Your phone buzzes. It’s a text message (and not even an hour into your workday). You reply and place the phone face down.

And then a chime.

This time it’s Teams (or maybe it’s Slack). You investigate, reply, and refocus. You’ve got a deadline to meet.

*Ding*

A notification now waves like a flag on the bottom of your screen. It’s an email. You ‘X’ the banner and turn off alerts. This email can wait. You refocus.

Now all is quiet. No chimes, banners, or flashes of light begging for your attention. It’s just you and that little unopened envelope. You know, the one from the e-mail that you’re consciously ignoring. It’s letting you know the message is ready to be read (whenever you’re ready to read).

The truth is, you don’t have the willpower to ignore that little envelope because no one has the willpower to ignore that little envelope. And it’s killing our productivity.

The Digital Communication Revolution 

Law firms, like many businesses, have undergone a revolution of digital communications in the last year. These tools have been heralded as the greatest invention since the printing press. No longer are workers tethered to a desk or landline phone. Collaboration and synergies are at an all-time high. Workflow is simply faster with instant response times. Offices are irrelevant. Emojis have entered the workplace and it’s hilarious.  

So why has work never been harder? 

In our quest to become totally connected, we’ve forgotten that sometimes we need to be disconnected to get things done. Independence and solitude, free of bells and whistles, are important to productivity and focus.   

Culturally this concept is becoming thornier. Without the ability to be in-office, we elevate accessibility and openness in our virtual workplaces, which means being “wired in” digitally. Everyone has a metaphorically open-door policy because we have no doors.  

To be clear, E-Typist is a big proponent of digital communications for improved workflow. For instance, we have since introduced Slack. We are now Slack uber fans. It’s made our team stronger and nimbler in meeting our client’s needs. And especially for a field like law, which is typically tech resistant, we see these new tools revolutionizing the sector. But like any tool, Slack, Teams, Zoom, Outlook, Gmail, texting and the rest have diminishing returns.  

Firms of all sizes should be having ongoing conversations about digital communication expectations with staff. Embrace digital minimalism, and make sure the tools you’re using have intent and purpose behind them. 

An Old Concept for a Modern Work Experience 

Because COVID-19 changed the way many firms operate, one consequence (or benefit depending on your perspective) was layoffs of support staff.  

For some firms, new technologies meant coordination and communication could be done by lawyers themselves. But as we’ve ventured further into this brave new world, there are very real side effects to the digital onslaught.  

In short, lawyers need to work at the highest end of their license. They need to be supported to do what they do best – practice law. And this is where secretarial professionals come into play. 

E-Typist’s solution is Virtual Legal Assistants. These assistants rightsize traditional staffing models to be more cost-effective, working on-demand to complete tasks (meaning firms pay only for what is done when it’s needed). 

Of all the administration Virtual Legal Assistants undertake, perhaps one of the most valuable is inbox management. They can monitor email, social media, web-chats and other communications, handling instant needs and triaging more important, time-sensitive matters. That means less buzzing and dinging for attorneys, and more time to focus on what’s most important.

Closing thoughts

All this is to say, a tool is just a tool. And like a hammer has its time and place, so does Zoom. Reflect on how your workflow actually flows and ensure you’re in control of your tools (not the other way around).

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