Some In-House Attys Think At-Home Work Is Here To Stay

By Michele Gorman
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Law360 (July 9, 2020, 5:42 PM EDT) -- The vast majority of in-house lawyers in a recent survey said their organization's work-from-home policy has changed during the pandemic, but the respondents were almost evenly divided on whether they think the adjustments will continue or be reversed once the crisis wanes, according to the results out Thursday.

While nearly 91% of the 249 respondents in the Association of Corporate Counsel's poll reported a changed work-from-home policy, 46.5% said they expect the altered policies are here to stay, while about 44% said they think their policies will eventually revert to the previous setup.

Meanwhile, just under 10% said their organization hasn't changed its at-home policy during the pandemic.

"This informal flash poll is further indication that the impacts of COVID on telework and remote work policies are likely to last much longer than first anticipated," said Susanna McDonald, vice president and chief legal officer of ACC. "From conferences and business travel to [working from home], organizations are looking for, and helping create, a 'new normal' that works for employees and leadership alike."

The ACC invited 5,000 of its members at random to participate in the survey that opened on June 30 and closed Monday.

In the survey, some participating ACC members said, "Remote work is here to stay. Even after it is reasonably safe to return to the office, in-house counsel will continue to telework thanks to the opportunities provided by online communication tools."

To help with the transition to telework, almost all of the in-house counsel who participated in the poll said their company provided a computer or laptop, followed by nearly 63% who said they received a monitor and 60% who said they've been set up with a mouse and/or keyboard.

According to the results, the expansion of remote work is likely to limit in-person meetings and business travel. The ACC found the number of in-house counsel who feel "very comfortable" with video meetings has gone up by almost 50 points — from 22% before the pandemic to nearly 71% now — with Microsoft Teams as the most popular platform, according to the poll.

"The results suggest that in-house counsel have adapted to this new form of routine communication easily," the ACC said.

While the pandemic has forced some organizations to abandon their offices and transform their lawyers into remote workers — revealing to many leaders that their enormous real estate costs might not be as justifiable as they had been in decades past — some businesses are rethinking their office space needs.

While about 31% of participants in the ACC survey said they will need less space, 37% reported not knowing about the office plans for future months.

The survey marks the organization's fourth informal poll asking the in-house community to share how their departments are adjusting to the pandemic and its effects.

An earlier poll found that nearly a third of in-house counsel are experiencing high or very high burnout amid the pandemic, while a majority say they are working more hours than usual.

The ACC has also discovered that a majority of legal departments were prepared for the transition to working from home during the outbreak.

--Additional reporting by Brandon Lowrey and Dave Simpson. Editing by Emily Kokoll.

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