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Maybe it's a generational thing, that some lawyers still believe certain myths about working from home.
A generation ago, perhaps "working at home" meant you were a homemaker or perhaps not working at all. It was more a euphemism for being out of work, disabled or retired.
Those ideas are so 20th Century. Yet even today, in the Internet Age, there are false assumptions about lawyers who actually do work from home.
Think of "work" as a verb, not a place. After all, attorneys do not work only at the office. They work at courthouses, jailhouses, client houses, conference rooms, job sites, business locations -- and their homes.
As long as there have been associates and trial lawyers, attorneys have worked at home just to keep up on work at the office. The difference today is that lawyers can work from home more because of technologies and other conveniences.
Solo practitioners started the trend for lawyers working at home, but it was probably more because of their flexibility than any necessity. An attorney working alone does not typically need office features such as industrial-strength copy machines, wall-length filing cabinets, common area break rooms and football-field-sized parking lots.
Larger law firms may need such amenities, plus the people to use them, and so may find it more difficult to change. As with most myths, however, times change.
In virtual reality, BigLaw attorneys are already working from home. According to American Lawyer, virtual firms like Culhane Meadows and FisherBroyles are breaking the mold at larger law firms.
Jamal Edwards, who used to work at a 300-lawyer firm, joined Culhane in part for the benefit of working at home. Now FisherBroyles, with 180 partners, is courting a partner with a $20 million book of business.
The virtual law office does not mean "no office." Lawyers who work at home often have office privileges to meet with clients who expect the office environment. It works in the same way lawyers reserve conference room space for depositions.
But not all clients care whether their lawyer works in a virtual environment. This is especially true for international clients and businesses that are accustomed to using outside contractors or out-stationed employees.
Process servers, investigators, and bookkeepers have long worked independently, and contract paralegals and attorneys are becoming the norm rather than the exception. These days, an attorney needs basically a computer and a phone to file a complaint, serve discovery, and appear in court.
As technology and outsourcing become more common in law practice, the myths about working from home will be more like a wistful tale. Someday, lawyers will reminisce about the office like they do now about using a typewriter to draft contracts or using a book for research.
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