A Traditional Attorney joins a Cloud-Based Firm: A Productivity Fable

Picture a traditional law firm…go ahead…seriously.


I see a downtown building with mirrored glass windows.  The lobby is large with marble floors and richly stained wood.  The waiting room furniture is leather and mahogany.  On the upper floors, the walls are lined with offices for the attorneys.  Staff member cubicles honeycomb the center.  Lots of people.  Lots of money.


Now, drop a mental bomb on that image.  I said mental.


Picture a cloud-based law firm.  Partners work remotely serving clients through the same internet that we all use to conduct business.  There are no associates.  Staff needs are minimal.  There is no expensive class A office space.


Is this even possible?  Yup.  It’s called FisherBroyles, LLP, and, the firm has 200 partners in 20+ cities across the United States…and no brick-and-mortar buildings.


Below, I am going to tell you the story of one of the #ProductivitySuperheroes in this firm named Ken Thompson.  You’re going to love his advice.


Many businesses are realizing the value of a remote workforce.  Here are some of the many benefits:

  • Less need for centralized (expensive) office space
  • Happier, more engaged workers
  • Fewer geographic restrictions in the recruitment process
  • More productive employees
  • Better retention of employees


So, it’s not crazy to go virtual.  Heck, I coach people this way almost every day.



So, what does it take to blow up our stereotypes of the practice of law AND be successful? 


Ken Thompson started his legal career in the U.S. Army JAG Corps.  He later worked in the marble and mahogany law firms.  Three years ago, he joined FisherBroyles, LLP.  He specializes in both Civil Litigation, and rock star levels of productivity.


Ken caught my attention with this quote:


Attorneys struggle for work/life balance, but I’ve got it. ~Ken Thompson


Yes, FisherBroyles is cloud-based, and that helps, but that is not the only reason why Ken is successful as an attorney and still has work/life balance.


He shared two secrets to his success with me.  Yee-haw, folks.  Here we go!



Success secret #1:  Ken sets boundaries and uses systems


I still have office hours.  What I don’t have is the commute!  ~Ken Thompson


Even though he works from home, Ken keeps regular office hours.  He is responsive to emails and phone calls.  He blocks time on his calendar to perform tasks. He schedules client work so that it is done before the deadline.  Boundaries are a beautiful thing.


When a new case or matter arrives, he follows self-developed processes for what needs to be done, in what order, and by when.  Using his checklists, Ken blocks off time on his calendar to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.


Does Ken get interrupted at work?  Yes!  Working from home does not eliminate interruptions.  However, Ken’s propensity for planning helps him take urgent requests in stride.  If he cannot drop what he is doing to attend to the interruption, he tells the requester when he will respond, AND keeps that promise.


Ken’s boundaries have, perhaps counterintuitively, given him more flexibility.  He can quickly react and respond to client needs.  Ken attributes this enhanced client service to the greater amount of freedom and control he has over his work.



Success secret #2:  Ken looks for ways to improve his processes


Even if I’ve done something 100 times, I’m still working to improve it.  ~Ken Thompson


Ken often adapts his checklists and templates.  When he prepares for a trial or writes a brief, he constantly looks for ways to be more efficient.


How did this positive trait get instilled in him professionally?  The Army.  The military relies on After Action Reviews to assess its performance.  He chose to bring this approach to his current work.



A Fish out of Water?


The practice of law is changing. Lawyers must embrace technology, project management methodologies, and client service models that are different from 20 years ago.  There is more accountability to clients in the billing arena, and more demands from clients to be efficient.


Ken is a traditionally-trained lawyer who is killing it in a non-traditional firm.  Is he a fish out of water?  Nope.  He’s a fish who had the skills to thrive in a whole new lake.



Will this trend continue?


In the past two months, I engaged in virtual coaching with a lawyer in a traditional firm.  This is significant because he’s the first attorney in 10 years of my business to meet with me on a web-based video conference.  I typically travel to the firm, stay in a hotel, and work with the attorney in his or her office.


But, this very traditional firm bought this attorney a webcam, and I taught him how to have a virtual meeting.


It has been so great!  He is becoming more efficient, improving client service, and increasing his billable hours, even though I have not been physically present in his office.


As a client of many attorneys in the past, I like the idea of the hourly rates I’m paying going toward expertise, not marble and mahogany.  That is the FisherBroyles model.


And, my new virtual client wanted the money they paid me to go toward my expertise, not plane flights and hotel bills.



Can YOU work virtually?


Working from home requires more discipline and organizational skills than working in a traditional office environment.


But, it is very doable.


Remember Ken’s advice above:  have boundaries, use systems, and always improve.


And, if you are struggling to develop these skills, I can help.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Justin Kolumber

    Fantastic stuff, Melissa! Ken is a great productivity example – thank you for sharing!!

    • Ken Thompson

      Thanks for your kind words, Justin!

  2. Scott Sanders

    Great article, Melissa! As a CPA who helps law firms implement cloud-based systems, I can see the work-life balance and efficiencies that come from this structure as appealing to many attorneys, especially the younger generation.

  3. Ken Thompson

    Scott, I couldn’t agree more. Leveraging technology to eliminate inefficiency and maximize productivity is, I believe, the future paradigm for an increasingly competitive and mobile global market. Very glad to hear that you are on the front end of it.

  4. Russell Wilcox

    I am not an attorney albeit my son, dad and grandfather all were, are. Well laid out and documented and as always thanks for your insights and posts.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Thanks, Russell.


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