In surveying firms throughout our footprint, we are receiving mixed feedback about which law offices and legal departments want their attorneys and staff back full-time. Some are returning to their pre-Covid schedules, some have adjusted to 2 days a week of remote work, and others are offering options to be fully remote. Given that we are still in a very tight legal market with attorney and staff salaries continuing to climb, firms reluctant to increase their salaries can find some advantage in offering more flexible work arrangements. The firms with the most turnover and offer turn-downs are not increasing salaries and forcing people back into the office on a traditional 8-5 or 9-6 schedule. Add the complexity of the wide-spread Delta variant, and the situation becomes more difficult as firms and companies try to return to “business as usual.” Not only are some employees getting sick, but many employees have relatives that need special care due to COVID, breakthrough-COVID or school children who are forced home to isolate due to an exposure.
How can a firm or legal department better plan for remote working? This might also be a good time to point out that the majority of law firms did NOT lose revenue last year during the shutdown. If anything, resistance to remote working comes from adapting to new methods of communication. A common complaint we have been hearing are supervisors wondering if employees were really working or distracted by other things at home. Another common complaint was not knowing how to get a hold of employees. Those who are faring the best are putting clear expectations in place in communicating with their teams. Using messaging apps like Slack, TEAMS, or other methods to chat regularly with employees, for example, helps stay better connected to manage projects and tasks. These tools have been around for a while, especially in the tech industry, where it is quite common to collaborate with people all over the world. Other successes include daily morning conference calls to establish priorities and accountability each day. We’ll admit that it will take some adjustment, but it is the price of retaining staff and avoiding turnover in this employee’s market.