3 Month Report on 4 Day Work Weeks at My Law Firm
We are now approaching 4 full months of 4 day work weeks at YLaw. I look back at why I did this, it started with the sad reality of our law firm managements feeding mental illness to our lawyers. Then it evolved to all of us at YLaw working together for a higher purpose. Which was, and will always be, the meaning of true leadership to me.
I am going to share all the goods and the bads of it so everyone has a real sense of how it has been.
Like everything else in life, it has not been perfect, nor a fairytale. But I can say confidently it has come as close to a fairytale as I could imagine. It has blown me away, my expectations and my assumptions.
So here, I am going to share real results of our numbers, profits, surveys, and a bunch of pictures so I can be as accurate as I could possibly be.
4 Day Work Week Results at YLaw – 3 Months Later
I am going to begin by the craziest result first:
Profits of 4 Day Work Weeks vs. 5 Days
So when I looked at our profits after one month of working 4 day weeks, the results were that we had increased our profits by 10 percent. So I thought that is what is going to happen after 3 months too if we were lucky. Wrong!
After three months, our profits increased by over 30%! And I have an explanation why. But let’s look at some fun pictures first:
Reasons for Jump in Profits Working 4 Days at YLaw
In my first blog, I insisted on expansion and loyalty as factors that were just as important, if not more important, than billable targets and hours. Expansion naturally brings in more profits. So the choice is:
Do you want to work a small number of people 5 days a week with unrealistic targets, or do you want to work a large pool of people with lesser targets and more happiness if the result is the same? The result would be more or less the same, if not better if you picked the latter.
Also, lawyers usually work 6-7 days a week, so “4 day work weeks” really is going from 6 days to 5 days.
The reason for our profits jumping over 30% in the past three months is not just because our lawyers met and exceeded their 5 day work week targets, but because we increased our size. Because of what we offered, many talented, intelligent lawyers applied and were hired.
Again, after all, I know of few people who would pick working 5 day weeks over 4 days.
Are People Paid the Same as Working 5 Day Weeks?
Absolutely, from day 1. This is supposed to be a bonus not a punishment.
Do We ALWAYS take the Day Off?
Of course not, especially the lawyers. Like all lawyers who may have to work on weekends if something requires attention or is urgent, we also work on Wednesdays if something requires work or is urgent. I have personally come to work on Wednesdays around 70% of the time, and most other lawyers, about 30% of the time.
The uniform response is that the thought of having the day off, the unplugging, the feeling of autonomy is what matters most; not actually taking the day off. Knowing that:
- you are not being watched,
- you don’t have to come at a certain hour and leave at a certain hour,
- you can break down your day and do as you like
are what people seem to be appreciating the most.
Mental Health Working 4 Day weeks – Survey Results
Look at this beauty, this was the result of a survey I did to ask people how they are feeling now versus when they were working 4 day weeks. These are the answers of some of our people, I asked them to remain anonymous so they could be brutally honest:
Now look at what happened when I asked if YLaw members want to continue working 4 days or not:
Then I asked how they are feeling now versus 4 months ago:
Now if you want to measure loyalty and my corresponding amount of anxiety thinking of people leaving….
This is one of the major reasons why we are growing and expanding in a healthy, non-disruptive manner:
Managing Billable Targets Working 4 Day Weeks
As you can see, most lawyers and paralegals are managing their targets and I can vouch for them that they are. They are exceeding their targets:
Challenges of Working 4 Day Weeks
As you can see below, there were three types of challenges, most of which we have addressed now:
- Getting served or receiving letters on the day off: we have implemented a policy to immediately scan and send all documents to the lawyer directly, are saved in our system, and copied on the assistant as soon as they arrive on our day off.
- Clarity of delegation: We now have 2 staff working on our day off so they can tend to calls, faxes, emails, etc. Everything that comes in is then channeled to the appropriate people.
- Billable Targets: As you can see, some people are finding it challenging to meet their billables. That is just the reality of this situation. It is not perfect, but as you saw above, despite all the challenges, everyone has unanimously voted to have 4 day weeks instead of 5 days. They are willing to take the challenges because they see more benefit in having days off.
What People Like the Most about 4 Day Weeks
Mental health and happiness have been the front and center of our initiative. Seeing these results makes me feel good as a leader, a human being, and a lawyer. This in itself was enough for me to implement this project because this is what us humans should do with our lives — helping people and making them feel better.
Wednesdays or Fridays after all?
Most people voted Wednesdays. We did try Fridays off for a month and most of us felt like we were kind of bored after 3 days off, and Mondays were brutal because we had to get back to 3 days’ worth of emails, calls, messages and urgent tasks:
What About Vacations? Did We Adjust Vacation Times?
We actually switched to providing unlimited vacations to all our lawyers and employees. As long as they meet their targets and arrange to make sure clients are taken care of, I do not care how much vacation they take. As for other staff who do not have targets, I have given the autonomy on the condition that they are reasonable. If anyone takes advantage of unlimited vacations, they won’t have a future here.
The cool thing about unlimited vacations is that people can’t ask to roll over unused vacation time and we save on a lot of accounting fees relating to this issue.
So Are We Making 4 Day Work Weeks Permanent?
Absolutely. But its open to change if anything unforeseen arises. This is a part of managing expectations.
When did we start thinking remedying the mental health crisis is better than preventing it in the first place? How did we get to a place where we waited for the lawyer to be broken, and then gave him/her a brochure that has a phone number of an outsourced counsellor to glue the pieces back together? And then expect to continue working the lawyer to the bones once they pick up the pieces? When and how did we go so wrong?
4 day work weeks are a part of a legacy I want to leave as a leader and lawyer who rose and fought constantly and consistently for better mental health in the legal profession. I suffered from mental illness immensely myself. This was the core and only reason I implemented it. As a profession most that we do is give lip service to the mental health crisis but offer little to no support on how to actually prevent it instead of causing it.
- If you read the latest blog from one of our lawyers, you would know that she suffered extreme anxiety at the thought of working 4 day weeks. So no, this wasn’t the greatest news for some. But after a few months, her thoughts speak for themselves.
- Our policies have been extremely valuable in managing this project. These include not harming the clients. Answering calls on Wednesdays, staying open and tending to urgent matters.
- Managing expectations has been huge. People do not look at having the day off as a right. It is a privilege.
- Profits are higher, but expanding and managing more people, having more costs, are also factors to consider.
Would I recommend this? I don’t think there is anything more in my life I would recommend aside from experiencing wine and travel.
Should you do it? That’s up to you. I am just here to tell you: lose your fear, question why we work 5 days in any event, and stay open to things that may, just may, let you and others around you, win.
Written by Leena Yousefi, June 28, 2021.