There has been considerable discussion recently about whether a four-day work week promotes greater individual and group productivity.
Some of this appears to be relevant to law firms.
What would your law firm have to do to move to a four-day work week?
The most probable scenario for a four-day work week in a law firm would involve a fee earner being physically (or, in some cases, virtually) "in the office" for four ten-hour work days. Of course, the urgent "after hours" needs of clients could cut into the three "off" days, as it does now. Moreover, most lawyers would probably still work significantly more than 40 hours per week.
Despite these limitations, there are several interesting aspects that might be long-term benefits for most law firms. For example:
- The four-day week would promote a more team-based approach to client service, as other fee earners would need to be able to respond fully to a client's requirements that arise during the principal lawyer's "day off." Client teams, if managed well, can produce greater opportunities for multiple contacts with a client, which in turn can support a level of responsivness throughout the work week that builds client satisfaction and loyalty.
- A firm could be able to offer "office hours" on the weekend, which might produce a good return on the investment of additional costs to keep the office open and operational six days per week, instead of the usual five.
- The four-day work week can support a better "work-life balance." which could be a significant recruiting and retention advantage.
- The benefits do not appear to be limited to large firms. Although large firms probably would have more flexibility, many midsize firms and even relatively small ones -- with as few as five lawyers -- possibly could go to a four-day work week.
Before you dismiss the four-day work week out of hand, consider some of the recent discussions in the business press. Here are a few examples:
- Microsoft Tried A Four-Day Workweek And Productivity Boomed (International Business Times, 12 November 2019)
- A Firm Implemented a 4-Day Workweek and Hasn't Looked Back (The American Lawyer, 7 November 2019)
- Workers given four day week at law firm are ‘less stressed and more productive’ (Metro, 24 May 2019)
- Four-day week: trial finds lower stress and increased productivity (The Guardian, 19 February 2019)