If nothing else, The Law Industry loves tradition. It is a caste system where the Partners love to rub their superiority in the Associates’ noses, the Associates do the same to Paralegals, and regrettably some of the Paralegals do the same to support staff. The pointless need to insist on showing superiority over those below you by showing off your collection of Incan Matrimonial Headmasks is apparently the only reason Law Firms insist on dragging us in to work collectively in offices where none of us want to be in the first place.
Yes, I said it. Offices are outdated, archaic and pointless. Given the current level of technology, there is almost nothing we cannot do without a simple internet connection and a computer, which most of us have at home. (Those who don’t probably aren’t reading my site too often anyway, so I have no problem excluding them :) Right now, the only thing a Law Firm needs is a conference room, a file room and a server room.
Let me break it down…
1. Document Management – Every law firm worthy of existing in the 21st Century has a computer network with some sort of file management system divided up by client. With the advent of scanning into PDF some 20-odd years ago, even hard copies of sensitive documents can be saved as electronic data with ease. A small on-site file room for critical hard copies would be far cheaper to maintain than the massive file rooms currently used to store what we already keep on computerized networks.
2. Court Filings – If there is a Court that still hasn’t adopted electronic filing in some fashion, those out in West Bumblefudge will do so soon enough. For those few Courts or other government entities who still insist on archaic delivery of hard copies, we have Couriers and Copy Services. Both of which have e-mail and are cheaper than maintaining a downtown office.
3. Expense to the Firm – If a firm went to mostly telecommuting and phone/videoconferencing, they could reduce their real estate footprint by about 90%. Do you have any idea how high the rent per square foot is in most urban office buildings? Besides all those copiers, scanners, fax machines, computer terminals, desks, chairs, filing cabinets, bookshelves, carpeting, etc. Eliminating most of that makes telecommuting a vastly more profitable option. All you would really need is a receptionist/secretary, a couple conference rooms and a few offices for whoever needs to be on-site. Even if firms gave employees computers to use at home and reimbursed for an internet connection, it would still save a massive amount of money. Money that the partners could pocket, and we all know how partners LOVE to increase profit.
4. Expense to the Employees – Gas. Bus fare. Work clothes. Time spent traveling to and from the office. Buying lunch. I can go on and on. Hell, I'd take a 5% pay cut to telecommute and would probably still end up with more money.
5. Inter-Office Personality Conflicts – There are plenty of co-workers I would have no problem with if I rarely (or never) had to see them in person. I’m sure there are also plenty of managers who would love to be rid of the constant bickering, bitching, moaning and complaining about the “Stole My Red Swingline Stapler” type of crap.
Even doing mostly telecommuting would be a big improvement. Imagine only having to go into work one day a week. I’d be willing to share an office with 5 other people if each of us only had to use it one day a week. The work that requires on-site staff occupies far less than 20% of the people we drag in every day.
What else have I overlooked? I’m sure there’s a lot. I’ll open up a topic on the Paralegal Hell Purgatory Panel for this, so feel free to share over there.