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Can I work from anywhere?

“If you can work anywhere, anytime, then pretty soon you’re working everywhere all the time” – Judy Nichols   After the article on ‘Virtual Law…

“If you can work anywhere, anytime, then pretty soon you’re working everywhere all the time” – Judy Nichols

 

After the article on ‘Virtual Law Firm in Nigeria’, some colleagues engaged me in a conversation that such concept is not realizable in Nigerian legal industry because Nigerians only believe a lawyer is working when he goes out of the house by 8am and returns by 5pm Monday to Friday, as such promoting a concept where lawyers can work from anywhere would diminish the image of the legal industry in the eyes of the society.

It is important to note at this point that advanced countries like UK, and USA that we look up to their legal systems have long since come up with flexible work options for their workforce that will yield maximal result without the stress attached to rushing to work even when there is no task that requires you to be at the office.

Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion in a guide for employers, defined Agile Working as a way of working, in which an organization empowers its people to work where, when and how they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints -to optimize their performance and deliver “best in class” value and customer service. It uses communications and information technology to enable people to work in ways, which best suit their needs without the traditional limitations of where and when tasks must be performed.

Experts say law is one of the most suitable for agile working, with the exception of client meetings. Legal work can often be quite solitary. For many, it involves the quite drafting of documents and occasional telephone calls, and lawyers’ offices are often places of concentration and analysis. All you need is a laptop, a phone, and clever technology that make location irrelevant. {www.theguardian.com}.

With the help of email, documents, most especially court process being a litigation dominated industry, can be sent from one lawyer to another irrespective of location. Most lawyers have briefs outside jurisdiction, and so can employ a lawyer in a jurisdiction they usually visit on part-time to handle all briefs within such jurisdiction. Flexible working options save cost, lessen the risk of always travelling out of jurisdiction, and other benefits alike.

Simon Benneth, a partner at Fox Williams LLP, was reported in an online media to have said, “There are a growing number of firms where people are agile working pretty much all the time. One of our associates lives in Hampshire and only comes into the office one day a week. As long as the job gets done it doesn’t matter where and how you do it.”

Sadly in Nigeria, we find it difficult to change from the norm, and before we do, we take into consideration what the people would say before actually engaging in a path. The idea of flexible work options may be alien to the Nigerian legal industry; it does not however mean that if inculcated into our working structure it will not yield maximal result.

Take for instance, a law firm in Lagos State with briefs in Kaduna, and Kano states. The cost of a lawyer travelling from Lagos to Kano and Kaduna every time the matter comes up, would be less if the firm had a lawyer in this area in its payroll on a part-time basis till the determination of the brief. This is somewhat different from holding brief, because in holding brief, the lawyer changes and appearance fee or transportation is paid anytime the matter comes up.

In agile working, the lawyer will be under the employ of the law firm in Lagos, and responsible for everything concerning that brief till its determination, and if after the determination, the law firm still requires his/her services then the relationship can go on. In the same vein, a lawyer need not come to office every day for the sake of physical appearance. If the job required by the lawyer can be done from his/her house, so be it.

The legal profession is a demanding job that can exhaust a person mentally and physically, and a lawyer is a lawyer for life except in exceptional cases. Thus, it is important that we begin to imbibe flexible work options for our work place. The benefits of agile working include amongst others; increased productivity, and efficiency; extended business hours (a lawyer can be on standby for instructions at any time of the day, not necessarily between 8am–5pm); better utilization of skills; increased innovation; improved staff performance; increased motivation and engagement of staff; reduced travel time and cost; and most importantly, improved work life balance.

To my mind, a lawyer can work from anywhere and still be productive, and so we need not conscript ourselves to the norm, because the society is used to it.

Godspeed!

Do send your comment(s), observation(s) and recommendation(s) to [email protected]

 

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