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Can the Legal Profession Shift to Working from Home?

The coronavirus epidemic continues, which means that legal offices are either closing voluntarily or are being forced to close by governments enacting lockdown measures. Legal offices are thus forced to adapt to a very different work environment right when the ABA observes that demand for legal services will be high as clients deal with a rapidly changing legal framework which will see many small business get closed down.

While every business will face challenges as they transition to remote work, the legal profession faces certain unique problems which have held the movement towards remote work back before the epidemic began. Law firms and legal professionals need to think about what they can do to promote remote work under the present circumstances and consider the possible benefits of maintaining such a policy even after the epidemic.

Infrastructure and Cybersecurity

More remote work means new technological challenges, and legal firms need to make sure their workers have the tools needed to succeed. There are two main challenges to consider.

First, the firm needs to ensure that their virtual private networks can deal with the strain caused by more workers telecommuting. If the VPN is not robust enough, this will lead to slowdowns and even crashes. In the worst-case scenario, legal firms will have to regulate who can telecommute and at what times. Some firms alternate who works remotely and who does not, which means less people in the office without overloading servers.

Second, more telecommuters mean that cybersecurity becomes much more important. The FTC warns that we are seeing coronavirus scammers, whether online or through the phone, appear with enticements like miracle cures or instant checks from the government. A legal firm should hold a meeting educating staff about the importance of good cybersecurity habits, and the consequences if criminals get ahold of sensitive legal information.

How to Work from Home

Legal offices need to do what they can to support those working from home, yet those working from home also have a responsibility to make sure that they create their own professional home working environment. This can be made even more difficult by the fact that legal professionals will be staying home with children and family.

The main key is to draw a strict limit between your “work time” and your “home time.” Your workspace should strictly be your workspace, free of distractions and entertainment. When it is work time, your partner cannot ask you to do some chores, and your kids cannot ask you how to solve some math problem. You need to stay strictly focused on yourself.

Naturally, there are a great many guides for how to work online. But any tip will be most effective if the legal firm makes great effort to promote them and help their workers set up a remote work environment that will lead to success.

The Benefits of Telework

When done improperly, telework is filled with distractions and workers whether legal or otherwise will see productivity fall. But telework also offers advantages as well, giving legal professionals greater flexibility and less wasting time on office politics or other minutiae.

While a lawyer working remotely may have seemed unprofessional in the past, today clients will easily understand why you are not meeting with them face to face. And once the lockdowns are over, legal firms will have to discuss whether they may like to maintain such policies, whether to improve productivity or to deal with the “second wave” which is predicted to happen with this virus. Whether this shift will be temporary or permanent depends on how legal firms can adapt over the next few weeks to months.