Agile working (the flexible combination of remote working and office working) was possible, but certainly not the norm, for lawyers before the start of the pandemic. However, nearly two years later, it seems inevitable that agile working will be here to stay, in some form or another, even after the pandemic eventually comes to an end.
In October 2021, Michelmores launched a 12-month Agile Working Pilot Scheme to identify how we can best embed a more flexible approach to working, which meets the needs of our clients and our people, into the post-pandemic future. Now, the firm is currently conducting a firmwide survey to gather views on its implementation to date and to find the best approach for all moving forward.
Understandably, those who are at the start of their legal careers may have questions about how this new way of working will impact them and the training that they receive.
Whilst the results of the latest survey still need to be collected and analysed, we already know from a Michelmores all-staff survey conducted last summer that agile working was important to 87% of respondents and offered them tangible work-life benefits. Trainees are no exception to this trend and below are a few real-life examples which illustrate how I as a trainee have benefitted from agile working since I joined the firm:
Naturally, there will be times when working in the office is preferable or even essential. However, when that is not the case, having the flexibility to choose to work remotely or in the office enables me to be more efficient and productive. This is true regardless of whether my choice is based on my daily to-do list or in response to wider events affecting the outside world.
The very nature of agile working means that there isn’t a simple answer to this question. However, for a practical example, over the course of my first seat I have gone into the office on average twice per week (excluding periods when work-from-home orders were in force due to the Omicron variant) and I found this balance worked well for me and my team. In contrast, there are some trainees in my cohort who are regularly in the office four times per week simply because they prefer to be in the office more frequently and their teams empower them to make that choice. As I look ahead to my second seat, when I’ll be joining the Corporate department in London, I’m excited to work in our new state-of-the-art office at 100 Liverpool Street and I expect that I will be in the office more frequently over the next six months as we continue with agile working without the threat of further covid restrictions.
Trainees must be alert to the fact that agile working has potential pitfalls if not managed properly. One of the biggest concerns that junior lawyers have about agile working is getting less exposure to senior colleagues compared to what you might have had in pre-pandemic times. This can result in two significant downsides:
However, these downsides can be mitigated by making effective use of technology and communicating with colleagues with intention. For example, members of my team often invite me to join their client calls on Teams and this has allowed me to watch and learn how they operate with clients, regardless of whether one, both or neither of us are in the office. I also have regularly scheduled catch ups with my supervisor to ensure that, regardless of where we are working, I get frequent opportunities to discuss the tasks that I am working on and be given feedback on the work that I have already completed.
Agile working is still a relatively new experience for everyone, and trainees should not feel intimidated or put off by the fact that they are unlikely to be in the office with their colleagues five days a week. Below are some tips for how to get the most out of agile working, from my experience to date:
This article is for general information only and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you have any questions relating to your particular circumstances, you should seek independent legal advice.