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How Lockdowns Redefined Legal Practice

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

It used to be axiomatic that in order to succeed as a business attorney, you needed a gleaming, wood-paneled law firm as your backdrop.

The disadvantages of those kinds of law firms have always been obvious. For Generations X through Z and for Millennials, the attraction of the traditional office environment has decreased over time dramatically. As the ever-more current adage goes, “No one ever died wishing they had spent more time at the office.”

The disadvantages to companies of obtaining legal services from these kinds of traditional brick-and-mortar law firms are also significant. High overhead as real estate prices sky-rocket as well as high hourly billing rates and a pyramid-like partner structure where the name partners funnel billing into high salaries mean only one thing for smaller companies: prohibitively high legal fees. Getting good legal services can be so expensive that companies often choose not to obtain the legal services they really need.

But there’s hope, because life has changed since the COVID lockdowns. Lawyers have discovered the advantages of remote legal services. Via video-conferencing services like Zoom and Google Hangouts, as well as more high-end services with extra encryption, as well as new hologram conferencing, attorneys can attend meetings with their clients and appear right in their conference rooms – without leaving their home offices. Or even their vacation Air BnB apartments. This not only doesn’t negatively affect the quality of lawyering. It leads to greater enthusiasm, less burnout, and more focus on the real bread-and-butter of lawyering – providing legal services – rather than wowing clients with fancy offices. For that reason, fractional in-house general counsel services have increased in attractiveness – not just to the companies paying the bills, but also to the lawyers themselves. Why give the bulk of your earnings to the name-partner who is a “rainmaker” if you are a “service lawyer” who knows how to provide good legal services? If that arrangement works for a given firm, that’s great, but the level of burnout in the legal profession has traditionally been very high. Most lawyers who graduate from law school will not remain lawyers for their entire careers. There’s a reason that the expression “the law is a harsh mistress” has spanned the centuries. But fractional general counsel services has changed that. Now you can have exactly the fulfilling life you want professionally without compromising on quality of life. And that’s something that makes fractional in-house legal counsel particularly attractive to all the Generation Xers, Yers, and Zers and Millennials out there.

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