Before COVID-19, it was a luxury to be able to work remotely. Over the past few months, however, almost anyone who has had the ability to work from home, has been told to do so. The perks of working from home have become apparent and some firms are ready to make this a permanent change.
The benefits employers have found by working remotely include both the lack of paper and decrease in commuting – a win for climate change! However, too much of a positive can always lead to a negative. Some employees simply do not have the space in their homes for an office set-up… and let’s not even begin with the dodgy Wi-Fi! Others just simply miss their colleagues and having an in-person conversation – even being entertained by something as small (or large) as romance in the office!
The Permanent Move to Remote Working:
As we have seen, working from home undoubtedly has its pros and cons. Some companies, however, have taken it one step further, making the leap to work from home…forever. Google, Twitter and Shopify to name a few, have made the jump to permanent remote working, or at least until next summer.
So, is this the new trend we can expect to see more of, and can it work in the legal world?
Law Firms Which Have Converted to Remote Working (well, sort of)…
Law firms are beginning to follow the trend of remote working, finding ways to carry out the law from the comfort of their kitchens…or living rooms. Although some firms have brought their staff back into the office in quirky ways, others have permanently shut their office doors, allowing staff to work from behind their front door. Even Magic Circle firms have found a way to adapt to the ‘new norm’.
Let’s have a more detailed look at some of the tactics law firms are using to adjust to remote working, and whether this virtual reality is here to stay.
A Little Bit More About Dentons:
Dentons has the largest number of solicitors worldwide and over 150 offices. In June 2020, the firm announced that it was permanently closing its Aberdeen and Watford offices and that the staff located in both offices will be working virtually. Dentons explained working from home has not only reduced the amount of paper they use, but productivity levels have remained the same throughout the COVID-19 period.
In addition to saving paper, permanently closing specific offices whilst keeping others open produces an opportunity to save money by decreasing outgoings on expenses, such as rent and office equipment. If Dentons can prove working from home is a success whilst saving money, will more of the legal sector begin to follow suit?
What Can Dentons Expect in the Future?
Although these two offices will remain closed, Dentons has offered the staff affected by this move the opportunity to transfer to the firm’s Edinburgh or Milton Keynes offices. Dentons does not currently have any closure plans for its other offices, but will review this in 2025 once the lease has come to an end in their London office.
The Permanent Move for Slater and Gordon’s London Office:
Slater and Gordon, another large firm, has also made the move to permanent remote working. The London office will permanently close its doors in September while the firm looks for smaller sized offices better suited to meetings that can only be carried out face-to-face.
The Future of Slater and Gordon:
It cannot be said what the future holds for the remaining offices and whether they can look forward to (or maybe dread) the move to permanent remote working. Although various reports state that offices in Manchester may see a change, there are no plans to close anywhere else just yet. For now, those who are permanently working from home are offered home office equipment including multiple screens if needed!
Linklaters and Adapting to the New Norm:
Linklaters has decided to adapt to the new norm by allowing some of its employees to work remotely 20-50% of the time as well as encouraging the use of flexible working hours.
The Magic Circle firm has also decided to go ahead with recruiting graduates online if lockdown restrictions are still in place in Autumn. The online interviews have been kept to their original structure: completion of an (online) assessment and two interviews – one with a Partner and another with a member of the Human Resources department. Linklaters is also one of the first firms in London to launch its online internship in 2019 (which is still available on InsideSherpa).
Is the New Norm Working?
A difference noticed by the recruitment team is the difficulty in keeping graduates calm. Linklaters explained that the walk from the reception to the interview room is a great time for candidates to gather themselves and their thoughts, but going straight into an online call doesn’t provide that opportunity.
No matter the circumstances, attending an interview can be extremely nerve-wracking, but being in-person provides the opportunity to speak to people who are not involved in the interviewing process themselves. Even just saying “hello” to the receptionist can sometimes be all a person needs to calm themselves down. Maybe an online waiting room could be the next best thing?
April King Legal Go Camping!
April King Legal’s Nottingham office has started its return to work. Unlike the usual precautions such as face masks and hand sanitizer (must be 70% alcohol!), the law firm has taken matters into their own hands…tents!
Is Office Camping Forever?
The firm is planning to change themes as seasons come and go, including artificial snow during winter. Staff are still allowed to work from home, choosing when they would prefer to come into the office and the firm hosts weekly Zoom quizzes, projecting those working remotely onto a screen. These activities are examples of the many ways in which a law firm can help its teams come together during this strange time. Forming a workplace community is vital, whether this be in person or virtually. The opportunity to work from home, if needed, also provides the flexibility and understanding all employees (and employers) need right now.
The Final Word:
The beginning of permanent working from home has made its way into legal world and it may be here to stay. COVID-19 has proved that most legal work can be completed online, with only a few meetings needing to take place in a physical office. But for some, they cannot wait to get back into the office for a catch up, or to be able to enter and leave the office, instead of the office coexisting with their home.
Law firms such as Dentons and Slater and Gordon have decided to make the leap to remote working, whilst others are not leaping just yet. Working for a law firm from the comfort of your home could become a popular option in the future, and aspiring solicitors will soon have a new reason to apply for a firm depending on their remote working stance.
For more information, please visit these websites:
- Five Out of Ten Lawyers Want to Work From Home for Good: RollOnFriday
- Growing number of Britons working from home: The Guardian
- Working From Home Statistics: The Finder
This article was written by Paige Noble, a second year law student keen to pursue a career as a solicitor with interests in commercial and tort law (specifically negligence). Paige is a Content Writer for According To A Law Student (ATALS).
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