I have proposed that law firms consider the possibility that lawyers be encouraged to work at home some days or at satellite offices. Today, the Wall Street Journal reports yet another reason to support this idea: workers get more done at home because there are fewer interruptions.  

In my article Going Virtual and subsequent blog postings (e.g., Working Virtually – Some Statistics, I set forth the case for doing work at home.

The somewhat light-hearted Journal article Cookies, Gossip, Cubes: It’s a Wonder Any Work Gets Done at the Office (4/28/04, p. B1) reports that interruptions at work are legion, especially for those working in cubicles. “In a sign of just how loopy the line between work and home has become, it sometimes seems as though the home is better suited to work, while work is better suited to, say wedding planning.” A researcher found that at “one large law firm,” people working in cubicles (granted this probably means staff and not lawyers) were interrupted more than 15 times per day. This leads to losing one hour to re-focus one’s effort.

The article acknowledges that homes create distractions as well but that it can actually be easier to close the door on family and pets than it is to prevent cubicle interruptions. I suspect that lawyers are somewhat insulated from this volume of distraction, both because they typically have private offices and because there is a culture of quiet in law firms (at least in my experience and relative to the corporate world).

Large law firms that face build-out and lease renewals should think carefully about the work culture of the future and how creative planning now can lower occupancy cost, convert wasted commute time to leisure or billable hours, and make their lawyers and staff happier and more productive. It goes without saying that appropriate technology is necessary to support such changes.