As a lawyer, how do you define flexibility? Is it being able to work from home one day a week, or leaving early on a Friday afternoon?
Sometimes the stereotype is true: we’ve seen lawyers think of their work arrangements as flexible if they can leave the office at 5pm to log back on once they’re home.
Other professional services firms have taken advantage of the way new technology is removing barriers to flexible work arrangements. They have embraced collaborative environments that reduce overheads and improve office morale.
Offering staff flexible working hours inspires trust, well-being and loyalty, and leads to greater staff retention.
But the legal industry doesn’t seem to be heading in the direction of flexible work arrangements. Concerns about client demands, confidentiality and the development of junior lawyers have kept firms from embracing the benefits of 7-day fortnights and working at home.
Often, lawyers are still expected to show up all day, every day (and usually more than that), even if they’re also required to sit in their office with their door closed, to protect client privacy.
Law should be one of the easiest professions to embrace flexibility because of the way that output is measured. Lawyers’ performances are assessed on their utilisation – that is, the number of billable hours divided by the number of hours per week.
In other words, they have either done their time, or they haven’t. Whether this is done in the office or at home is irrelevant.
Given the benefits of flexibility and how easily it could be adopted in law firms, there’s no reason the legal industry shouldn’t be embracing it in the future.