Working Hard or Hardly Working?: Lawyers in favour of more WFH post-lockdown

July 5, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

With no choice but to work from home (WFH), many legal professionals are finding that the new normal is not only manageable, but actually a means to better productivity and a healthier work-life balance.

What does this mean?

Throughout lockdown lawyers have been asked to give their thoughts on working from home, and the results show a real appetite for moving away from bricks and mortar “presenteeism”. 

In fact, 77.6% of respondents to Scottish Legal News’ (SLN) survey said they would like to work from home more in the future. Roll on Friday’s poll respondents agreed, with over half saying that they want to work from home for most of the week post-lockdown. Pollers highlighted the advantages of staying indoors, including avoiding lengthy (and costly) commutes, spending more time with family, and enjoying a better diet. One respondent said: “I’ve gone from working 50 hours and travelling 10 hours to working 35 hours and my productivity is up 25%”. A Scottish council lawyer called compulsory office attendance “archaic” and said that the lockdown should surely show that “professional life can work very well remotely”.

What's the big picture effect?

This isn’t to say that lawyers’ offices are closing for good. Some respondents said they hated WFH; and that they missed office camaraderie, support, and facilities. The absence of “boundaries between work and home” was frequently cited because some felt like they couldn’t “switch off”.

The more senior lawyers may still need convincing too. Many poll participants reported that their firm’s “old guard” were still of the view that “real work” can only be done in the office. One worried that this more traditional attitude may spark a divide between home workers and office workers, with the latter being looked upon more favourably for promotions and bonuses. 

But a respondent of the SLN survey highlighted that law firms resistant to offering WFH will simply be “left behind”. Another lawyer said that if the “dinosaurs” of their firm refused to remodel working arrangements post-pandemic they would “find a firm which is more amenable to WFH”.

As for junior lawyers, a Legal Cheek survey found that, save for the unpleasant experience of a magic circle trainee, lockdown working was running smoothly. The respondents praised their firms’ empathetic response and acknowledged that video conferencing and worksharing tech had made the transition painless. A City trainee said “the firm has been very supportive and we have excellent IT capabilities to make working from home easy.” 

Perhaps then a “blended approach to home working for the long term” is a more realistic solution to the strains of an often intense professional career. A LexisNexis report has found that two thirds of solicitors suffer “high levels of stress”. Law firms can be advised to accommodate the needs of the modern lawyer, and retreat from the notion that office attendance necessarily means greater output. 

So will a home working revolution be the silver lining of the coronavirus cloud?

Report written by Rory Crawford

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