In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, every person has their place in an assembly line society. They are conditioned to love it, to worship 'Our Ford'. Conformity is a way of life.
Modern working never quite got that bad, but almost. And as WeWork struggles financially, postponing its IPO after investors queried its massive losses, is the attempt to break free of drab Fordian conformity doomed to fail? Will we all be back in traditional offices, slaving away?
Not in the legal profession, at any rate.
At Carbon Law Partners, we work in an open, flexible and collaborative way, with each other and with our clients. Clients expect it.
The solution, as WeWork is discovering, is not all that simple. Hot desking and working from home is not for everyone. But there's no excuse for massive office costs pushing up clients' bills. There's no excuse for haughty partners hiving off work down the chain to junior lawyers unable to give useful advice, hemmed in by hierarchy and a risk-averse culture. Clients are forcing the pace and changing the way lawyers work.
At Carbon we can work with other partners in an office, or from home, or from the clients' office: wherever we like so long as we protect our clients' confidentiality and data. And we get a stake in the company too, a further incentive if one were needed.
So lawyers shouldn't worry about WeWork. They should be brave: break free from the Brave New World.
The office is bound to change further. Some firms may ask if it makes sense to have offices in city centres. In an era of remote collaboration, software and documents sit in the cloud and offices could disperse to cheaper places.