Legal Tech

My WFH (or WTF) Journey

They say that those who do not  learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

When I started practicing law in 1981, I went to the office six days a week. Sometimes six and a half. I never used my computer at the office, mainly because I did not have one.  Nor did anyone else.

Eventually, dedicated word processors made an appearance, followed by stand-alone desktops, both used by legal assistants. About six years into my practice I bought a first-generation personal computer for use at home. I happily typed up my documents at home during the weekends (and evenings) and brought them into the office on floppy disks (the young folks may have to google that) for my legal assistant to clean up.

By the early nineties we had a computer network and I had a desk-top computer at the office. Working at the office on weekends became rare. But the idea of not going to the office on a weekday did not occur to me, or to anyone else.

Eventually we all had laptops and took them home every night.

That happy state of affairs persisted until 2014 when I rented a house on Cape Cod for all of June, July, and August and worked remotely. By then we could access the firm’s network remotely and I even had a “soft phone” so that when someone dialed my extension at the office, it would ring on my computer in Cape Cod. That seemed important at the time, because we did not want the clients to figure out that I was away.

So ingrained was the need to go to the office every day, that even when I returned from Cape Cod having proven that I could work remotely, I continued my daily long and expensive commute.

I did something similar in 2015, working from a cottage a few hours out of town. However, upon my return I smartened up (a little) and started working remotely one or two days a week.

By 2017, I was done with commuting and with being a partner in a law firm. I withdrew from the partnership, became an independent contractor, and started working from home full-time, going to the office only for the occasional client meeting.  (Zoom was not really a thing yet.)  I also had time to start going to the gym regularly for the first time in my life.

I continued to work from home until I retired in 2020.

As you can see, I was an early adapter to working from  home. No one else in my firm, and few people elsewhere, were doing it on a regular basis until the pandemic.

I could do it when I did because my many clients were the only people who I really had to report to, and they did not care where I worked as long as I was doing what they needed.

The main lesson is that we do not have to cling to traditional thinking once it is clear that there are alternatives.

The perhaps more subtle lesson that has remained true throughout the eons, is that in a law firm, you can do pretty much whatever you want when you have a large client base. You should get one of those.

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