Articles From the Team
What is the future of remote working for lawyers?
In 2015, I wrote a blog addressing the need for law firms to allow their employees more flexibility in how and where they work. At that time, certain law firms were taking positive steps in that direction but progress was slow. Most people were fully office based, some employees were perhaps working a day or so a week from home and very few were largely or completely remote based. HR teams seemed keen to push the agenda forward however there were always certain partners who pushed back and didn’t feel comfortable allowing their teams to work from home unless there was a specific reason. During the past 12 months, Covid-19 has forced their hands as pretty much all firms had to make an abrupt shift towards remote working.
We have all become accustomed to virtual client and staff meetings. On the plus side, these are cost effective (no more long client lunches or lengthy commutes) and they also have huge time saving benefits however Zoom fatigue appears to be a very real thing and most of us are itching for a little more social interaction in our working days longer term.
For juniors, it can be hugely beneficial to be in an office with more senior colleagues, seeing how they work and listening to how they talk to clients, gradually assimilating information that helps shape the way they develop as lawyers. For those working on large projects in teams, it also helps to be physically present. The office environment is a huge part of creating team camaraderie as are after work drinks/socials/networking events – all of which we have done little to none of during the past year (outside of the virtual world).
That being said, juniors seem to be at increased risk of burnout in the legal profession so something did need to change. Whether an increased acceptance to allow remote working will help is yet to be seen but freeing up commuting time and generally being more productive during working hours might free up more time for outside activities which in turn may result in both physically and mentally healthier lawyers.
Essential to successful remote working is communication, keeping that going with clients and colleagues and maintaining a team spirit. That can be difficult but we need to continue celebrating success and make sure we are there for colleagues when they need picking up or if they just need someone to bounce ideas off.
Remote working also opens up options for lawyers in locations that they might previously have ruled out, for example, those in the East Midlands are increasingly considering Birmingham roles as a two/three day a week commute is doable whereas a five day commute might have been too tiring on top of a busy working week.
In determining what works for each of you when it comes to remote working, consideration will need to be given to your personal situation, your role within your team and also the needs of your clients.
The pandemic has completely normalised remote working and long term we are expecting that a hybrid way of working will continue. Most firms are anticipating that staff will continue to work a couple of days a week from home once the new normal resumes and many are envisaging a 50:50 office/home working week with further flexibility likely for those who are fairly autonomous.
Overall, the shift that the pandemic has forced is welcomed but a blended working week moving forward is probably what would suit most of us best.