For Biglaw firms trying to figure out a way to entice partners back into the office, have you ever considered moving the entire firm to some amazing location for a few weeks? Because a company spent the summer in Lisbon, Portugal.
Texas-based boutique Vela Wood previously implemented a “Desk Independence” program, allowing employees to take a month off to work from anywhere. Fueled by the success of this program, the company has taken it up a notch this summer with the VW Abroad program, offering the team the opportunity to decamp to Portugal from July 10, 2022 to August 6, 2022. People could head around two to four weeks and the company offered a stipend to cover the costs of the employees and their families.
This is very much in line with Vela Wood’s travel philosophy, summarized by Managing Partner Kevin Vela: “We believe that travel helps people become better global citizens. And we think with that comes understanding, comes awareness, and comes self-realization. This desire to travel is the basis of this video highlighting the company as a Clio customer (and obviously highlighting Clio’s ability to facilitate this model).
So bringing people together overseas was a logical decision. And the company got a great response with a note sent earlier this summer:
To date, more than 20 employees participate, or approximately 50% of the company’s employees. Many bring their spouses, partners, parents and children of all ages to bring the total number to over 50 people. The firm has also invited clients to meet the team in Lisbon this summer. Vela Wood plans to hold weekly events with members of the local startup community with the aim of fostering entrepreneurship around the world.
And it doubled as an opportunity to develop business. Perfect all around travel.
Unsurprisingly, Vela Wood regards this as the first of many overseas VW programs.
Not every law firm will be able to do something like this, but whenever a law firm complains about lawyers not showing up to the office, the rationale is usually a song and dance about “building a corporate culture”. If that’s the goal, consider sending a team or department to a cool new place for a week or two. They will emerge on the other side more united from working in an unfamiliar environment than their entrenched offices.
Not for nothing is a company much more likely to bring people over on a random Wednesday when it knows it’s going to see the people it hooked up with for two weeks in Prague or whatever.
Or maybe all this corporate talk about “office culture” is just a pretext to cover up deep insecurities about feeling out of control…but I’m sure it’s not.