Survey suggests 50% of lawyers see working-from-home having a negative effect on career amid COVID

Many dealt with fallout of COVID-19 pandemic while working at home

Survey suggests 50% of lawyers see working-from-home having a negative effect on career amid COVID

Working from home has negatively impacted the work life of about half of the readers who responded to a survey by Canadian Lawyer.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing rules have left lawyers to adapt in various ways: Of 41 lawyers, 14 were working normal hours from home, six were working normal hours at the office, and the rest were splitting their time, working reduced hours or had been laid off. 

One question asked by í is: How has all this affected the profession? That question, which was part of a larger, non-scientific survey, was answered by 34 readers. Seventeen reported a negative change to their work life amid pandemic-induced lockdowns, while 5 reported a positive change and 12 reported a negligible change to working life (62 readers did not answer the question and moved to other parts of the survey, which offered questions to different people based on what type of organization they worked in). 

Respondents noted that working from home was inefficient: they constantly needed to call other lawyers and assistants who were no longer at arm’s length; documents and mail were stuck in the office; it was difficult to manage child care; and home offices lacked ergonomic chairs and second monitors common at the office.

Others said that they missed bouncing ideas off colleagues, or that it was difficult to focus at home — either due to distractions and home schooling requirements, or because of loneliness or difficulty with technology.

“While our firm is functioning very well working remotely, I feel that we are all more inspired and productive when working in the office and I look forward to the return when it is safe,” said one respondent. 

Said another: “Despite my efforts to go ‘paper lite,’ I realize that I continue to rely on paper files and resources, which I either have to pack up and take home or work on only in the office.” 

While more respondents felt the negatives outweigh the positives of working from home, others saw more of an upside to remote work. For instance, home offices offered readers more flexibility to spend time with kids and pets, and don’t require draining and expensive commutes. 

“I am more productive during my working hours while working from home than I was at the office, due to having more energy,” said one respondent, who said the time saved on commuting could be used to get better sleep.

Some lawyers reported practice-area specific challenges, such as requirements for wet-ink signatures or added expenses required for remote will-signing. 

“I need to be in court. I am a criminal defence lawyer and my practice depends on cases going to trial,” said one lawyer.

For litigators, the time at home meant time out of court — and a grim decline in business. Of those who responded, 40 per cent felt that litigation was the practice area at that firm that has been hit the hardest. Over half of overall survey respondents predicted their firm’s revenue would fall between 10 and 49 per cent. 

 “Firm closed. All are laid off,” said one respondent about their “work from home” experience, while another added: “No food, no rent, lost car lease, phone disconnected due to unpaid bills.”

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