Things have changed for law partners in Germany. A lot. Instead of meeting their co-workers in conference rooms, they’re seeing their colleagues in their living rooms and hearing their children patter around. Instead of relaxing after work with a book or streaming a TV show, they’re hearing the pings of incoming emails.
Due to measures that Germany has recommended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many law firm employees are working from home. This has been complicated by the fact that since last week, all schools and daycare centers are closed, at least until mid-April. This has left parents with few options but to act as assistant teachers at home. And it has left firms with little choice but to offer as much flexibility as they can, even as their workload has not let up.
Many lawyers with children say they have had to shift their work hours to later in the evening or have their parenting play out on video conferencing screens.
But remote working, while an adjustment, has not been an altogether negative experience.
“I see a totally different side of my co-workers, I see them in their living room, that lets me relate to them in a whole different way,” one lawyer said.
And despite the dramatic changes in work arrangements, firms say that lawyers are getting their work done.
“We have the impression that mutual respect and flexibility help us to continue to offer clients the service they value from us,” said Daniel Weiß, a partner with Hengeler in Frankfurt.
As of Friday, Germany had 13,957 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, 2,958 more than a day earlier. So far, 31 people in the country have died from the virus.
Global law firms in Germany, including Noerr, Hengeler and DLA Piper, have acted to shift lawyers and support staff to remote work.
Flexibility is also key, according to a Baker McKenzie representative. Many of the Baker McKenzie employees who now work from home are parents.
“They will certainly integrate their children into their work routine — we leave their daily schedule to them,” the representative said.
At Taylor Wessing, the firm that last week shut down one floor of its Frankfurt office after a partner tested positive for the virus, work-from-home or mobile working is not new for most staff, according to a representative. Working from home has been an acceptable practice at the firm for several years, thanks to professional technical equipment that meets the prerequisites for working remotely, the representative said.