The Pros and Cons of Telecommuting
By Kelli Carter McCloskey
Kelli Carter McCloskey is an associate with Carroll Warren & Parker, PLLC, in Jackson, Mississippi. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had been working with my current law firm for almost four years and was happy with my practice areas and the people with whom I worked when my husband and I decided to move back to our hometown. I approached my firm’s partners about continuing to work for them from home (about an hour and a half south of the firm’s location). Given the available technology, we agreed that I could do almost everything I was doing at the office from my home. Together, we were able to work out an arrangement that worked well for the firm and for me.
At first, a lot of the details were touch and go. For example, I had to email my time entries to our office administrator to manually enter into our time-keeping system. Before I had access to the firm’s document system, I had to call my legal assistant to search for the documents I needed, and she would email them to me in Word format.
Now, a little more than a year later, things are running very smoothly. My firm’s network administrator installed software on my office computer that would allow me to remotely access my office computer. He gave me a CD-ROM containing the same software that I was able to install myself on my home computer. Now that I have remote access, when I sign in from home, it’s like I’m sitting at my desk in the office. I am able to access our document, email, and time-keeping systems, plus many other programs on my office computer. I do all my legal research online, just like I did at the office. My incoming mail is either scanned and emailed to me or forwarded to my house. I participate in conference calls just as if I were in the office (although there is the occasional embarrassing dog bark in the background).
Of course, I still travel for depositions and court appearances. I also go into the office twice a month and work a full day, which allows me face time with the partners and other associates to discuss cases. Because I so rarely get to spend time in the office, I really look forward to these visits.
Working from home definitely has its pros and cons. I really like having no commute, no dress code, and plenty of flexibility. But on the downside, it also brings distractions, distractions, distractions. Also, I miss the daily social interaction with my coworkers. While it is great to have the flexibility to take an hour here or there to do things around the house or to run errands, it is not so great to have to make up the hours at 9:00 p.m.
So I try to keep normal business hours, just as if I were at the office. This also allows me to respond in a timely manner to important emails and phone calls. I find it productive to do all of my work in my home office on a desktop computer, not a laptop, so there are fewer distractions. Working from home takes discipline, and to be able to meet deadlines and not fall behind, you have to set boundaries for yourself.
If working from home is something you are interested in doing, whatever the circumstances, don’t be scared to approach your partners about it; they may be much more receptive than you would think.
• Telecommuting for Lawyers. 1998. PC # 5110401. Law Practice Management Section.
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