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Remote Working and Relational Roadblocks in the Law Firm Environment

  • Business Transformation
  • 3 Mins

If someone told a room full of law firm employees five years ago how much of the workforce would be remote in 2024, they probably would have doubt. It was not a foreign concept, as some law firms did allow a level of remote work pre-pandemic. However, the scale of adoption reached in such a short time span was unpredictable and unprecedented in an environment highly accustomed to the office setting.

So, where do things stand now in a post-pandemic world? The unsurprising general consensus is that people love working from home. Remote and hybrid work models have flourished, with only 22% of law firm leaders and 7% of associates and support staff returning to the office full time according to a 2023 study by and Epiq. This is a monumental shift as prior to the pandemic, only one in four firms allowed lawyers – 24% of leaders and 25% of associates – to work remotely. The figure was even lower at 14% for support staff.

It quickly became clear that lawyers and their staff can work outside the office and an overwhelming majority do not want to revert. This has forced the legal industry to adopt innovative approaches to working and serving client needs. Many firms have tackled operational challenges for technical functions, billing, document management, and more. But there is a big hurdle that remains – the relational and interpersonal component.


According to the aforementioned study, 71% of leaders surveyed identified talent recruitment and retention as top priority for 2024. Employee engagement and culture came in at 59% from the same group. However, when asked about the greatest challenges with remote and hybrid work models the leaders, associates, and support staff surveyed came to same conclusions. The top challenges reported were cultivating culture, mentorship, and internal communication. Based on this data, it is clear that there is a gap that can interfere with law firm leaders meeting their desired goals.

As such, it is important to address relational roadblocks when creating strategies and goals. Hybrid employees are not in the office every day. Some are not physically present at all because they are fully remote. When practicing law, it is pivotal for teams to know each other and for associates to have a mentor. Connection and collaboration serve a number of purposes such as improving case management, personal development, elevated outcomes, and lessening burnout. Finding ways to remove or lighten these challenges will directly improve efforts for retention, recruitment, engagement, and culture.


As law firm leaders ponder ways to bridge relational gaps, they are probably wondering where to begin. How do employers foster meaningful connection across their organizations when remote work is prevalent? What is the best way to encourage collaboration and mentorship in a profession where these components are pivotal to success? 

Consider focusing on these three areas to help answer these questions and create a more connected hybrid working culture:

  • Purpose: When creating hybrid policies, look beyond merely defining who should be in the office and setting a weekly quota. While structure is important and necessary for such working arrangements to thrive, it is equally important to identify purpose for in being in the office. Ask teams what would make their in-office experience most beneficial and how they could be best supported. Remember this may be different based on employee role, current caseloads, and other factors. Holding listening sessions and conducting surveys are two ways to get to this information and ensure in-office work aligns with a team’s goals. This can also raise morale as employees will have a say in building up internal policies and find a balance that works for them.
  • Mentorship Programs: Pre-pandemic, younger lawyers likely picked up more via osmosis while being in the office. In today’s law firm setting, it is pertinent to advance creative approaches to mentorship. One way to do this is by working with a service provider to implement new associate programs. Consider placing legal concierges to serves as mentors, trainers, and the first point of contact for new lawyers to navigate firm culture, policies, and procedures. Also consider assigning partners some associates they can mentor long-term via small group meetings, regular check-ins, teambuilding exercises, and shadowing opportunities. Make sure there are both remote and in-person opportunities.
  • Operations: Law firms have operational burdens that often take up so much time that it is difficult to focus on desired initiatives such as retention and company culture. Firm leaders should explore leveraging an outsourcing partner to relieve the administrative duties of managing facilities, curating a top-tier hospitality experience, and running the back office. This opens up space to focus more deliberately on culture building and fostering an environment of belonging – while also allowing for more time spent on the practice of law.

By investing in the areas above, law firms operating off a hybrid or fully remote model can begin to overcome their relational roadblocks. The focus should be on integrating the workforce to maintain a culture of connection, mentorship, and collaboration. Turning to outside experts who can consult on the interpersonal component that also possess deep global resources and digital transformation knowledge can help law firms thrive in today’s hybrid environment.

For the full report with more insights and information, click here.

The contents of this article are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions.

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