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How (and why) lawyers should master hybrid working

As hybrid working is set to be a key trend within the legal profession this year, this legal co-founder has said that mastering how to successfully work hybrid will be especially important moving forward.

user iconLauren Croft 09 March 2023 Careers
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Sarah Mateljan is a director and co-founder of Law CPD. Speaking recently on an episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, produced in partnership with LawCPD, she spoke about key legal trends for 2023 and how lawyers can keep abreast of them, as well as what kinds of skills are going to be needed moving forward.

Ms Mateljan identified three key trends within the legal sphere: ethical challenges arising from lawyers’ use of technology, workplace safety moving forward and mastering hybrid work.

In terms of mastering hybrid working practices, Ms Mateljan said flexible working practices were “the new normal for lawyers”.


“There [have] been some really interesting movements over the last 18 months as the government mandates relating to coronavirus have shifted, and there’s now no longer work-from-home directions because law firms initially really pushed hard to get lawyers back in the office full-time, but there was quite a lot of resistance to that.

“So now it seems that most of the big firms have settled into a pattern of most people working from the office at least three days a week, sometimes more, and then two days a week remotely. But in the smaller firms, over half of lawyers in smaller firms and boutique firms are working remotely three to five days a week. So, there’s a lot more flexibility in that smaller firm context. But the reality is that most professionals do want to work remotely at least some of the time, but definitely not all of the time.

A recent PwC survey found that 75 per cent of professionals wanted to work from home at least two days a week — which Ms Mateljan said was “pretty consistent” across the legal profession.

“The challenge for employers is that unemployment is very low, and you don’t want to be losing your good staff, so they had to take their foot off the accelerator in terms of bringing people back to the office. But I think that that is actually a good thing for productivity. If people aren’t spending two hours a day commuting, they can be spending that time working or having a bit of time for their own wellbeing, and that can only be a good thing.

“So, I think it’s a positive in terms of the new normal. In terms of mastering hybrid work, though, I think that it’s a different beast to remote work because when everyone was forced to work from home during the pandemic, everyone was on the same level playing field. They were all working from home, they were all out of the office. But now, with hybrid work, you’ve got some people in the office and some people at home,” she explained.

“And that can mean that you get some miscommunications because people might not realise there are some people working remotely. So, I think that’s the challenge that people need to overcome is trying to work out how you can have processes that include everyone, whether they’re in the office or working from home, because it was a lot easier when everyone was working from home.”

Being successfully hybrid, or mastering hybrid work, also means being willing to change your mind, Ms Mateljan emphasised.

“I think with anything in law, you’ve got to be willing to change your mind as new information comes to light. But yeah, definitely, with how people work, you’ve got to be flexible because things change. I think coronavirus showed us that no one knows what’s coming tomorrow. Hopefully, we’re not going to encounter anything like that this year, but as you learn new things about how people are working in that context, you can then change your practices to adapt to that,” she added.

“But there’s definitely some fundamentals that people can employ, like the common schedules and the way you run meetings. Making sure that when people are participating remotely and in the room, you have tools to ensure people who are remote are included, because often you end up with everyone in the room having a chat and no one who’s remote being able to get a word in. Just thinking through those sorts of things and getting some processes in place and, as you say, re-evaluating those and being flexible about changing and improving them where you need to.”

For this to work long-term, open conversations are of the utmost importance to ensure everyone remains happy, according to Ms Mateljan.

“As the labour market shifts as well, we may also see that situation change. But for my part, I kind of hope that lawyers will at least be able to do some remote work because surveys in America have actually shown that lawyers who have been able to work remotely have reported increased productivity most of the time because they’re not having to spend that time commuting and all the rest of it,” she concluded.

“So, I think there are some important benefits that can be carried forward, but the conversation needs to continue to ensure it’s still beneficial for everyone.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Sarah Mateljan, click below:

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