Hugh Sandler used to commute two hours a day between Grand Central Terminal and his home in the New York City suburbs. Like thousands of other attorneys who logged long hours in Manhattan law firms, Sandler regarded coming into the office as an essential part of his job. Then came March, which marked the first time he and many other lawyers worked full days at home. For Sandler, it was a major adjustment—but also a surprisingly pleasant one.
“My experience has been very positive. I have a 7-month-old and being at home at this time has created a lot of additional benefits, including that I can be around for him,” he says.
Other lawyers—many working from home for the first time in their careers—described a variety of emotions, ranging from relief to something many haven’t felt since college: sheer, unadulterated delight. “Best three months of my life,” said one Chicago lawyer who has gained two hours a day of time with his family since giving up his commute.
Their experience reflects how the pandemic has shaken up the culture of corporate law firms. That culture, known in the legal world as “Big Law,” is characterized by long hours that obliged many lawyers to stay at the firm till 9 p.m. or later, and where junior associates faced subtle pressure to seek out “face time”—hanging around the office at all hours in hopes a partner would notice their budding enthusiasm and commitment.