City firms fall over themselves to trumpet benefits of working one day-a-week from home

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By Alex Aldridge on

“Agile working” is the latest corporate law trend


A host top law firms has come out to proclaim new “agile working” initiatives that give solicitors greater flexibility.

Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and Linklaters have announced schemes that enable lawyers to work from home one day-a-week.

A spokesperson from Linklaters — where 7% of staff work flexibly — said that the policy was launched after previous successful trials. She told Legal Cheek today:

In London we trialled a formal flexible/agile working arrangement to break down preconceptions. This involved allowing anyone who wished to do so, to work from home one day a week. Some did, some didn’t, but the option was open to all, talked about and championed. Since this pilot we have had other groups adopt this approach.

CC and Herbies are operating similarly, with the magic circle firm actively encouraging partners to work from home, according to The Lawyer, and HSF having brought in agile working following a similar practice run to that used by Linklaters.

Other firms to encourage solicitors to work flexibly include Mishcon de Reya, Quinn Emanuel , Wedlake Bell, Foot Anstey and DAC Beachcroft. Notably, the former duo announced their initiatives through brash statements, with Mischon’s boss Kevin Gold bellowing last year, “Work three-day weeks and take unlimited holidays”, and Quinn pledging £1,200 to each of its lawyers to go anywhere in the world they chose for a week — to work remotely.

Unsurprisingly, such pronouncements tend to be met with scepticism by world weary trainees and junior lawyers, many of whom privately admit to seeing a disconnect between firms’ public statements on flexible working and reality.

One trainee at a top City law firm indicated to Legal Cheek this afternoon that the ability to work one day-a-week from home meant relatively little in the context of a life “chained to my Blackberry, which is constantly buzzing with urgent work emails throughout the evening”. He added:

I fail to see how this flexible working scheme will improve my work/life balance. The option to work from home one day a week — which is effectively a token gesture by firms — fails to adequately address the high stress levels and chronic hours faced by many lawyers in the City. In addition to this, I prefer keeping my work and home life separate.