Office pranks

The art of the 'hilarious' (hmmm) office prank, may be lost on the next generation of young wfh lawyers

Dozens of in-house lawyers have been giving their verdict on what they want from the lawyers they instruct and, so far, only two have expressed a preference for external advisors to work from the office.

An outlier commented that the office environment encourages "more collaboration between teams" and "more training". The private equity client said that they "don't just want to instruct document monkeys." 

The other client in favour of their lawyers returning to the office had concerns that "the average lawyer in London has hundreds of pages of confidential documents in their home. It is a ticking time bomb of liability risk."

Everyone else either didn't mind, or expressed a preference for the lawyers they instruct to have the flexibility to work from home.

"I want the job done. Do it from the office, do it from home, colonise Mars and do it from there," said a client in financial services. "So long as you have a stable internet connection and know where the unmute button is I really don't care." 

"As long as they provide what I ask them and the quality is good, I don't give a shit where they work," agreed another in-house lawyer. 

Some respondents felt that remote working was beneficial for the welfare of their lawyers. "I want them to work however suits them and enables them to do my work in a way that doesn't screw up their mental health," said a banking client. "I think law firms have a lot to do over and above allowing agile working, but I think trusting people to be adults is a start."

"A happy, less stressed lawyer will do better work," agreed a real estate client. "If I need to see people in person, I will ask. A small amount of in-person relationship building is helpful but we have done plenty of deals with people we have never met in person until the completion drinks!"

"I'd like our external lawyers to be adults," said an in-house lawyer in a bank. "WFH has clear benefits for many people and leads to more relaxed, balanced habits. We'd like our lawyers to be trusted to get things done without them being chained to their desks."

"I want the lawyers we instruct to be content - not on the edge of breakdown," said one client. While another commented that lawyers "should be able to manage their lives, as long as they can deliver when needed".

"Happier external counsel is a better external counsel," summed up an in-house lawyer in the healthcare sector.

Some respondents noted that other organisations had embraced remote working, and law firms should mirror this, not least from a recruitment perspective. "Law firms should reflect societal changes to working patterns," said an in-house lawyer in a bank. "It may also indirectly increase diversity."

Another in-house lawyer concurred that wfh allows firms to select "more diverse candidates."

A client expanded on this view, saying that remote working is important for "equality in employment when many have disabilities, or home commitments" as they can "still fulfil the job being remote".

Firms that didn't provide flexibility would find it "difficult to recruit the right talent", opined a client in the manufacturing sector.

Some clients were relaxed about their lawyers working remotely, given that is how they operate. "I work from home so it would be hypocritical to not think others can," said one respondent.

"I like flexibility and I think most people do," said an in-house lawyer in the energy sector. "We work harder and smarter that way. The team are more motivated to work through the night to get something done that's critical if they know they have the ability to WFH or if things are quiet to take some flexi time off. It's not as if modern comms are rubbish".

Others believed that the pandemic has had a permanent effect on work habits. "The world has changed since Covid," said a client in financial services. "I do not mind where my external counsel are located as long as they can do a good job."

Another agreed: "Just let people do it. Putting the genie back in the bottle is not going to happen. Move on."

"I can't see it has a material effect on the quality of advice, even at the height of lockdowns," said one respondent, "as such, whatever works best for individuals works for me."

"It makes no difference where they are as long as they are accessible and I don't want to work with a firm with antediluvian attitudes," said a client. 

One in-house lawyer pointed out that remote working could be a way to help drive down costs: "We expect our lawyers to be innovative when it comes to fees. Law firms should be able to save money on office expenses and outgoings if their lawyers work from home. Wouldn't it be innovative if firms then passed some of those savings on to the client?!"

Other clients felt that remote working meant their lawyers were more available. "I feel less bad about the urgent, late requests if I know I'm not also keeping them from their home," said one client.

Another respondent said that their lawyers are "more willing to be responsive" with remote working, as "they have a better quality of life." 

A number of in-house lawyers who were in favour of remote working, highlighted that it was still vital to get the balance right with time spent in the office. "I don't care where they are - but I do think office, for at least part of the necessary to make sure juniors learn properly by observing what more senior lawyers do in a more organic way," said an in-house lawyer in financial services. 

"I think the balance is important," said a client in the energy sector. "There should be flexibility from home but time in the office is helpful for co-operation amongst their own team." They believed there would be "better results from team work and also less stressed out people if they can balance life through wfh."

In last year's survey, 51% of in-house lawyers said that they wouldn't mind if the lawyers that they instruct work remotely. 42% said they would actually prefer that law firms give staff the flexibility to work from home. Only 6% of respondents wanted their lawyers to be in the office. 1% wanted their lawyers to be in the office full-time.

Agree or disagree? If you're in-house, have your say below.

Anonymously see who wants you: download LawyerUp on the App Store or Google Play and let top firms and companies ping the app when they like you for a role.

Thank you for taking part in RollOnFriday's survey of in-house lawyers. We use the results to write stories and reports. We don't take your name and so the answers you provide will be kept anonymous.
Your role
Your sector
When you're picking a firm, what's the most important factor?
How do you think the size of your in-house team will change over the next two years?
Will this be at the expense of instructing private practice?
How happy are you with your external lawyers working from home?
Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 26 May 23 09:51

"should be able to manage their lives, as long as they can deliver when needed"

Like, I'm totally cool and chill and modern about where my external counsel do their work and how they live their lives.

But when I want something turned overnight then I reserve the right to lose my shit if they don't get their asses into Town and burn every candle in their Square-Mile office to get my work delivered.

I'm cool and hip though, you'd like me if we met because of how trendy and with-it I am.

Take it easy yo.


But have it on my desk tomorrow AM.

Anonymous Anonymous 26 May 23 10:31

Robot lawyers using AI work in the computer world - in the cloud. They are happy, less stressed lawyers and will do better work.

Anonymous 26 May 23 10:31

All very sensible comments for the in-housers, hear hear.  

Had to laugh at the dinosaur who was worried about "hundreds of pages of confidential documents in their home".


You'd have to marvel at the inefficiency of someone who still believes that, in 2023, lawyers still have "pages".  Large screens and multiple screens are normal.  Nobody "needs to print our a document to cross compare" any more.  

And the other aspect, which is never commented on by flat-earthers like that, is that, even before WFH, lawyers worked from home anyway.  Routinely, when I was commuting to an office 5 days a week, I still worked from home in the evenings anyway.  The alternative would have been to had dinner in a nearby restaurant and then worked in the office to midnight.  But arriving back home from the office routinely at 1am would have forced law firms to confront the overwork elephant in the room. 

But the likes of the guy complaining about “pages” never had a word to say during the period when people routinely worked form home in the evenings.  Illogical nonsense.  In fact, given that all offices are now open plan, “pages” on a desk in an open plan office is a far greater risk.   


Anonymous 26 May 23 11:12

"Robot lawyers using AI work in the computer world..."

I feel sorry for you, you try and get a rise with this every week and nobody ever bites.

Here's a pat on the head for your persistence.

Anonymous 26 May 23 11:32

I frequently take the piss when working from home.

Watching TV, going for walks, naps, gym, watching filth online, etc.

I'm not alone in doing that.

Anon 26 May 23 12:19

"We expect our lawyers to be innovative when it comes to fees. Law firms should be able to save money on office expenses and outgoings if their lawyers work from home. Wouldn't it be innovative if firms then passed some of those savings on to the client?!"

Other clients felt that remote working meant their lawyers were more available. "I feel less bad about the urgent, late requests if I know I'm not also keeping them from their home," said one client.

Another respondent said that their lawyers are "more willing to be responsive" with remote working, as "they have a better quality of life." 


This is why remote working during Covid became unbearable for junior lawyers, why so many junior lawyers have left the profession, and why there is an NQ pay war. Remote working can dangerously erode the mental boundaries between business life and personal life.

Middle-aged in-house counsel have it in their heads that everyone's got some kind of amazing work-from-home setup in a big house with a big garden. That only happens once you've been at it for a decade-plus and are leveraging relationships you established before remote working became widespread.

We won't really see until 5-10 more years whether the next generation of potential partners/GCs have built up the personal connections needed to have a non-toxic working relationship with counterparties.

Anonymous 26 May 23 13:33

"Other clients felt that remote working meant their lawyers were more available. "I feel less bad about the urgent, late requests if I know I'm not also keeping them from their home," said one client."


By the way: why should there be any relevance to what in-house (or any client) think about the internal organization of law firms? If you are not happy with quality and price, get another law firm. But anything else is none of your business! If you care about your outside counsel then just avoid encouraging their management / HR to invent ever more new bs policies "to encourage fairness/equality/wellbeing in the workplace" "because clients will no longer instruct us, if we don't".

Just let us do our work the way we want to. Please.

Wendy Bagina 26 May 23 13:47

Total self-serving rubbish. A load of dosser mothers and pothead English CPE graduates (aka parasleazgles) have hobbled the survey


Dosser Mother and Pothead English CPE graduate 26 May 23 15:00

I'm an in-house lawyer. We have embraced the flexibility and agility hybrid working allows and would be disappointed to find any of our external advisors insisting on the old dinosaurs bums-on-seats on the basis that if they don't trust their people then why should we?

If they are right to mistrust them ("Watching TV, going for walks, naps, gym, watching filth online, etc." referenced above) then I don't want to pay for their services. Those of us who work largely from home know how to time manage and I have to say, it isn't beyond the wit of the average legally qualified person to do that.

Not how it works 27 May 23 11:17

The problem with all these surveys is that they focus on in-house lawyers. Unless you do exclusively churn panel work, it’s rarely an in-house lawyer who determines which external counsel gets instructed, so their opinion on working practices just doesn’t matter all that much.

Also, in-house roles are disproportionately filled with people who moved for more work/life balance, so it’s hardly a shock that they’re in favour of working from home.

Dossers will doss regardless of where they are working 27 May 23 11:22

@Anonymous 26 May 23

Your point about taking the piss when wfh (watching TV, going for walks, naps, gym, watching filth online, etc.) a lot of firms are actually encouraging some of those activities for staff welfare (gym and walks, not the filth!!) as long as people manage their time to get the work done. Using your time in the gym rather than taking up 2+ hours of your day on a miserable commute is better for work life balance.

It's not as if people in the office don't take the piss! It's very easy to get distracted in the office such as doing non-work stuff on your computer, falling down an internet rabbit hole, Roffing etc. etc. I knew a partner who would watch sport much of the time at his office desk with the volume down. Being productive isn't to do with the location, it's the individual's focus regardless of where they are. There are plenty of ways to avoid doing a full day's work in the office.

Bottom line: if you're a lawyer and haven't learnt how to prioritise your work like an adult, you're not going to last long in this job whether you're working from home or the office.....

Anonymous 27 May 23 16:09

'@Dossers will doss regardless' is spot on.

Going for walks or to the gym isn't piss taking provided the work is done. After all many law firms actually have gyms in their offices, to promote all that healthy body, healthy mind stuff.

Ultimately you can't blame remote working if some people choose to take the piss; they're likely to be the kind of people who are lazy when in the office too. People have to be responsible for their own work, without having to be constantly supervised. I'd have thought most lawyers should have grasped this concept from the time they studied for their A-levels or went to Uni, let alone if they're trying to progress in a career as a lawyer! 


Hardoneby 27 May 23 16:28

@ anonymous 11.22

Yep...some people in the office can and do take the piss also, but that is clearly down to bad management....because they're not in the office either.

Nigel 29 May 23 13:12

Law firms (and banks) wrongly seem to think getting people back into the office will restore profits, that’s what is behind the push, not the alleged power of water cooler chats or somehow learning by osmosis 

AbsurdinessBrown 01 June 23 11:37

I don't understand this "taking the piss" comment, if you're employed you have a budget and there's no way around that. 

The one good thing about the plandemic was the acceptance of WFH as a reasonable thing to do for White collar jobs.  It's quite nice to have lunch with my family in the middle of the week. 

Much as I despise hotdesking, it is something I would embrace as the price of having 2 days a week at home.

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