Working from home not so popular with Law Times readers

Firms not encouraging the move

Working from home not so popular with Law Times readers

Working remotely may be gaining popularity — but many Law Times readers are reluctant to make the leap.

More than 53 per cent of readers surveyed said that being in the office is usually expected in most circumstances at their firm. The other 47 per cent said that at their office, telecommuting is encouraged when it makes sense.

Our readers’ firms may not be encouraging remote work, but nationwide, the trend is taking off, according to a survey of 150 full-time Canadian lawyers conducted by legal staffing and consulting firm Robert Half Legal. Seventy-four per cent of lawyers told Robert Half that more colleagues have worked remotely in the past year.

Alistair Vigier, CEO of ClearWay Law which has lawyers in Ontario and British Columbia, says that his firm’s remote work policy allows lawyers to focus on legal services while non-lawyers (like him) coordinate tasks like marketing, technology and accounting.

While the hardest part of the business model is finding “innovative lawyers willing to try something different,” Vigier says that in the long run, he thinks encouraging remote work improves retention.

“Flex working reduces the chances that an employee or lawyer will leave your firm as they have more freedom,” he says.

Remote work isn’t for everyone: A lawyer who wants the prestige of a corner office might not be a good fit, he says. When most lawyers in a firm are working remotely, as they do at ClearWay, it means that managing partners must trust their lawyers to communicate with them on files — which can be a challenge when you can’t poke your head into someone’s office, Vigier says. But Vigier, who was working from Paris, France at the time of the interview, also noted that modern technology allows communication to reach almost anywhere, even three stories underground in the Paris metro.

“With younger lawyers, millennial lawyers, they are not really that interested in that anymore — working extremely hard for 20 years or 30 years just to be able to get a corner office,” he says. “They want a better life faster …. And there are things you can do to still feel part of a team. We do team events where we all go out together. One of the major drawbacks of remote working is isolation.”

Lawyers at ClearWay still use services such as Regus to book private, discrete consultation rooms for initial meetings with clients, he says.

While the firm might eventually move to doing more consultations by video conference, even the more “innovative” lawyers in the firm prefer gradual change in that respect, he says. Still, for clients that live outside metropolitan areas, it can be more convenient to meet online, he says.

“Clients don’t have to drive across town — in a place like Toronto where it can be cold, there are parking costs. The whole point of remote working is to make it easier for the client to hire the firm,” he says, pointing technologies like DocuSign that allow exchange of documents. “As a client, if you’re dealing with a divorce or a criminal issue, it can be quite awkward to sit in a lobby — it can feel like a negative environment. Whereas, with Skype or Zoom or on the phone, someone can be in the comfort of their own home and still receive the information they require.”

Related stories

Free newsletter

Our daily newsletter is FREE and keeps you up to date on all the developments in the Ontario legal community. Please complete the form below and click on subscribe for daily newsletters from Law Times.

Recent articles & video

Ford government’s cuts to Toronto city council ruled constitutional

Histories of Canadian law and Métis people are entwined, says Jean Teillet

More women are on TSX company boards - but there’s slow progress to the C-Suite, says Osler

GM lawyer Michael Smith becomes partner at Bennett Jones

Ontario court rules cap on general damages does not apply to sexual abuse

House of Commons reveals legal fee reimbursement over $54k

Most Read Articles

Ontario court rules cap on general damages does not apply to sexual abuse

Man discharged from his fourth bankruptcy

Insurance lawyers reveal their referral philosophies

Court of Appeal rules auto insurer not liable for parental negligence claim stemming from accident