Just 4% of local authority lawyers want to return to the office full-time after Covid-19 outbreak as finished, exclusive new research by Local Government Lawyer in conjunction with LexisNexis has found.
Instead, the most popular working pattern for amongst local authority lawyers is two days in the office, three days at home according to the research, which surveyed 70 heads of legal and 448 other local government lawyers in the summer of 2020. There is little appetite, however, for full-time remote working, with just 13% describing this as their preferred working option post-pandemic.
57% said that the availability or otherwise would be a major factor in their choice of employer in the future. 78% of legal staff expect their employers to provide more remote working in future, with only 3% expecting a return to the status quo.
Legal department management also expect the proportion of time worked remotely to increase significantly even after social distancing restrictions have gone, with the average proportion of hours worked remotely by legal staff increasing from an average of 29% pre-Covid to 68% in future. The average figure during the initial lockdown was 89%. Again, the preferred working pattern for full-time staff is two days at the office, three at home.
Although the number of hours worked remotely by local authority lawyers increased during lockdown, significantly more lawyers saw an improvement in their work-life balance than perceived a decline due to the greater flexibility they enjoyed and the lack of commuting time required.
“I manage a team of 33 lawyers. All but one have said that they want to continue to work remotely (with some element of office working) post-pandemic. Many who were previously sceptical about home working are now converts,” a head of legal told the survey.
During the lockdown period, most lawyers considered that they are just as productive working from home as they were at the office, although those with children at home or with poor IT connections less so. Management and other legal staff alike agree that technology and working practices will need to improve or change to make effective remote working sustainable.
While it was recognised that the provision of technology improved as lockdown progressed, the deployment of both practice and matter management software needs improvement for remote working. Generally, bespoke legal software is less well-regarded than generic applications such as video conferencing software.
71% of local authorities had been involved in virtual court or tribunal proceedings since the lockdown period began and the research found strong support for virtual hearings to continue after the pandemic, with improvements to the technology and processes.
“They [online hearings] simply must continue,” one respondent said. “As must electronic documentation. There is no reason why people should be spending time in cars, moving heavy documents, for some simpler types of Court hearings. The Judiciary needs to understand it is part of a wider ecosystem, and it needs to modernise rapidly.”
To read and download the full report, please click on the following link: www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/lockdown