As part of a new series called “Covid Catch-up” Terawatt connected with Hannah Genton, Founding Partner of CGL LLC, to hear how her firm is navigating quarantine.
“Covid Catch-up” – Online Law in Quarantine
September 8, 2020
1. What problem is your business solving and/or how is your business making life better? What is your product?
We are a full-service transactional law firm that was set up to provide legal services more efficiently. We are all big law attorneys or ex-big law attorneys, so it all comes down to accessing these talented attorneys in a different model that is much more efficient. We’re very lean, we’re very distributed, our team is very senior and we’re trying to create something that is a little different than big law. There are a lot of inefficiencies in big law and we are trying to provide a solution to address that.
2. What has been going on in your business since we last spoke?
We’ve grown immensely – back then we were a team of 2, now we are a team of about 30, which is a mix of full-time employees and contractors.
3. Has the Coronavirus quarantine affected your business?
We have been a fully remote law firm since the day we started, so COVID-19 didn’t affect our work the way it did for other companies. We’re very used to remote work, that’s what we’ve been doing since we opened our doors, so when COVID-19 hit nothing really changed for us in terms of how we do business.
The types of services we provided changed a bit – there are a lot more people that need employment assistance. We also work on providing different types of financings and capital infusions for companies, and the deal types changed based on the change of landscape (e.g., people taking on more debt). We also provided a fair amount of counseling to our clients regarding navigating a remote workspace. We’ve become a thought leader in the space since we’ve been working remotely before it became the norm.
4. Have you seen any particular changes in the clients’ behavior given that all the services they are using have to be remote?
We’ve always communicated with our clients virtually, so everything has always been over the phone, over a Zoom call or a video call, so none of that has changed. We’ve actually been a bit busier during this time, and I think that’s because there is a lot of necessary legal guidance that people are seeking during this time. We’ve found ourselves even busier in 2020 than we were last year.
5. What makes your working-from-home routine successful?
For me, consistency is key. I set up my work hours and stick to them, and that helps me transition into ‘work mode’ even when working from home. I also have a separate office space – I know some people have designated parts of their house as a workspace, and that’s also beneficial. It is part of the psychology of getting into work mode that makes the transition of going into and out of places a little bit better. One of the challenges of working from home is that you can actually end up working more since you are always ‘on’, so setting up boundaries (e.g., fixing work hours, designating a workspace) allowed me to enjoy my home without having it become purely a workspace. There is a lot more fluidity between the two!
6. What tools have you been using while working from home that you have found to be effective?
We use Zoom pretty regularly, and Slack as well. The good, old fashioned telephone works really well too – picking up the phone and making calls is what I probably do the most. I think people tend to shy away from that and use written communication, but I found that picking up the phone is quite powerful to stay connected and make sure people are getting work done. Ensuring your laptop is fully functional is also a must. Also, we are a law firm, so we use a lot of security tools to protect our clients’ information. Those are especially important if you are doing a lot of work in the cloud or online to make sure that your clients’ data is adequately protected.
7. Do you believe the future of work is online? What are some key factors companies need to keep in mind in order to be successful while remote?
Definitely! We believe the future of work is remote, this is one of the key values of CGL. We’ve been singing that tune for the past few years, so that’s certainly something we believe in. A really important aspect to keep in mind as a leader of a remote company is to really manage expectations and be very clear about what the company expects so that your team knows what they need to do. Is it ok for them to go to lunch or go to a coffee shop in the middle of the day? Do they need to be on video calls all day? Or can they just do audio calls? I think setting expectations can really help facilitate success.
It will be different for different companies, just like working in a Manhattan skyrise is different than working at a startup in Palo Alto. There are different work culture expectations, and I think the same goes for remote work – different companies will have different styles of running their business. For both the employee and the employer, being really clear about what the expectations are and how they see the remote work playing out will be one thing that can help businesses thrive under a distributed model.