The simple answer is yes, lawyers can still work from home.
The COVID-19 pandemic obviously forced most professions to recalibrate how they worked and rush in remote working arrangements to ensure the safety of both their employees and clients. The necessity to do so has had a residual effect on the way we all work. As a result, lawyers can most certainly still work from home.
However, as with all things in life, the devil is in the detail.
Every firm’s policy is different. Some advocate a specific number of days must be spent in the office, some prefer to be more flexible and ask their employees to come into the office for a certain number of days per month. Some firms are flexible in letting employees choose their days, some prefer to set the days different departments come in to maintain some sort of consistency.
The nature of the work and career stage an employee is at may also be taken into consideration. Teams working closely together – for example on M&A transactions – may need more time in the office together at the height of a transaction. Meanwhile, trainees may need more time in the offices so they can observe and learn from their more experienced colleagues.
Practice areas involving Court attendance could also influence home working policies. Even if in-person attendance isn’t mandatory, you may still need specific security measures in place to attend virtually which could mean you have to go into the office to attend even though this could exceed your agreed time in the office.
How can lawyers make working from home a success?
Most of us have been battle hardened by the pandemic. We spent a lot of time working from home and, as a result, learned what works for us. However, if you’re just starting out the thought of working from home may be a little daunting so here are some of the things you will need to make sure your new firm will support you with:
Lawyers need access to all the available communication tools – email, video conferencing, and instant messaging – to interact with colleagues, clients and the other parties involved in a matter. Moreover, their kit and connections need to be robust and up-to-date.
Reliable video conferencing
When it comes to comms, by far the most important consideration is having access to the most robust and reliable video conferencing tech (and Wi-Fi connections that can support these platforms).
Cloud-based platforms and document management systems allow lawyers to access, work on and collaborate on legal documents securely from anywhere with an internet connection. These systems are an essential component of effective remote working.
Online legal research tools
Lawyers always need access to the relevant information repositories so they can look up case law, legal updates and the other professional reference material they need. In the ‘old days’, these would have been heavy bound books kept on their office’s bookshelves. Today they must be online because of hybrid working.
While you are considering a new role in private practice or in-house, we would suggest you clarify your potential employer’s remote/home/hybrid working policies and their policies regarding providing the essential home working tools listed above.