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"Thanks RPC, I'm overwhelmed with joy that the human will continue to wfh" 


The majority of in-house lawyers would be happy for their external lawyers to work from home, according to responses collated so far in the RollOnFriday in-house survey

In the poll, to date, 61% of in-house lawyers said that they wouldn't mind if the lawyers that they instruct work remotely. 31% said they would actually prefer that law firms give staff the flexibility to work from home. Only 8% of respondents wanted their lawyers to be in the office.  

"Certain kinds of work are more efficient from home," said a senior in-house lawyer in favour of remote working. "So WFH means more output and generally better responsiveness."  A GC in the energy sector noted that their panel lawyers were "more relaxed" working remotely and meetings went more smoothly. "It makes it easier to contact advisers," said another client, who also believed it offered lawyers the flexibility "that they can work from a boardroom when necessary." 

"We will be working flexibly and our external lawyers should be able to do so as well," said one respondent. "They still work hard - chaining people to offices and desks seems so regressive," said another.

Some respondents highlighted the importance of the wellbeing of their lawyers. "A happy lawyer is a productive lawyer and I'd prefer my lawyer to be focussed on my work than getting stressed about a pointless commute." Another in-house lawyer said remote working was the best "way forward" for mental health.

"I'm yet to be convinced that office working full time is inherently better or more productive," said one senior in-house lawyer, adding that a full-time office policy would reflect badly on the firm, as it would suggest it was "old fashioned or irrational in other ways too."

"Being in the office for the sake of it is pointless," said another respondent. "I blame Morgan Stanley. People have kids and commutes to balance. Save the money on childcare and trains and buy wine. You'll be more rounded individuals as a result." Another in-house lawyer stated that firms would be "unreasonable" to make their "lawyers work from an office when it is not required".

One in-house lawyer went further, and stipulated: "If a firm insisted on all employees working from the office full-time then that would be used against them." 

Others were in favour generally of remote working, but with some caveats. "I would prefer firms to offer their lawyers flexibility, to drive better practices in the profession," said a senior lawyer in Banking/Financial services, but with the proviso:  "If everyone is wfh we will expect to see this reflected in rates - get rid of the big office and pass on the savings". They believed trainees and juniors should only work from home for a "very limited portion of their week", as their "training and future quality" requires "a face to face environment." 

"We have proved how much can be done remotely," said a GC in Real Estate, who was in favour of their external counsel working from home. But added "there will be occasions when senior lawyers in particular will need to attend physical meetings" and "firms might want to think how much genuine rapport they will build if everything is remote."

"I don't care where they work," said an in-house lawyer in banking. "The office certainly has some benefits, especially when it comes to bonding with colleagues, developing ideas, networking, learning and knowledge sharing. But when you have a full day of Zoom meetings or need quiet time for drafting or research, that might be better done at home and you save time on the commute."

Of the minority of respondents who said they would prefer their external lawyers to be in the office, one said it would make it "easier to meet in person if required." Another in-house lawyer said that "younger lawyers get better exposure and training" in the office.   

Some firms, such as Clifford ChanceLinklaters, Freshfields and Norton Rose Fulbright are permitting employees to work remotely for up to 50% of their time. Other firms, including Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills are allowing staff to work from home for up to 40% of the time. However, Paul Hastings has given its staff a big hint not to work from home

Meanwhile, RPC has recently told staff that they can work remotely for all of their time, should they wish to do so. The firm's employees will be allowed to work where they want, in or out of the office, for as much of their working time as they want.

RPC joins the likes of DAC BeachcroftIrwin Mitchell and Mishcon de Reya which have also put in place remote working policies to allow their staff to choose where they work. 

The forced absence from the office has permanently broken many people's tether to the office. And firms that don't adapt their policies to allow flexibility, may find some of their employees staying away from the office for good: a RollOnFriday survey revealed that over 50% of lawyers would swap firms if they couldn't work from home. 


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Comments

Anonymous 03 September 21 09:44

This gives middle management a get out of jail free card. 

When stats are down they will then come up with the answer to bring people WFH back into the office. 

The stats won't improve but it buys middle management a "solution".

Anonymous 03 September 21 10:19

“Save the money on childcare and trains and buy wine. You'll be more rounded individuals as a result.”

I’ve certainly become a more rounded individual during lockdown. 

Jeb Bush 03 September 21 11:41

So when will we see legal fees decrease to reflect the i) decreased expenditure of lawyers to get into the office, ii) reduced office space, iii) fired support staff which has increased profits?

 

To my knowledge, rates are still going up. A Junior Partner at Paul Hastings commands a £1000 headline rate, an absolute joke. 

WFH skeptic 03 September 21 11:59

>>>> “Others were in favour generally of remote working, but with some caveats. […] They believed trainees and juniors should only work from home for a "very limited portion of their week", as their "training and future quality" requires "a face to face environment."”

Very true. If, however, senior associates and partners are happily ensconced in their respective homes, who precisely, will be providing this training in the office?

Anonymous 03 September 21 14:02

My cat is a bellend. Can't wait to return to the office. Would give it away but my daughter loves the stupid idiot.

Officious Bystander 03 September 21 14:34

There are clearly many benefits to the individuals working from home (e.g saving on travel costs, Pret sandwiches, less horrible commuting etc).  Some work can be done perfectly well without ever setting foot in the office again.  But it isn't just about what's comfortable for the individual.

The profession cannot stand still in the face of technological and social changes.  But I fear that too  much WFH will ultimately be disastrous for the long term personal development of trainees and junior lawyers because they need to hear and observe more experienced colleagues in action and be able to interact with them more readily which can only be done in the office environment.   Teams or Zoom meetings are rather poor substitutes.  And if they are ever to acquire that experience, partners and senior lawyers are going to need to be in the office to help them........  

Anonymous 03 September 21 15:36

No body to bother you while you are working – main benefit of wfh, which I've been doing for six months, totally productive. 

Anonymous 03 September 21 16:32

I can work remotely and stare at the trainee's boobs without her realising it. It's a win-win.

Anonymous 08 September 21 11:56

The office environment plays to the petty-minded middle-management who want their coterie around them as evidence that they are successful and liked (although their need for both shows they are neither).

Anonymous 08 September 21 11:58

The idea that remote working means less supervision is nonsense. It's so much easier to involve juniors at a moment's notice in client calls and internal meetings. I think the trainees who have trained in lockdown will have done really well.

Anonymous 09 September 21 17:29

Too many MBA management that fail to assist the fee earning force, but thrive in corporate politics.

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