The world is a mysterious place.
Two and a half years ago, if a law firm allowed its employees to work remotely from time to time, that, in and of itself, was considered a “perk.”
In fact, back when I was practicing law, working from home was generally only tolerated after major surgery, and even then, partners tended to treat you with a great deal of suspicion.
Those were the days when law firms used to go to great lengths to make the office into the kind of place where you wanted to spend the bulk of your time.
Luxury attorney lounges with full bars, large-screen TVs, and cable sports packages were commonplace. Most break rooms were stocked with free food and endless caffeinated beverages. Some law firms offered full cafeterias, state-of-the-art gyms, and on-site health clinics.
All of these amenities were touted in efforts to recruit the best and the brightest.
In today’s post-pandemic world, however, remote-work is now the norm for many law firms. Consequently, in order to recruit and retain the highest quality legal professionals, firms are considering perks that enhance the remote-work experience.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the top remote-work perks in today’s business environment. We’ll also discuss whether, and to what extent, these perks might effectively motivate law firm employees.
Everybody knows that we need fuel in order to keep our brains working at optimal levels. After all, those motions for summary judgment aren’t going to write themselves.
That’s why the old law firm cafeterias and snack-laden break rooms were so great; you could keep yourself fueled up for days without ever having to step outside the building. Getting up and walking down the street might be good for you, but who’s got time for that?
Remote employees may not live next to convenient quick-service restaurants, and cooking every meal (though a healthy option) is quite time-consuming. Food delivery is a convenient option, but it can be prohibitively expensive when you stack on all the fees and tips.
That’s why many employers now maintain corporate accounts with companies like Uber, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
Offering a meal delivery budget is like bringing that law firm cafeteria right to employees’ living rooms.
If you’re concerned about your firm employees taking 2-hour lunches to go out or cook, or if they’re skipping lunch altogether, this might be an awesome perk.
Of course, one of the main issues with remote-work is what to do with the kids.
Many legal professionals who would normally drop their kids off at daycare for the day now feel like, since they’re home, they should care for the kids themselves.
The shift to remote work has also fueled a huge shift for women. Many have returned to the workforce because the ability to work from home means that they can afford to work without needing to spend a huge chunk of their salary on childcare.
All of this means that more legal professionals are working with children at home.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a four year old who can help with that motion for summary judgment we spoke of earlier.
That’s why caregiver benefits are such a critical perk for remote legal professionals.
In addition to relieving some of the pressure employees feel to care for children (or aging parents) while they work from home, these benefits also help the firm to communicate an expectation that lawyers and other staff dedicate distraction-free time to the practice of law.
Offering caregiver benefits can make a huge impact on your employee’s quality of life, even if their spouse is the primary caregiver in the household.
By offering financial support for dependent care, you empower your employees to decide what they want out of family planning and elder care. They can choose how to proceed based on values and life goals instead of immediate financial needs.
As great as remote work is for law firm employees, it also comes with a risk.
Specifically, some legal professionals may feel like they can never get out of work mode. Because they work from home, home starts to feel like a place where they must work. Every time they walk past their computer, they check a few emails and dive into another task.
This is a great recipe for burnout and exhaustion.
One great way to counteract this risk is for employers to provide extensive sabbatical programs.
For example, Thomson Reuters allows employees (after three years of employment) to take a six-month unpaid sabbatical every five years. The program is intended, in part, to allow employees to refresh and restart after long periods of intensive work.
You can also try minimum mandatory paid time off.
Enforcing minimum time off requirements means that your employees must take breaks throughout the year instead of working past the point of exhaustion while waiting to earn their sabbatical.
Many times, we fail to recognize how important small things can be to our lives.
For example, when legal professionals used to work in office buildings every day, there were plenty of opportunities for pleasant interactions, including simple niceties like a sincere “thank you” or public recognition of a job well done in front of colleagues.
Those things tend to disappear in a pure remote-work environment, and the absence of them can lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
Fortunately, many innovative (and thoughtful) folks have come up with employee recognition software.
These clever programs allow for things like peer-to-peer accolades, manager-to-peer recognition, social recognition, and even reward programs where employees can earn points to spend within reward catalogs.
And while these things may not totally replace the heartfelt pat on the back from an appreciative boss, they at least keep us mindful of the need to acknowledge the successes of our team members.
Do all these perks actually help?
The obvious question to answer before a law firm commits to major spending on remote-worker perks is this: do employees care about them at all?
A recent survey of over 500 employees suggests that workers really do appreciate employee-sponsored perks.
Indeed, that survey revealed that perks can lead to things like improved company culture, increased quality of life, and decreased turnover.
While culture and quality of life are hard to measure, we do know that the cost of replacing a single employee can equal roughly one-half to two times that employee’s annual salary. These costs may be higher in a remote-work world, where onboarding new employees can be exceptionally time-consuming and difficult.
Consequently, any perks that keep remote-workers happy seem like a great spend for modern law firms.
In fact, I think we’d all appreciate the password to a corporate food delivery service, wouldn’t we?
Bonus: need a little extra help to love your legal career again?
The whole point of a perk is to help you feel motivated, appreciated, and inspired to do your job.
However, perks can only do so much. They’re no substitute for genuinely loving your career.
Legal careers are highly rewarding, but also highly demanding. Over time, it’s normal for legal professionals to lose the spark. Just like every relationship, it takes a lot of effort to maintain passion.
If you or any of your employees are feeling like it’s hard to love your legal career, there is hope. You can bring the passion back to your work life.
Check out this article for the basics, and download our free eBook: How to fall back in love with your legal career.