Flexible Working Policies: A Firm-By-Firm Guide
A round-up of how the top law firms plan to balance office and remote working after the COVID-19 restrictions lift.
As more and more firms continue to rethink their flexible working policies to prepare for a return to offices once COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted, here is a list of firms that have already announced their plans.
Allen & Overy
Allen & Overy expects its lawyers and staff to be able to work remotely 40% of the time – or two days per week – on average in the future, management said in March. Its senior partner Wim Dejonghe explained that he expects lawyers and staff globally will work from offices for around 60% of the time, depending on individual requirements.
Although Baker McKenzie has not announced any global scheme, the firm is currently redesigning its flexible working policy in Australia and has assembled a diverse group of lawyers and professionals, including younger staff, to make recommendations about its future workspace and work practices.
Bird & Bird
Staff, including partners, at Bird & Bird will be allowed to work from home up to 50% of the time, the firm said in March. The new requirements will be subject to client and business needs, a spokesperson added. The new policy will be introduced globally and will come into place when respective government restrictions in office jurisdictions lift.
Australian firm Clayton Utz said in November that it is aiming to be flexible in its approach to working arrangements rather than adopting hard and fast rules. The firm is running team-based flexibility workshops so members can consider their preferences and discuss the practicalities that will help them function effectively.
In March, U.K. firm DAC Beachcroft said it will allow its lawyers and staff the choice on where they work and during what hours, as part of a updated flexible working policy. From June 21, U.K. workers will be able to work from the office, from home or from a mix of both and will be able to select the times they work to make up their hours through the new system, dubbed Flex Forward.
DLA Piper has drawn up a international remote-working policy that will allow all its people outside the U.S., including partners, to work two days per week from home, as long as it is agreed in advance with their respective line managers.
Fieldfisher has told U.K. staff that it anticipates them working three days a week in the office, or the equivalent pro-rated for part-time employees, after the pandemic restrictions lift. A spokesperson for the firm added that the three-day figure is an aim but not a strict minimum threshold.
U.K. firm Freeths has been one of the few firms to announce any office closures as a result of the new way of working. The firm told staff and lawyers at its Stoke base that they will now work remotely full-time. Staff in the Stoke office will nominally select one of the Birmingham, Manchester or Derby offices as their base location should they need to use an office.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer will allow its U.K. workforce to work remotely for up to 50% of the time post-pandemic, it said in March. The new rule will apply to staff in the firm’s London and Manchester offices, with other global offices also set to review their policies. The firm’s recent move to 100 Bishopsgate in London will operate an ‘office release system’ which means someone else can use your office if you are working remotely.
Herbert Smith Freehills
Herbert Smith Freehills will allow all of its people, including partners, to work remotely up to 40% of the time, the equivalent of up to two days a week, once people can return to offices.
In August, Linklaters was the first firm to enact a new global agile working policy for a post-pandemic world whereby the firm will allow lawyers and employees – including partners – to work remotely for up to 20-50% of their time across all of its offices. Applications for remote working will need to be communicated to teams in advance, and the firm continues to discuss flexible start and finish times, modifying daily ‘core’ hours, as well as modifying hours to allow for commitments outside of work.
Mishcon de Reya
Mishcon de Reya will allow all its staff and lawyers unlimited remote and flexible working going forward, the firm announced in February. All staff based in London and Singapore, including partners and non-fee earners, have been told that they can work whenever or wherever suits them without any firm quotas, subject to basic guiding principles, including the need to organise working patterns around client needs, and work collaboratively.
Norton Rose Fulbright
Norton Rose Fulbright announced in December that it will allow all staff and lawyers, including partners, across all of its Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA) offices to work remotely up to 50% of the time after the coronavirus pandemic.
PwC’s U.K. legal arm told staff in March that they can expect to work in the office or at client sites for around 40% to 60% of their working weeks. The Big Four firm also introduced the concept of an “empowered day”, which will allow staff to decide their own working patterns which suit them for all U.K. staff and divisions, including the legal arm. The firm is also set to introduce ‘summer working hours’ during July and August this year, which would allow staff to finish early on Fridays.
Simmons & Simmons
Following a survey of its staff, Simmons & Simmons will offer its global workforce the option to work remotely for two to three days once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the firm announced in March.
Slater & Gordon
In May last year, Slater & Gordon announced its London staff would work from home permanently. All 200 London employees will work from home most of the time, though the firm will operate some office space which can be used to host meetings.
Taylor Wessing introduced a “hybrid” model of working for its U.K. offices in November, whereby staff will be encouraged to work remotely for one day a week and up to 50% of the time maximum once all government restrictions are lifted.
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