Before Covid-19, opportunities for lawyers to work from home were few and far between. The global pandemic has forced practices to adjust quickly, many in less than one day (MyCase). We are still waiting to see how many firms will make working from home a part of their future working plans, but for many, it looks like a real possibility for the first time.
So, can lawyers work from home? The answer is a resounding yes – but they need specific support to succeed. With technology, support services, and healthy practices, firms can make working from home a success.
Working from home benefits
Many people find opportunities to work from home offer them a healthier lifestyle. By gaining time that they would previously have spent commuting, they have more time to spend with their loved ones and projects outside of work.
Working from home also allows people to remain in the workplace through significant shifts in their circumstances, like parenthood or caring for an elderly family member. It is easier to offer truly flexible work hours from home, which allow people to adjust their schedules to balance their commitments.
Working from home challenges
That’s not to say that working from home doesn’t pose challenges for lawyers too. Legal professionals work an average of 6.2 hours per week more than their contracted hours, and this trend is likely to worsen with many attorneys working from home (Douglas Scott). With less of a separation between workspaces, it can be harder to switch off at the end of a day.
Lawyers working from home can also feel isolated from the support of their team. Without easy lines of communication, attorneys can go days between speaking to their team. This is particularly pronounced for younger lawyers who may live alone.
If firms want to avoid burnout, they need to put healthy practices in place to support their staff.
How to make working from home a success
Though some practices have been slow to embrace legal technology, it is a swiftly growing market. Legal technology offers a host of solutions to speed up a firm’s workflow, from AI document review software like Luminance to legal CRMs such as Clio. With improved organization and efficient processes, attorneys can begin to reclaim time for their cases and their home lives.
Technology is also crucial in combatting loneliness while working from home. Without casual face-to-face interactions, firms need to make communication easy. One way is to offer less formal spaces for conversation than company email. Microsoft Teams can be a good platform for this. Video calling is also a valuable tool for firms staying connected and Teleport and Zoom meetings are standing-in confidently for face-to-face conversations.
When adopting any new technology, law firms should think of their overall strategy. In identifying weaknesses in their processes, and goals for the future, firms will find it easier to select the right software solution.
For attorney’s trying to reclaim their time, the first step is to identify low-value tasks. These are tasks such as answering phone calls, responding to email and web form inquiries, and bookkeeping. For many lawyers, these tasks are frustrating, but hard to avoid. In fact, 67% of in-house attorneys reported they felt buried in low-value work (Juro & Wilson Sonsini).
Answering services like LEX Reception can remove the distraction of a phone ringing off the hook at all hours. We can respond faster than your competitors to incoming inquiries, screening new leads, and identifying the right ones for your firm. Payment software like LawPay can create secure payment links to make it easy for clients to pay online. For flexible administration, business development and marketing support, attorneys can turn to virtual assistants like The Inside Story.
When you’re looking to outsource tasks, remember that these companies should be your partners. Find services that are committed to working towards your goals and communicate these clearly. For example, if you’re planning to launch a marketing campaign, your answering service will need to know to expect a greater influx of leads so they can support you.
Flexible work patterns
While working from home does confer many benefits, the greatest impact of these is felt when staff have the ability to work flexible hours and adjust their own schedules to react to the needs of the firm and the needs of their household.
Many businesses might set core hours for their employees. Maybe you have 2-3 hours outlined for staff contact, with most internal meetings and catch-ups scheduled during these hours. Parents with younger children may value the chance to work undisturbed in the early morning before the rest of their house has woken up. Some might prefer to take a long afternoon break and finish off their work in the evening.
By introducing this flexibility, you’re likely to see an increase in efficiency during working hours. When people choose their hours, they choose to work when they are at their most productive. An IWG study found that 85% of businesses reported greater productivity when they introduced greater flexibility for their employees (IWG).
Emotional and practical support
Firms need to introduce a positive work-from-home culture as this can have a significant impact on their employees’ health.
Especially if your firm has not previously had a work-from-home policy, it is helpful to provide guidance. It is likely that everyone knows the importance of regular movement, drinking enough water, and sitting with proper lumbar support – but some may need a reminder on occasion.
It is also essential that you create a culture that allows everyone to switch off when they finish for the day. That means you too! Disable work notifications to your phone, tell your answering service to hold all your calls. Trust that there will be no true emergencies after you log off, and that you have processes to handle any out-of-hours questions or concerns. This will help you relax and refresh, and you’ll perform better for it the next day.
It’s a common question for many thinking of going into a career in law: can lawyers work from home? The answer is yes, they certainly can! Take it from a team which has been working from home, and helping lawyers to work from home, for over ten years.
If your firm has recently transitioned to working from home, and wants the support of an experienced legal answering service, give us a call! We are here to help your firm grow.
Are you currently working from home? Let us know your best working from home tips in the comments.