The Remote Versus Physical Office Debate Revisited, Post-Pandemic

Once upon a time, the biggest question that a starting solo confronted was whether to work remotely from a home office or from a physical office. Indeed, I devoted long blog posts here and here about making a decision between the two, and assuring lawyers that there was really no right answer.

Fast forward to 2021, and nearly a year into the pandemic, there is a right answer: a remote office, and remote work environment must ALWAYS be an option.

A recent ABA Journal article asks whether the current work from home trend will last after the pandemic ends.  The piece interviews several lawyers who share their favorable experiences working remotely but at the same time, several predict that law firms will return to business as usual after the pandemic.

Here’s the thing. Just as you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, we can’t just erase this past year. The ability to work remotely has changed all of us, including our expectations. Clients realize that they don’t need to leave the comfort of their home to drive 30 minutes to meet with an attorney.  Young parents realize that they no longer have to tolerate missing a child’s event midday because a boss needed them to do facetime in the office.  In other words, remote offices aren’t just about lawyers’ preferences anymore, but about what clients and the workforce demand.

As for me, I like getting out of the house as much as anyone. I’ve kept my small office in a downtown WeWork facility and I drive down once a week for a change of scenery and access to a large conference room to spread out in.  Plus, so long as we still receive mail by Postal Service, I prefer a professional address that isn’t my home for privacy reasons.  In short, physical offices won’t go away but we’ll use them less and use them differently.  Meanwhile, bar regulators are going to have to recognize this new reality and loosen up on their ridiculous bonafide office rules once and for all – or lawyers won’t survive the post-pandemic world.

Has the pandemic caused you to rethink your plans for your law firm and if so how?