The remote work transition for law firm Friedman, Framme and Thrush didn’t start in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic caused companies to send their employees home to work. It actually began nearly five years earlier when Bill Thrush, managing partner, set a plan in motion to downsize the physical footprint of the company, while upsizing its virtual footprint.
Friedman, Framme and Thrush, P.A. is a large firm of 110 employees, with offices in Owings Mills, Maryland and Richmond, Virginia. They’re active in a wide variety of practice areas and they’re the provider of LegalShield for six states and the District of Colombia. LegalShield is a membership organization that provides phone consultations with attorneys for a monthly fee.
Plan Would Equip a Remote Workforce to Avoid Disruptions
It was Bill’s idea to start utilizing a remote workforce long before COVID-19 forced everyone to work from home. Bill and his office manager, Steve Myers, started planning their transition with the help of XPERTECHS, who has been their IT services provider since 2010.
The firm already had more than 35 employees working remotely, and they were providing opportunities for others to test out the work-from-home setting. Some employees had trepidation about working from home. While the plan was to increase their remote workforce, they didn’t want to force anyone into that situation, and the goal of their plan was not to be a 100% virtual company.
“We thought that it was going to be used for inclement weather situations,” explained Bill. “Here in the Mid-Atlantic, storms sneak up on us and we have to close for a day or two. I wanted to create a situation where we didn’t have to have that interruption in service for our clients. That was really the model we were working toward.”
Robust Security Essential for Peace of Mind
While it was Bill’s vision to equip more of their employees to work remotely, it was XPERTECHS who guided them in the creation of an IT roadmap that would get the firm where they wanted to go. A foundational piece of the plan was to move their IT infrastructure to the cloud, and to implement security protocols that would give Bill and his partners peace of mind that they weren’t going to be victims of a cyberattack.
“XPERTECHS really helped us out by getting us set up with all of that infrastructure, and then on an ongoing basis to monitor it,” said Bill. “Then as an added layer of protection, we do multifactor authentication with them as well. That makes me feel a lot more comfortable about having remote workers to have all of that security in place.”
Collaboration Throughout the IT Strategy Process
Making progress along the path that the roadmap laid out didn’t happen overnight. Improvements took place in stages and evolved with collaboration between Bill and Mike Mellott, Vice President at XPERTECHS. Mike acts as vCIO (Virtual Chief Information Officer) for the law firm, providing guidance for IT decisions based on his extensive knowledge of technology trends and IT industry best practices.
Bill describes their working relationship this way, “We said, ‘Hey, I'd like to do A,’ and they would say, ‘Well, if you're going to do A, then it's not that much of a stretch to do B,’ and then we would do A and B. Then I thought, ‘Well, what if we added C into the environment?’ And it sort of grew into something where we could eventually downsize our physical footprint and upsize our virtual one.”
The Only Downtime Was When Employees Were Commuting
When COVID-19 hit and all of the staff at the law firm had to work from home, the remote work plan may not have been complete, but they had all the pieces on the playing board. It took only a couple of hours from the time Bill made the announcement that everyone was to leave the office, to when employees were up and running from their individual homes.
Many employees took their compact desktop computers and monitors home with them. Others wanted to use their personal equipment. Because of the technical security layers that were in place, and the way that network access was set up using multi-factor authentication, Bill had no worries that the secure perimeter around their network would be maintained.
Office Partially Reopened but Some Want to Stay Put at Home
They worked seamlessly in a 100% virtual arrangement for a good seven weeks before Bill reopened the office and brought back a dozen of their 110 people. Their return, however, wasn’t based on inadequacies in their technology setup, but in the fact that their work was more conducive to the office environment.
While there are now a few people in the Owings Mills and Richmond offices, Bill thinks that the size of their in-office staff is going to be smaller than it was prior to their COVID-19 experience, and that’s not due to social distancing. Some roles and job descriptions are best performed in the office, but some employees who had previously resisted remote work have discovered that it suits them, and will want to continue that arrangement at least part-time.
Weathered the Storm on a Firm Technology Foundation
Looking back on the weeks that followed the March exodus to remote work, it’s clear that the positive experience that Bill and his colleagues had was due to having their technology foundation ready. All they had to do was to scale it up.
“We were able to weather that storm and take that punch right to the chest and just roll with it, and not really interrupt our workflow at all,” said Bill.
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About Friedman, Framme and Thrush, P.A.
Friedman, Framme & Thrush, P.A. is a large firm with a small firm mentality. We combine exceptional experience, modern efficiency and a commitment to personal service. Our practice areas include commercial and retail collection, bankruptcy matters, general litigation, auto accident, workers’ compensation, business, criminal and family law. We’re the providers of LegalShield for six states and the District of Columbia. Learn more at https://fftlaw.com/