All lawyers, one way or the other, have had to wrestle with the good, bad, and ugly of how the legal profession has changed in recent years on account of the rise of remote/hybrid work opportunities and hybrid legal proceedings.
In the pages of this publication and in the hallways of law firms across the region, many seasoned lawyers have expressed their concern that lawyers who work remotely or who attend legal proceedings remotely will miss out on opportunities for growth and career development that can only come through face-to-face interactions.
There are, unquestionably, many benefits of face-to-face interactions with, and in-person learning from, peers and mentors. Those benefits have not gone away. If anything, they are even more prized today because in-person learning opportunities decrease as remote/hybrid working becomes more common.
Because remote/hybrid work is so prevalent today, and it is likely to remain in vogue for a while, let’s explore some positives the remote/hybrid work environment provides young lawyers.
More opportunities for shadowing opportunities
Traditionally, junior lawyers had to physically attend court proceedings, depositions, and meetings, often requiring extensive travel and tedious wait times that did not allow for much productivity. However, remote legal proceedings have revolutionized this aspect of the legal practice.
Instead of using those hours for travel and waiting, young lawyers can now attend a broader range of proceedings and gain invaluable exposure with just a click on a Microsoft Teams or Zoom link. Instead of attending one or two events in a single workday, a young lawyer can shadow multiple hearings and depositions, regardless of their location.
This accessibility translates to exposure to different judges, various opposing counsels, and many legal proceedings. Young lawyers can observe the nuances of legal arguments, witness different strategies employed by senior lawyers, and gain insights into effective courtroom etiquette.
By witnessing a wider array of cases and interactions than was ever possible, young lawyers can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the legal landscape, more quickly and more intimately than was ever possible. This enhanced exposure provides young lawyers with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in their careers at a much faster pace than has been the norm.
Faster development of client service skills
With more and more clients opting for video meetings instead of face-to-face meetings, young lawyers now can take part in these client meetings and discussions more often. This more frequent firsthand experience allows them to watch—and learn from—how their more experienced colleagues interact with clients. With the opportunity to more frequently discuss aspects of their matters, the lawyers will refine their communication skills and build stronger client relationships.
In addition, the flexibility of remote/hybrid work also allows junior attorneys to juggle multiple clients’ matters efficiently. With less time spent traveling—to the office, to court, to visit a client—young lawyers can more promptly communicate with clients and get the information they need from them. This helps the lawyers move their clients’ cases along faster. And, with their clients’ files at their fingertips thanks to an emphasis on electronic documents, client meetings can be more efficient and productive, as the answers to clients’ questions may only be a document search or mouse click away.
Unparalleled access to information
On that note, the remote/hybrid environment has caused law firms to prioritize giving their lawyers the technology tools necessary to have access to whatever documents and information they need, whenever they need it, wherever they need it. With the ability to access client files and documents at any time, young lawyers can be more agile when they’re taking part in a legal proceeding.
It is hard for lawyers during in-person depositions, oral arguments, and other proceedings to conduct research on the fly or to collaborate with their colleagues. But today, with relevant case information available at their fingertips, young lawyers can approach remote proceedings the way they would an open-book test: Focusing on mastering the big picture facts and legal principles they want to rely on, knowing that they could easily look up on their computers, tablets, or phones specific details or case citations they may be asked about.
Being able to research information on the fly gives young lawyers the confidence and resources they need to excel in client representation, which enhances their performance and also instills a sense of confidence in their abilities.
Greater control over the priorities of today and tomorrow—at work and at home
With reduced time spent on commuting and travel, young lawyers have more hours at their disposal. This newfound time can be channeled into both things that need to get done today, such as research, court papers, and drafting agreements, as well as activities that are investments in their futures, such as networking meetings and writing articles for publication in the hopes of building their personal brand.
Unfortunately, time always seems to be of the essence for young lawyers in terms of the work they’re doing and when a colleague expects them to complete it. With less time spent traveling, young lawyers have a bit more time to spend refining their writing skills and producing higher-quality work, which in turn leads to professional growth.
Similarly, networking is another critical component of a lawyer’s career. Remote/hybrid work does not eliminate networking opportunities—it expands them. Webinars and online conferences have become the new norm, providing young lawyers with opportunities to connect with peers and potential clients and referral sources from around the country and the world. The ability to attend these events from the comfort of their own workspace means young lawyers can take part in a wider range of networking and career development activities without the constraints of geographical limitations.
Lastly, one of the most significant advantages of the remote/hybrid work environment is the improvement in work-life balance for young lawyers. No more wasted hours commuting or waiting for your case to be called, or late nights at the office away from your family. Remote/hybrid work allows young lawyers to tailor their work schedules to better suit their personal lives, leading to reduced stress and burnout, and increased job satisfaction.
In today’s remote/hybrid environment, young lawyers can now strike a more harmonious balance between their professional and personal commitments. They can attend their children’s school events, pursue hobbies, and maintain a healthier lifestyle without sacrificing their legal careers—and vice versa. This balance contributes to their overall well-being, which will lead to more professional success.
The glass is undoubtedly half-full
Lawyers with decades of experience seem to have strong thoughts about the problems the legal profession’s remote/hybrid environment poses for young lawyers. As a (relatively!) young lawyer, I see boundless opportunities.
The legal profession is evolving, and young lawyers have a unique opportunity to thrive in this changing landscape. With the right mindset and conscious effort, this shifting environment can and does present many advantages for aspiring young lawyers. With dedication and discipline, the remote/hybrid work environment can lead young lawyers to greater professional success and impact in the legal field.
Ruxandra M. Osgood is an attorney at Pond Lehocky Giordano LLP, the largest workers’ compensation and disability law firm in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the U.S. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Reprinted with permission from the September 28, 2023 edition of The Legal Intelligencer © 2023 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877-257-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.