November/December 2020

Editor's Note

Learning How to Lead Differently in Times of Crisis

Mary E. Vandenack

I have been managing partner long enough to have been leading a law firm through a multitude of crises of various types. No prior experience could have properly prepared me for leading a law firm through a pandemic.

The challenges of leading through a pandemic are many. First, there is the issue of leading a law firm remotely. I note that there is a significant distinction between an office-based law practice going remote and a virtual law firm. Like most other law firms, in March 2020, we were working mostly remotely. Our firm is strong in its use of technology and has been paperless since 2005.

Our system is cloud-based. Moving to a remote environment from a technology perspective was not difficult for us. Our challenge was that while working remotely was not new to some of us, there were both lawyers and staff who had never worked remotely. We needed to quickly learn a different set of leadership skills. We were fortunate to have some relationship with educational institutions that taught us that how one “teaches” an in-school class online is different from teaching an online class. We analogized those differences to how we led our team remotely. Because we are a small firm, our internal teams are not always clearly delineated. For purposes of remote team leadership, we created defined teams and leadership strategies.

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