scream office return

"Don't make me go back in!"


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

"Selfishly we want our lawyers to be available to give advice when we need it", said the outlier, a General Counsel for a real estate business. "Working from home is fine on a limited basis but it does impact when we're trying to convene an urgent call - it always gives the impression of encroachment upon outside life", they said. "Also we like meeting our lawyers and talking things through face to face. It’s infinitely more productive."

Everyone else either didn't mind, or expressed a preference for the lawyers they instruct to have the flexibility to work from home. "Flexibility is good for work life balance. Those firms that offer it impress me", said the Head of Legal in a real estate company. Flexibly working lawyers "seem happier", they said, adding, "it's easier for us to get hold of them!"

Several respondents said it was important for their advisors to be in the office for at least some of the time, both for the benefit of clients such as themselves, but also because it enhanced the external lawyer's career development. 

"I'd want a mix", said a government lawyer, "because (a) we're required to do a mix, and (b) it's what's best for junior legal staff, to learn from people in a face to face environment".

"It works for me, and it should work for them", said a senior in-house lawyer in the banking sector. "I totally agree that successful businesses require some face-to-face with your colleagues, to build relationships, learn", and carry out business development. "But I would also rather know my work was being done by a lawyer who is supported to work in a way that suits them and me. I won't always be in my office and I wouldn't expect any lawyer working for me to be forced to be in theirs".

Firms "need to retain the 'value add' services so there will always need to be someone in the office to run to court" or swear a statutory declaration, said a senior in-house lawyer in the media/tech sector, but "what matters to me is the quality of the legal advice - not the location in which it is typed".

One GC didn't care - but warned against going soft at home. "It's their problem to find the balance, not mine to tell them how to work", they said. However, "I'd hazard against abandoning the experience that made the top lawyers so good though. They can't risk losing that".

However, the survey has only just opened, so the final findings could be much more painful for homebodies. If you're in-house, give your two cents below. Thousands of desperate lawyers are hanging on your every word, as per usual.

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Comments

Anon 13 May 22 08:36

Sorry, the only GC in favour of getting everyone back in the office works for…. a real estate company.  Well, colour me shocked. What does the GC of Pret have to say?

Anon 13 May 22 09:27

The real estate GC seems like a charmer - not a coherent one mind.

Two observations:

1. Lawyers working from home can't be available for urgent calls??? Seriously - because the 1-3 hours spent commuting with patchy or no signal in public places where we can't talk to you for confidentiality reasons makes me more useful and available to you?  I am far more available to make calls at odd times when WFH than in the office.

2. "it always gives the impression of encroachment upon outside life" - the translation of this is "it reminds me that my lawyers are people who don't exist solely to service my needs and that my demands have consequences on the lives of other human beings and I don't like that" 

At least there is the self-awareness to recognise its a selfish attitude.

Anon 13 May 22 09:28

Shall we take this nonsense in parts?

"Selfishly we want our lawyers to be available to give advice when we need it", said the outlier, a General Counsel for a real estate business.

Well when I work from home, it seems that I can be contacted the whole time, but when in the office, does that mean I cannot be contacted as soon as leave the front door? And if so, are you saying you want me at my desk, in my office 24/7?

"Working from home is fine on a limited basis but it does impact when we're trying to convene an urgent call"

Personally I find it much easier to be contacted for an urgent call if I can just walk back up the stairs to take it. Whereas while on my 60 minute commute on the tube, it tends to be much more difficult to get a hold of me.

"it always gives the impression of encroachment upon outside life"

And yet you seem to want me at your beck and call and to be available when you need it. How is that not an encroachment upon outside life?

"Also we like meeting our lawyers and talking things through face to face. It’s infinitely more productive."

Really? When was the last time anyone had a GC come to the law firm's office!? Whilst WFH, I can still come and visit you when you require it (if I must!)

Anonymous 13 May 22 09:36

"we like meeting our lawyers and talking things through face to face. It’s infinitely more productive"

UNEXPECTED OPINION IN THE BAGGING AREA!!!

 

Clearly this can't be right. I am reliably assured by RoF's Introvert Corps that nobody except for the ancient mastodons who own law firms wants to see anybody back in an office ever again, that homeworkers are ten times more productive that their office based colleagues, and that clients don't mind where they deliver their bounteous work from.

So this client must be mistaken, and actually be saying that what they really want is for junior lawyers to stay tucked up in their bedrooms forever, and that they will not in any way be tempted to prefer giving instructions to firms who can offer them the (once basic) service of a face-to-face meeting.

Anon 13 May 22 10:46

@9.36 pull your neck in. I'm on the train just now, heading to meet a client face to face. I have spent the morning WFH. Once I am done meeting with the client I shall get on the train back to home where I shall continue working. WFH and meeting face to face are not mutually exclusive. I will also spend time on the train working. No one is saying junior lawyers should stay in their bedrooms. 

Anonymous 13 May 22 11:59

Why on earth would anyone care if their lawyer is working from home, as long as they're responsive, available for calls etc? Seems very petty. 

Anonymous 13 May 22 12:08

"I'm on the train just now, heading to meet a client face to face. I have spent the morning WFH. Once I am done meeting with the client I shall get on the train back to home where I shall continue working."

A furtive scurry from your den of Dominos boxes and empty Kleenex packets. Briefly braving the horrors of fresh air, sunlight, and the dreaded human interaction.

 

No but seriously, you're not the weird one here. Everyone loves working with you and your way of life is entirely sustainable (assuming the regular consumption of Vitamin D supplements).

Irritated 13 May 22 12:41

As an associate who finds the flexibility much increases my mental well being, and that my entire weekend is not spent doing chores that I could otherwise easily do on a weekday having saved time on my commute, I really implore all partners at law firms to stop banging on about how much they love coming into the office. Time to get a family you actually care about, if the current one doesn’t make you want to spend time with them… 

Anonymous 13 May 22 13:10

"I really implore all partners at law firms to stop banging on about how much they love coming into the office"

... no, that dude is a client.

 

If the implication of that fact has passed you by, then I wish you well in your soon to be new role in local government compliance and/or long-distance lorry driver.

AbsurdinessBrown 13 May 22 13:15

The one blessing of this Covid nonsense has been that beliefs about legal work have been properly critiqued by the profession and the Courts to the point we are abandoning unnecessary physical attendances.

I'm not just talking about the joys of sitting in bed with a mug of tea in one's left hand while appearing by telephone in Court on something procedural that doesn't require Counsel.  

I mean we no longer have to commute to the office, then to Court, to wait (unable to do any other work) until we are called, and then deal with it. And then get back to the office.  All that time wasted and usually charged to the client or otherwise deducted from our personal quality of life.

As I rather bitterly recall, I worked from home as a sole practitioner for the first few years, with everyone I spoke to requesting to meet me "in my office".  Once I rented somewhere everyone wanted me to drive to them....

Friday afternoon and in the office. 13 May 22 16:41

Coincidentally I've just had to terminate a call to a solicitor on the otherside who is WFH as the child screaming for mummy's attention made it impossible for either of us to concentrate. As the GC for the real estate business said, I felt like I was encroaching upon her outside life.

 

Common sense 13 May 22 18:52

Think the GC was referring to getting multiple people on said urgent call not just one person.  It is often easier to round up a bunch of people, stick them in a room with a phone and get on the call. 
 

Not to say it’s not otherwise possible but it’s generally easier being in the same building to do it. 

Anon 13 May 22 21:10

@13:10

It’s quite obvious that that person wasn’t responding to the quoted GC in the article, given that they refer to partners banging on about how much they love coming into the office (which is not what the GC said at all).

 

‘If the implication of that fact has passed you by, then I wish you well in your soon to be new role in local government compliance and/or long-distance lorry driver.’

.

Anonymous 13 May 22 21:18

Generally I don't mind our panel lawyers working from home so long as they are at least a handful of years qualified.  By then they're expected to be capable and in need of minor supervision.  

 

If we outsource a low value piece of work (normally due to understaffing) that gets allocated to a baby then that's when the fear kicks in as many NQs did nearly their entire training contract WFH and cannot be as well trained compared to if they had been shadowing senior lawyers in the office. 

Orwell 14 May 22 11:41

"RoF's Introvert Corps"

And here we have the real reason some deride WFH. They can't function without an audience and are desperately trying to still assert that extraversion is the norm, rather than being just one type.

Orwell 14 May 22 11:42

No but seriously, you're not the weird one here.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, are what school bullies grow up to do.

Anonymous 14 May 22 11:45

Shows that Stephenson Rees Mogg's antiquated stance to deduct pay for remote workers is out of touch with how clients are working.

Firms love to talks about being innovative but this demonstrates how old-fashioned some of the stuffy firms really are when it comes to being flexible with their own staff and client expectation.

Anonymous 14 May 22 13:27

@Common sense 13 May 22 18:52

This makes no sense and makes me question if you have any experience with this at all. When things are urgent, there is no time to "round up a bunch of people". Instead the GC calls you and it is your task to arrange for any gathering. This is the reason why GC wants a single point of contact. And rounding up just a "bunch of people" will make the GC ask if you are attempting to pad out the fees with random bums on seats. In my experience the GC will be averse to seeing random new faces in a meeting or Teams meeting; any time to bring new people up to speed on the case will not be accepted on the invoice. Even large clients will scrutinise the invoice.

While this discussion is filled with contempt for GC and in-house people, do not forget they know the legal industry well.

Anonymous 18 May 22 13:51

Blimey, it's getting to be a bit like the BBC on here constantly reporting the same thing over and over  - change the record.

If you don't like going to the office, change firm. It's that easy (particularly at the moment when even the most useless corporate lawyers could get a job at a "top" firm). 

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