On Reinventing Lawyers, Consultants and Other Pros: Are You Ready?

Work DifferentlyThe most interesting professionals I’ve met this summer were either fired, independent or living in a trailer. I couldn’t have met a happier bunch. Ironically, according to Forbes Magazine, the unhappiest professional is the associate attorney. The reasons are well documented: lack of control, billable hour syndrome, office politics and if you ask me, the shiny dress code and the mahogany furniture (see Dan Pink’s The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us).

You don’t need to be fired to find your motivational angle. You simply need an “inspired workspace”. Inspired workplaces (or digital workspace) come in different business models so let’s look at a few examples of what is working lately.

#1: Working on Projects Remotely

Teams are now increasingly built around projects. For example, our team is working on a public road project in Canada. Our team was self-selected and is comprised of two lawyers, an investment banker and a renegade engineer. All are independent professionals. We are all located in different parts of North America. We basically use Google Docs and Basecamp to coordinate in real time our project. One guy actually hired three analysts from Europe and Pakistan on oDesk to crunch numbers for a complex infrastructure financing deal in Toronto. It saved him two weeks of time all for under $1000.00. I do the billing, expenses and time tracking. I use Freshbooks because I hate accounting. Freshbooks is amazing. More on Freshbooks next post. The advantage of this type of digital workspace is that it allows you the freedom to choose your project, team mates all the while gaining some very “niche” experience. It also allows you to personalize your own branding.

#2: Virtual & New Business Model Firms

Two colleagues have recently joined law firms with fresh new business model approaches and they love it. For example, Cognition LLP  is a Toronto next-generation firm whereas Delegatus is a Montreal based dynamic law firm. Both firms have adopted both virtual and physical environments where lawyers can operate in. This means you can now work from home or from the cottage without raising eyebrows.  UpCounsel is a US based virtual business law firm. A super cool example of the “new kind” of accounting cloud firm is Bench.co. (I wish they were in Canada.) If you are an independent or solo professional, there is no reason why you should not consider your own virtual law firm. The advantage of a virtual firm is that you are part of a branded digital ecosystem for your web presence, email, cloud phone, billing and on occasion, a real boardroom. The disadvantage remains that many view virtual law firms as a technologically too complicated.

#3: Working from Home

Dan Pink’s Free Agent Nation catapulted the work from home movement into the spotlight back in the early 2000. Today, your personal technology is very likely more powerful than most employers (one of Canada’s largest city is still stuck on MS Office 2003). Hence, there is no reason why you would shy away from giving business advice in your jeans and deliver a professional looking report from the comfort of your home office. People working from home can now tune in to podcasts such as Home Work for better ideas, workflows and resources.

Are you Ready?

The most frequent question I get from professionals is…. what are the basic steps I can do to start digitizing my business (aka inspired workspace)? Simple: Start with digitizing your name. Get rid of your “myname@hotmail or gmail” and the likes. Personalize your name, even with something as basic as “myfirstname@lastname. You will own your digital rights to your name forever and move it around should you change internet provider. Here’s a blueprint on how:

1. Digitize your name AKA “Register your Domain Name”.  Use GoDaddy or Funio. I use them both. GoDaddy can be confusing with all the silly questions (trying to up-sell you). Funio is straight forward but pricer.

2. Get your personalized email address with your new digital name.

3. Get Google Apps for Business so you can have your own cloud storage space, online calendar and contact management system.

Need help organizing that? Contact me.


About sleclair

Suzanne is a "connected lawyer" and a cloud office fanatic. Suzanne helps other professionals like her, work out of the best espresso bars in the world. Suzanne runs, & runs her business anywhere.


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