielding questions and rebuilding processes from scratch in the future.

And a good legal practice management software provider will offer all the guidance and support your firm needs to reduce the amount of time spent building out workflows. Smokeball offers ready-made Workflow templates by area of law, which serve as terrific starting points and are easily customizable.  Our training team can walk you through the build out process and set your team up for success.

While the process of creating Workflows requires some effort, it also gives members of the firm the opportunity to carefully think through and detail their day-to-day processes — recording important historical firm knowledge that can be passed down through training. The exercise of creating Workflows enables each person to realize their actions are part of a larger whole. Everything becomes neatly compartmentalized and repeatable, which helps to ensure that critical information and deadlines are not forgotten. In other words, it creates a system that allows the firm to run like a business, no matter where attorneys and staff are working.