In this two-part series, we will explore a debate as old as, and about, time.
Face-time vs. Flextime
In a world where neophytes are available at all hours of the day by way of firm-owned technology, doled out on the first day as the modern equivalent of a ball and chain, time becomes physical and virtual; and the hours become unlimited. Moreover, in light of the face-time vs. flextime debate spurred by Marissa Mayers, CEO of Yahoo, the question and legitimacy of telecommuting, remote access, and working from home has been under careful scrutiny by the business and legal managerial world.
Does Face-Time still matter?
The short answer is, yes. The long answer is, it depends. Law firms mirror a hierarchy. Some firms are much more hierarchal than others, but all firms work on a seniority system. There are always exceptions, but by and large, the older partners are more senior in more ways than just their age. These senior partners come from a generation of face-time. This matters to them, this is a marker of success, of effort, and of dedication. Face-time does not have this connotation to everyone, and not to all lawyers, but it is the opinions of senior lawyers that ultimately matter most.
Younger lawyers and mid-level partners may have a different perspective on the face-time and flextime debate. This echelon of lawyers is likely facing the time constraints as young associates with young families, and a number of external responsibilities. You will likely find much more understanding and acceptance of remote-access working and flextime arrangements amongst your professional peers. These lawyers just need the work to be done. They have come through the ranks in a world where technology breaks down traditional barriers of being in the office or out of the office. They understand that productivity and presence do not necessarily co-exist.
Take account of how lawyers immediately above your position arrange and handle their in and out of office time. Flextime is still a relatively new concept to the legal industry, and the optics of the office game continue to matter; however, there is more flexibility to orient yourself and your schedule in a way that is mutually beneficial to your personal life and professional career.