We know that the pandemic changed how, when, and where we work. We also know that some of the changes will remain once the pandemic concludes. Today, I write to share two developments that, to me, provide insight into pandemic-related changes that may prove beneficial to the profession’s well-being, thus warranting consideration as to whether they should become permanent aspects of how, when, and where we work.
The first development comes from Florida.
Last week, the Florida Supreme Court approved an advisory opinion issued by the Florida State Bar’s Standing Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law. The opinion concludes that a lawyer who is licensed in another state, but not in Florida, does not violate Florida’s rules on unauthorized practice by providing legal services to out-of-state clients on matters not involving Florida law while working remotely from Florida. The Legal Profession Blog and ABA Journal reported the Court’s decision to approve the opinion.
The advisory opinion cites to similar conclusions reached by the ABA and the Utah State Bar. Those of you who recall my post ABA issues common sense guidance on working remotely will not be surprised to learn that I’m a fan of the Florida opinion. It’s a post in which I used this hypo to introduce the ABA and Utah opinions:
- You are a lawyer who is licensed in Other State but not in Vermont.
- You live and work in Other State and own a condo in Vermont.
- For various reasons, you move to the Vermont condo during the pandemic.
- There, and thanks to technology, you continue to work on your clients’ legal matters.
- You do not open an office in Vermont, advertise in Vermont, accept new clients in Vermont, or give advice on Vermont law.
- Not one of your client matters has anything to do with Vermont or Vermont law.
- But for the fact that you’re in your condo, your work is exactly what you’d be doing if you were working from your office in Other State.”
I remain of the opinion that the Utah State Bar nailed it:
- “what interest does the Utah State Bar have in regulating an out-of-state lawyer’s practice for out-of-state clients simply because he has a private home in Utah? And the answer is the same—none.”
Returning to the Florida opinion, I support it even independent of any connection to well-being. However, I’m interested by (and appreciative of) the fact that the Florida committee went out of its way to note a comment that an individual lawyer submitted in support of the proposed opinion. The Committee wrote:
- “In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Standing Committee finds the written testimony of Florida-licensed attorney, Salomé J. Zikakis, to be particularly persuasive: ‘I believe the future, if not the present, will involve more and more attorneys and other professionals working remotely, whether from second homes or a primary residence. Technology has enabled this to occur, and this flexibility can contribute to an improved work/life balance. It is not a practice to discourage.'”
No, it is not!
The second development is actually an older story.
In early May, Above The Law posted Ropes & Gray’s Reopening Plan Puts An End To The 5-Day, In-Person Office Work Week For Associates. The post reports on the return-to-work plan announced by one of the nation’s largest law firms. ATL applauded the firm’s phased re-opening and the flexibility associated with the “ramp-up time the firm is allowing [staff] to reacquaint themselves with office life.” In addition, ATL noted statements that the firm’s chair included in a memo to staff that announced the plan:
- “No matter what phase we are in, we endorse flexibility post-pandemic. We don’t expect that we’ll ever mandate a five-day a week in-office environment.”
Here here. Management’s endorsement of flexibility demonstrates a commitment to the well-being of both staff and the organization as a while. Indeed, as the Florida lawyer noted in the comment above, flexibility contributes to a healthy work/life balance.
Making permanent some of the changes caused by the pandemic won’t be a bad thing.