04:12, February 09 1415 0

2018-02-09 04:12:21
Firm launches ‘panic button’ for overworked lawyers

A German law firm has introduced a workload management app for its employees, with a panic button for lawyers who are feeling overworked.

The employment firm Pusch Wahlig, which was set up by former Baker McKenzie and Allen & Overy lawyer Tobias Pusch in 2006, worked with Berlin developer Push Creative Ventures to create the app. It allows lawyers to input their expected workload on any given day in the coming week, and instantly auto-ranks them by availability.

“From the very beginning, we wanted to do some things differently from the top-tier firms while still providing same high level of employment law advice to global companies,” Pusch told The Lawyer.

“We wanted to give women a stronger role in the firm and for our people to have a life as well as exciting job with demanding clients. That was at the heart of our firm from its foundation. We introduced some work-life balance initiatives such as a flexible working programme, and we also have a ‘no silo’ policy – so all associates work for all partners, something that helps us balance the workload of associates better.

“To manage that system effectively I decided we needed to have an app. We do everything on our smartphones; why not manage workload that way too?”

“Now when I have a new instruction from a client, I don’t have to go out and talk to everyone individually to see who has more availability; I can steer work towards those who have most capacity.”

The app includes a ‘panic button’ for fee-earners so that they can request help from colleagues if they are facing a work overload.

If any fee-earner, partner or associate, has too much on their plate and has no time to go round the office and ask for help, they can press the button. They will be pushed to the top of the list and a warning light flashes.

Pusch says use of the app is not mandatory but the take-up is 98 per cent. “People love it. It takes five to 10 seconds to show your availability, so it saves a lot of time. Previously, you would you would have to write an email asking, ‘Who can can help me? Please reply’ and there would be an inevitable time-lag and a lot of chatter before you found someone.”

“It is basically putting our culture into an app. There has always been an understanding here that when you leave the office you check your colleagues are okay. The app helps us to help with that.”

The system has attracted attention from other members of the L&E Global network of specialist employment firms that Pusch Wahlig is a part of. “Our Canadian partner is very interested,” says Pusch; “it will be one of the key items of discussion in their next partner meeting.”

Work allocation is a perennial topic of contention in the profession and many UK law firms are looking at the topic anew, with a number utilising technology and introducing the new role of ‘work allocation manager’ to help make the process more fair.