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The lawyer’s guide to working from home

If you do excellent work and meet deadlines, it shouldn’t matter whether you’re at your desk or on your couch
If you do excellent work and meet deadlines, it shouldn’t matter whether you’re at your desk or on your couch

Barring a trial, transaction or client meeting, lawyers should not be servants to office face time. With simple technology, we can practise law anywhere and at any time. Do you do excellent work and meet deadlines? Then it shouldn’t matter if you’re at your desk or on your couch.

I am not saying that face time is obsolete. It is still important in fostering relationships and building a personal brand. But there are some obvious reasons why we want to work from home, too. We might need a “mental break” to recharge our batteries. Or maybe someone is scheduled to repair the dishwasher (sometime between now and never).

There’s another particularly important reason to work from home. It will make us better lawyers. The data is clear: studies show that employees who work from home on a regular basis take fewer sick days and — believe it or not — are more productive. When I have a day of drafting ahead of me, it makes more sense to comfortably write at home.

But working outside the office is not without its challenges. So here are my five tips for successful remote working.

1. Manage expectations. If you plan on being anywhere other than the office during business hours, tell those who depend on you in advance. If a colleague expects to see you at the office, but you never show up, that’s a quick way to burn bridges and sour future remote-working opportunities.

2. Be available during business hours. Check your email and answer your phone. Video conferencing? Look professional (at least from the waist up).

3. Do great work. Don’t multi-task. Ignore Netflix. Don’t take client calls while doing chores. If you’re working, focus on the task at hand.

4. Get out of bed. I only last about 30 minutes sitting in bed before I’m asleep and drooling on my laptop. I don’t recommend it. Have a designated workspace. If you have a home office, use it. I love working on my back deck (weather permitting).

5. Take a break. At home, it can be harder to keep track of time. I always take a lunch break away from my workspace. I clear my head, eat healthy food, walk around the block — whatever it takes to help me refocus for the afternoon.

Erin CowlingErin Cowling is the founder of Flex Legal, a network of freelance lawyers based in Toronto. Her own freelance practice focuses on civil litigation.




This story is from our Fall 2018 Issue.

Illustration by Sara Wong