Legal work has evolved dramatically in recent years, and it’s clear that remote work is here to stay. As many law firms make remote work permanent, creating a clear and effective law firm work from home policy becomes crucial. Here’s an overview of what you need to know when creating one.
The majority of lawyers are still working remotely
While many aspects of our lives have returned to normal, the seismic shifts in where we work have remained.
Clio’s Legal Trends Report found that, in 2022, lawyers spent fewer days in an office overall compared to 2019—about 13 per month. Additionally, the number of firms that work exclusively in an office remains low, with fewer than 30% of lawyers continuing to work only from the office. This data suggests that legal professionals are embracing the flexibility of remote work and plan to do so for the long term.
That’s especially true for young lawyers. Results from the American Bar Association’s (ABA) report, “Where Does the Legal Profession Go from Here?”, found that 44% of young lawyers said they would leave their role for a greater ability to work remotely.
Why legal professionals may resist return to office policies
What’s driving the work from home trend?
One of the top benefits: work-life balance. The 2022 Legal Trends Report found that 49% of lawyers surveyed preferred working from home—likely driven by better balance in their personal and professional lives.
What’s more, legal professionals have experienced first-hand how cloud-based technology lets them efficiently work from anywhere. The 2022 Legal Trends Report uncovered that lawyers using cloud-based legal practice management software are more likely to have strong revenue streams, better relationships with clients and colleagues, and more satisfied clients.
Companies reap the rewards, too. Some of the advantages remote working has to offer legal employers include:
- Expanded pool of qualified job applicants
- Reduced overhead costs
- Higher productivity
- Increased loyalty among team members
As a result, there’s never been a better time to have a strong law firm remote work policy in place.
What to consider when creating a law firm work from home policy
A work from home policy, or a flexible work policy, provides clear expectations for where employees perform their roles, helping set your firm up for success. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you create one.
Be clear about when it’s OK for lawyers and staff to work from home
When drafting a law firm work from home policy, be very clear about who the policy applies to, and when the policy applies.
- Will the whole team be eligible to work from home or only those in certain positions?
- Is the ability to work from home a temporary situation or a permanent arrangement?
Putting these answers in writing will help clarify expectations, whether in the office or remote. And before deciding on your policy, talk to your employees about what they need to succeed.
Set expectations for availability
Do you expect everyone to work normal business hours, or will you have a flexible work policy?
First, consider the question of hours
Normal business hours help with communication. However, allowing for off-set hours can benefit your team members and your firm. That’s because it allows employees to attend to family or other obligations during traditional hours, while your firm can service clients during non-traditional hours, resulting in better client service.
Then, be clear about how team members should communicate their availability
Calendars located within your practice management software are an excellent tool for communicating availability Ideally, they will indicate each team member’s working hours as well as any scheduled meetings or calls.
Tools like Slack or Google can be useful tools for communicating team members availability when working from home. They not only keep team members in touch, but also allow those working from home to set status updates.
Whatever you choose, include your preferred method of communicating availability in your law firm’s work from home policy.
Clearly outline preferred communication methods and tools for working from home
Communication becomes even more critical when team members at your law firm work from different locations (and even different time zones). So, you’ll want to determine what type of communication works best for your team. Then, be sure to clarify your preferred tools in your work from home policy.
For example, you might want to state that chat is preferred for getting short questions answered, but that staff should jump on a quick video call if the issue is complex and if there’s room for miscommunication in written messages.
Important: Make sure all lawyers and staff are trained on your chosen communication tools since they will be the lifeline of your firm.
Include security in your law firm’s remote work policy
Once your team leaves the office, they also leave the digital security your law office provides. Be sure to address data security best practices in your work from home policy.
Your policy should answer these questions:
- Will team members be allowed to work on their personally owned devices? If so, make sure your firm has a clear device policy in place.
- Are team members required to use certain encryption methods or tools with particular data?
- Will team members be allowed to conduct firm business on public Wi-Fi?
Make sure team members know best practices (such as strong passwords and the need to keep video meetings private), and speak to vendors to confirm that messages are encrypted.
Team members working from home may also be working in close proximity to other family members and need to be very clear about how to protect the confidentiality of client information. Determine what risks exist, and put solutions in place that will contribute to more secure work environments.
A law firm work from home policy sample
Work from home policy tips aside, it can be difficult to write your own law firm work from policy from scratch. Examples certainly help. We’ve put together a sample work from home policy here that your firm can start with and build off of. You can request an easy-to-adapt Word version of this sample policy from streamlined.legal.
Boost morale through virtual events
It can be challenging to maintain that sense of team when working remotely. When you’re not walking past someone in the hallway each day, connection is hard. The old adage of “out of sight, out of mind” can come into play.
We highly recommend that the following strategies be documented in your flexible work policy. This will help foster a sense of teamwork and connection among distributed teams.
- Hold regularly scheduled “stand up” meetings. These can be conducted via video conference. Everyone gets a chance to hear about what other members of the team are doing.
- Give team members a virtual watercooler. This should be a space where they can interact about subjects that are not work related. Team members can crack jokes, share victories, and ask for help.
- Check in with team members regularly. Encourage team members to take care of themselves, as well as their responsibilities. A Calm App subscription (a meditation app) can go a long way in doing just that.
Spark law firm innovation through in-person connection
Often, there’s no substitute for the ideas that are unleashed through face-to-face connections. That’s why it’s also helpful to schedule time throughout the year to connect in-person with your team.
This can take many forms—such as an annual employee event where you come together to celebrate your successes, quarterly meetings where you brainstorm strategies to take your firm to the next level, or legal technology conferences where you network with peers and hear from the industry’s top minds.
The final word on law firm work from home policies
Working from home offers a wide array of benefits. When creating your law firm work from home policy, clearly document when it’s OK to work from home, how to work securely, and how to stay connected. From there, be ready to adapt your remote working style as you and your team adjust. At the end of the day, you know what’s best for your firm.
For more insights on the state of the legal industry and how your firm can adopt to the rise of remote work and other trends, read the 2022 Legal Trends Report online.
We published this blog post in April 2020. Last updated: .
Categorized in: Business