Law Firms Working Remotely
Covid-19 has brought the legal industry, one of the most conservative industries, into the 21st century. New practices including remote working and working from home. To be sure, this is not a new development as solo practitioners were already used to working from a home office. However, even the biggest firms today must ensure that all their employees are sufficiently connected and able to coordinate with each other outside of the traditional office environment. What might the future look like after Covid-19 ends?
The Upsides to Remote Working
Employees no longer have to travel in order to reach the office. The hour (or more) typically required to commute to and from the office can be used to finish a brief or prepare request for admissions instead. Employees can also take time during lunch or at the end of the day to address personal issues such as doctor appointments without having to take or request additional time off.
The other significant benefit from remote working is the luxury of working in a more comfortable environment. Employees can dress more comfortably (in their pajamas if they wish) outside of zoom meetings. They have all the comforts of their home without worrying about a supervisor looking over their shoulder all the time. Combined with the travel benefits described above, remote working is also a less stress work environment. Employees may increase productivity when freed from the constraints of the traditional office setting.
Downsides to Remote Working
The biggest downside to remote working is that employees may find it more difficult to connect with other employees. Colleagues are still an e-mail away, but in-person presence can be comforting for some. Legal secretaries, paralegals, and other support staff may find it easier to simply knock on an attorney’s door rather than take 10 minutes to send a lengthy e-mail. Associate attorneys cannot brainstorm ideas or strategies over lunch. Law offices can still work together remotely, but there is a loss of comradely not easily replaced by e-mails or zoom meetings.
Personal and family life may also be a bigger distraction than anticipated. Parents with younger children may be forced to run a daycare alongside their legal practice. A household all working from home may hinder their internet capacity if they are all on zoom meetings at the same time. A traditional office may offer a distraction-free and Wi-Fi capable setting for work. Productivity may suffer if the home-life cannot provide a stable work environment.
Equality in the Workplace
Remote working may also favorably impact employee relations. Significant decreases with in-person employee interactions may also significantly decrease workplace harassment, whether it is sexual harassment or hostile work environments.
Pregnant employees will have more flexibility to work from home, though new parents may still require time off due to the stress of having a newborn in the household. Reduction in parental leave may also improve the imbalance between male and female pay rates. To be sure, work and home life will still require balancing, but remote working puts that balance into the employee’s hands rather than with the employer.
Work from Anywhere
The current model during the pandemic is “work from home.” However, any attorney who has worked on his or her laptop while waiting for the next flight at an airport knows that remote working is not simply “working from home.” The use of Court call, zoom depositions, and remote hearings all play into a work and lifestyle where attorneys can work from anywhere.
Remote working can free labor from the burden of finding local work. Employees no longer have to choose between their career and their relationships – spouses can move across the country together while one or both of them work remotely. Employees can live where they want without the burden of having to step foot in an office.
Conversely, firms have the freedom to hire and retain employees from anywhere in the country. If attorneys can live in one state while practicing law in another, firms can hire attorneys with similar work-life desires. Profits can also be maximized if firms free themselves from leases on physical office spaces.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you are having issues with your employer regarding remote work, you should contact an employment lawyer. An employment lawyer can evaluate your situation and advise you as your rights and options.