Come into the office just 60% of the time, Herbert Smith Freehills tells lawyers

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Benchmark set for post-pandemic operations

Herbert Smith Freehills’ London office

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has become the latest City law firm to update its agile working policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with lawyers and support staff now excepted to work in the office for an average of 60% of their working time.

The global firm said the 60% benchmark applies to partners, lawyers and business services roles, including PAs, and can be adjusted to suit each individual, team and situation.

By way of example, some lawyers may come to office for “critical phases of team projects”, the firm said, “but then spend more time working from home during the weeks that follow”.

Commenting on the policy update, the firm’s CEO, Justin D’Agostino, said: “Despite the pressure and worries of the pandemic, we know that many of our people have greatly valued the flexibility of how, where and when we work, gaining more time for their families, health and other commitments.”

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He continued:

“We also recognise that the office will remain an important place for connection, collaboration and learning, with clients and with each other. By setting this benchmark for post-pandemic operations, we hope to give our people the flexibility to design a working pattern that suits them, their colleagues and our clients, and to offer some certainty in uncertain times.”

The 60% benchmark will only apply once the firm’s London office is physically open and operational, and social distancing rules have been relaxed or removed.

Magic circle player Linklaters introduced a similar policy last month, telling lawyers and staff they will now have the opportunity to work remotely for up to 20-50% of their time. Similarly, Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) announced recently it was abolishing “core hours” so it can offer lawyers and staff greater flexibility with start and finish times.

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This won’t last, trust me. After the pandemic lawyers will be back in the office five days a week and we’ll all laugh about how we had planned to WFH forever more.



Why? The key difference is now everyone is set up for WFH just as they would be at the office so it makes no difference where you are. Partners and clients have realised all the meetings etc can just be held over video conference and save everyone time and money. Either way there will be no normality until late 2021 at the earliest.



There may be something in this. It’s easy to WFH when everyone is WFH, but not so much when just some people are. 60% in the office will quickly lead to 70%, then 80% – and with most staff in the office it will become harder in practical terms to do things remotely. Also, facetime will still matter in a physical environment.



Good. WFH is a nonsense.



I think the limit on this creep will be office space.

If you’re a HSF partner wandering round a two thirds full office, knowing you pay millions per floor each year, would you keep paying that on the assumption eventually it will get back to normal?



To be honest, WFH saves you a lot on transport. If you’re living in Zone 3/4, you’ll be spending a good £100+ a month on the train ride and plus, you’ll get the extra 1-to 2 hours of sleep (which is a complete lifesaver when you’re ploughing though 13-hour days).



Never live outside Zone 1.



The only issue is when people take the piss by logging in at 10am, like they were somehow caught in a virtual traffic jam/tube delay.


Silver Square

that’s because they only have 60% of the work they did pre Covid


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