Smartphones and tablets are encouraging a culture of long hours in the legal profession, according to a new study by the Law Society of Scotland.

While these advances do allow for more flexible working, the organisation has found that they are widening, rather than reducing, the gap between those prepared to work additional hours and those who would rather not.

The findings are included in the Perceptions and Impacts of Working Patterns within the Legal Profession in Scotland report, which is a follow-up to the Profile of the Profession study, which was the largest of its kind carried out by the society.

The creation of the study involved group and telephone interviews of solicitors, and examined the experiences of those working full-time, part time, condensed hours and from home. One of the main areas focused on was the impact of technology.

Neil Stevenson, Director of Representation and Support at the Law Society, said: “We wanted to test whether technology was helping create a more level playing field for those working flexibly or on reduced hours, or whether it was helping the ‘alphas’ in the profession, whether male or female, work even longer hours.”

The report found that a “culture of extensive overtime has become endemic across the profession.”

It said: “Technology was seen to contribute to this increased workload. In particular, smartphone devices with push technology activated was seen as a significant driver of additional hours and a reduction in an acceptable work/life balance.

“Solicitors reported persistently receiving emails outwith office hours, along with an expectation, both by clients and their firm or organisation, that they will respond instantly. Feelings of not being able to switch off and being permanently tied to the office were commonplace.

“Whilst there were advantages discussed in relation to the impact of technology, most individuals of all grades and working patterns highlighted the challenges and negative impacts this had brought to the profession.”

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