Concerning remote working, Celebrity Squares and hanging files!
The question that many are asking is whether lawyers will ever return to working the way they did before the lockdown. According to a report in Legal Cheek there is a significant majority who want to continue to work at home –
Legal work has been moving in this direction for some time. I am old enough to remember the days of a local High Street office where the main source of work was passing trade. If someone came into the office, they would be seen right away because otherwise they would go down the road. These were the days when the local solicitors did a bit of everything from conveyancing to accident claims to divorce.
The world of Google, Social Media and Smartphones has effectively ended that particular world.
I also remember the importance of the paper file. The size of the file grew with the case – some measured their costs by its width. It went everywhere with you. I was once running to a court hearing carrying a large file when a hook that was used to hang it in the cabinet became caught in a woman’s crocheted top. The papers went eveywhere. I sheepishly gathered up the papers and then had to ask her to free the file from its embarassing location. Thankfully she had a sense of humour. I was never a fan of paper files after that…
Most lawyers can now login remotely and have immediate access to the matters.
This has all been part of a process that has developed slowly over the years. Then came lockdown which changed everything.
And then we all discovered Zoom! Is it just me who can’t stop thinking about Celebrity Squares!
Many of those who have resisted remote working have had no choice since the lockdown. They now see that it is manageable. They also see the costs benefits in relation to premises and time. I live in the north of Liverpool. For years, the journey to the city centre was a nightmare because of never ending roadworks or crowded trains. When I began working for myself in 2017, I was suddenly liberated. I was actually working during the two hours that I was once commuting.
This was on the agenda long before the lockdown. Office accommodation has always been a major business overhead alongside salaries and indemnity insurance.
Firms have been looking at the cost and flexibility of new ways of working for several years.
Again, what the crisis has done, is force us to find alternatives. For many that has made a return to the old ways very unappealing. That doesn’t mean the end of the office. Face to face meetings will always be needed to some degree. But will it be necessary all of the time?
I would be surprised if we did not see a long-term shift to new ways of working. I also suspect that many young lawyers will now be attracted to the idea of working for themselves as freelancers or sole practitioners.