Law360 (July 14, 2020, 6:01 PM EDT) -- Husch Blackwell LLP has launched its first-ever virtual office with an initial group of 38 attorneys and 12 legal professionals working remotely indefinitely, with plans to expand the group both internally and with lateral hires living in cities where the firm does not have physical offices.
Currently, the 20 partners and 18 associates who have joined the group, called The Link, are all part of Husch Blackwell's product liability, toxic tort and commercial litigation practices, but according to The Link office managing partner J.Y. Miller, as the group expands it will be made up of attorneys and other legal professionals working in a variety of practice areas and geographies.
In addition to the attorneys, which includes Miller, the current team also includes 11 paralegals and a legal operations director that are fully remote, as well as a dedicated office administrator and administrative support for the team that are not permanently remote.
"Ever since an announcement was made internally [about the group] there have been a number of people who have inquired and asked to join The Link," Miller said in an interview Tuesday. "I feel confident our numbers will be growing very rapidly."
The team members' official work spaces will be away from the firm's physical offices, most often at home, but they will also have the option to go into the firm's offices when needed for meetings or for a day of work under hoteling agreements, and some may also work while traveling or from a client's physical location.
Non-partner members of the group will be paid based on their geographic location, in the same way pay is determined for the firm's non-partner employees in physical offices, and partners will operate under the same compensation system as the rest of the firm, which incentivizes things like teamwork, collaboration, innovation, client service, firm citizenship and support for diversity, Miller said.
The idea for a virtual office had been brewing in the mind of the firm's Chief Administrative Officer Bret Chapman for some time, but it was only with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the firm's temporary shift to working from home that the idea began to come to fruition, according to Miller.
"We saw an opportunity when people were forced to work from home and we were able to see the benefits of working in a new way," he said. "So we decided to take it to the next level and really commit to it."
One of the benefits of moving attorneys from physical offices to home work environments, according to Miller, is that the law firm can reduce its overhead by reducing the amount of office space it needs per attorney.
Additionally, he said he believes that giving legal professionals the option to work remotely and in locations where Husch Blackwell does not have an office will benefit the firm's recruiting and retention efforts because it expands the places the firm can recruit and provides more options for existing attorneys, he said.
And, it can provide for a better quality of life for those same professionals through more flexibility, keeping them happy with their jobs, he said.
"It certainly provides more freedom and flexibility in that you're able to organize work around your life instead of organizing your life around work," Miller said.
He says that since the firm began to work remotely due to the pandemic he has found that he and others have been able to get more work done in less time.
"You can now invest that time that you've created elsewhere, whether it is in a client relationship or exercising or spending time with family or doing something that's important to you," he said. "At the end of the day, I think you'll have happier people who will be more productive and successful."
--Editing by Michael Watanabe.
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