Law under lockdown: Junior lawyers share their home-working experiences

Avatar photo

By Aishah Hussain on

Some love it, some not so much…

The continued coronavirus disruption and move to more agile ways of working can be challenging for lawyers, not least if you’re among the most junior members of the team!

With most law firms encouraging ‘facetime’ among their trainee cohorts (they’re learning the ropes, after all) working from home for what is looking like it’s going to be six months (the entire duration of a seat!) can be a daunting prospect.

Legal Cheek spoke to four rookies at different types of firm who shared their experience working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

While most were delighted, one was dismayed: telling us trainees are taking the brunt of heavy workloads with little to no support from seniors or development teams making it difficult for them to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Read on for more…

The magic circle rookie: little to no work/life balance

“Trainees are not being able to maintain any work/life balance at all while working from home. Trainees are waking up early in the morning to log-on to computers to be met with demand for work that does not stop until late into the night.

The lack of any working structure means that different associates choose different working schedules at home, and then dump the work on trainees whenever they need it, meaning trainees have little to no control over any sense of balance. No ability to divide the day up, or take any meaningful breaks, and this is extending through the weekend. Associates have absolutely no regard for any personal life.

Absolutely no check-ins either from the development team, or push from them to make associates be aware of trainees’ personal lives, even if it is for an hour in the evening.

Not sure how this can go on for six months.

In addition, some trainees are being required as martyrs to go into the office and to courts amidst the coronavirus lockdown with no choice being given.”

The City trainee: so far, so good

“My experience of working from home has been good so far. The firm has been very supportive and we have excellent IT capabilities to make working from home easy.

There’s no change in workload in my department and we have lots of daily calls/video conferencing with our departments to keep everyone connected.

The senior members of the firm have been so supportive of everyone.”

The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

In-house lawyer at a large global business: it hasn’t come as a huge culture shock

“At risk of coming across as smug, I haven’t experienced a significant change in my day-to-day working life as it was common for me to work an entire week or two from home before the current situation.

As a company we have a reliable and well-designed tech set-up which allows for easy virtual meetings, access to shared documents and esignatures — so as lawyers we’re able to continue to offer broadly the same level of service to the business.

Generally the business has a relatively laissez-faire approach to working styles so this hasn’t come as a huge culture shock to most in our teams. The biggest change for me personally is that now my partner is also working from home there’s a bit more shuffling around and joint diary-management needed in order to create quiet space for calls, and prior agreement needed over when to take a break and/or finish for the day. There’s probably also a moral explanation.

Clearly this is still early days and I do expect that an element of cabin fever will set in, tensions will grow and productivity will drop.”

Solicitor at full-service national firm: we’re not dossing — we’re logging what we’re doing every six minutes

“Traditionally our firm has been very reluctant and restrictive when it came to anyone working from home, and management really stuck to their guns on that policy right up to the lockdown.

Fortunately, the IT guys have managed to hold things together surprisingly well and generally those who have championed this in the past now feel vindicated.

That being said, because the partners are not used to running their teams remotely they’ve implemented daily catch-ups and team meeting calls which generally are a total waste of time. They’re clearly overcompensating because they’re terrified that we’re all dossing or in bed despite logging what we’re doing every six minutes.

The impact of this lack of experience with remote working goes beyond management style as it also means that many of the other day-to-day systems and processes that we rely upon have to be troubleshooted in an ad hoc way because this is broadly the first time someone needs to use them without being sat in the office.

All of this has certainly flagged the benefits of implementing a modern remote working policy across the firm and the vital role that would play in underpinning business continuity during a crisis or disaster.”

Struggling to cope with working from home or glad you no longer have to brave the jam-packed Tube every morning? Tell us about your #WFH experience in the comment section below.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter

Related Stories

Vlogging magic circle trainee reflects on life in lockdown

‘I’ve lost freedom, structure and purpose’

Mar 31 2020 9:35am

Wealthy partners work from home while lowest paid staff are forced into the office, legal union claims

Legal Sector Workers United brands pandemic response a 'classist allocation of risk'

Mar 18 2020 11:23am

Taylor Wessing extends meditation app to future trainees as it ramps up wellbeing support for home-working lawyers

City outfit set to launch virtual yoga and Skype choir sessions

Mar 25 2020 12:30pm