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Freshfields latest to let lawyers work from home up to half the time

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Interim measure includes trainees

Freshfields joins a recent swathe of law firms allowing their lawyers and staff to work remotely for up to half the time.

The magic circle firm yesterday announced a new agile working policy for lawyers, including trainees, and business professionals to work from home for up to 50% of their time provided that any arrangements take account of client and business commitments.

The policy comes into effect when government restrictions on office-based work have been lifted, and is an interim measure recognising that preferences may evolve as offices re-open. It applies in the firm’s London and Manchester offices.

Claire Wills, London managing partner, said: “Our guidance follows feedback from colleagues who signalled a clear preference for more flexibility but also recognises the importance of in-person interaction to our culture, personal development and client engagement.”

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Olivia Balson, director of Freshfields’ global centre, located in Manchester, added: “We still see the office location for the Global Centre in Manchester as holding an important role in our connections, our collaboration, development and innovation. At the same time, we strongly believe in the value of a balance between remote and office-based working.”

Freshies is the latest law firm to offer staff a balance between remote and office-based working. Magic circle rival Linklaters confirmed in the summer that lawyers and staff can work remotely for up to 20-50% of the time as part of a new long-term global policy. Other law firms to implement similar hybrid work policies include Norton Rose Fulbright, Taylor Wessing, Herbert Smith Freehills and Squire Patton Boggs.

Freshfields recently re-located its London headquarters to 100 Bishopsgate, a brand spanking new skyscraper in the Square Mile.

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75 Comments

Future FF Trainee

My heart sinks at this. How can seniors not realise how crucial the office environment is for more junior lawyers, especially trainees?

Even if lawyers are given the choice of where to work, it is likely that a good percentage of more senior lawyers will choose to work from home for half of the week, meaning that the office will be half empty, with the opportunities to gain ‘tacit knowledge’ and build your network halved.

We don’t need to go as far as having policies such as this to have flexibility built in our work patterns – I am sure that asking to wfh once in a while for personal reasons was never looked down upon.

Please FF, reconsider.

Anon

Unfortunately the policies are necessary – there are too many City partners who still subscribe to facetime culture and it has got to be stamped out if this industry is going to improve retention, this is the best chance we will ever get.

This isn’t about “asking to wfh once in a while”, this is about people taking ownership of their careers and getting their work done in a way and in a place which suits their wider lives. It’s pretty demeaning to have to ask “permission” to work from home in this day and age, and I can tell you from experience that there absolutely are partners out there who look down upon it, some of whom have said as much to my face.

Mid level associate

I will not go into the office for the sake of allegedly “training” a trainee or providing them with networking opportunities. It’s a grim enough job as it is, the home working (and hopefully more of it in the future) is what makes it survivable. You’ll get it in a few years when it’s you and you realise that nobody in these work environments will do anything that isn’t motivated by self interest.

Trainee

If this job has been grim for 4-5 years + for you, Mr Mid Level Associate, and is only survivable because of the last year of WFH you really should have already, and certainly should going forward, consider a different career.

Such tripe on this comment board. Get a grip – you 100% signed up to this job and your job DOES include training trainees… Or have you forgot how you learnt all those (… 2-3 years) ago.

US Firm Associate

Absolutely spot on, could not agree with your comment more. The glaring point people seem to miss is that no one is forced to work at a law firm (or any place of work). People know what they sign up for, and if they’re moaning about it 5 years down the line, that’s on them.

tips@legalcheek.com

I think you misunderstand what concepts like “law firm” and “business” mean. I will try to explain this to you.

Law firms are not universities and are not created to train people, they are created to make profit. Firms invest into training contracts and trainees because it is good for business to have a steady pipeline of relatively experienced juniors coming in through the TC. However, trainees do not bring almost any profit, nothing that they do cannot be done by a junior (for more complex tasks) or a PA (for more menial tasks).

Associates are also not university tutors. They are usually trying their best to train their trainees (though each firm has a couple of notoriously bad supervisors) but they not hired to train them. Instead, they need to reach completely unreasonable billable targets to help their firm to make profit, all in between caring for their kids and/or parents, and trying to have some semblance of a normal life.

Genuinely works in a law firm

Whilst I understand this argument there’s something you’re missing.

Good firms tank if there isn’t any genuine talent coming up the ranks. Yes they can nab partners from other firms but that opens a whole new can of worms when it comes to retaining clients.

We all know of a firms department that went through some shit after their seniors retired / moved on.

Mid level MC

The earlier you realise that no one’s JD includes training you, the better for you! You cannot ask of people to go to office merely to train you and network with you. People have families, home commitments and their careers to worry about. Training you is the very least of anyone’s problem since no one gets a bonus based on how they trained you.

Other MC associate

You clearly haven’t grasped how a well trained trainee can actually help you as an associate, that’s a shame

NQ

What a strange series of comments, assuming that training or networking are not essential parts of the business model of a law firm.

Training trainees is not something firms do out of a sense of charity or goodwill. Training future associates is crucial given that law is a people business. The only reason people are prepared to pay more for certain firms is that they have good lawyers willing to put the client first. I don’t think you need to be in the office all the time to train trainees. But pretending that trainees feeling like they don’t know anyone at the firm, or have missed out on learning soft skills by watching partners/associates isn’t a problem for the firm as well as the individual is clearly nonsense.

fdfd

Is it not possible that when there are fewer senior lawyers on site, those that are there will be more inclined to interact with juniors?

dr cadwalader

Wondering how this will play out lmao

Inb4 anyone beyond 1PQE camps at home and there’s zero point in more junior people turning up to the office

i.e. defeating the purpose of this entire policy

Anon

Who are these strange people who want to be in the office? I love Working From Home, can save a fortune and cut out the commute. I don’t think water cooler chats are so valuable that it’s worth sacrificing a fat better quality of life for them.

stfu

Literally. Everyone else is a whiny fcker

FlourPour

And like Zoom etc. aren’t perfect but are they so imperfect that it merits putting on proper clothes and wasting an hour or two of the day to chat things over face to face? I think even 50% wfh is too little. We only need to go into the office for the big meetings.

Gregg

It is propaganda. Notice how other countries have adapted after the pandemic and lockdown whereas the UK is trying to return to it’s precovid work life.

A 4 day working week is reasonable and many other countries have started adopting it especially after lockdown but the UK and cities like London in particular are being funny about it for some reason.

WJ

It’s intense enough doing an 8 seat TC

Dan

Firms like FF (and Jones Day and others) deliberately alter the TC seats because it gives you fewer exit options and means you’re more likely to want to stay at the same firm post qualification.

When you apply for NQ roles almost all firms will ask for 6months or more in the seat which is for the department you are applying to.

If you’ve done 2 months here and 2 months or 3 months here and there etc..

firstly you might not have enough months to make up the seat you want to qualify in.

Secondly, even if you do have enough months, it’s not consistent and scattered among the 2 years so it’s unlikely that you will have seen enough work or even settled in to that seat to learn enough in that timeframe before you had to rotate seats again.

I steered clear from firms who didn’t offer the traditional TC seat rotation and I saw my friends at firms with a non traditional seat rotation struggle.

James

This happened to me but with a firm that did a 6 seat rotation.

I only ended up doing 4 months in the seat I wanted to qualify in but the firm didn’t keep me on and I wasn’t able to find another firm which would take me on with only a 4 month seat experience in that department.

Anon

I had a similar experience at Dechert

Sarah

You can repeat seats at Dechert

Anon

Also rare to find a trainee at FF who hasn’t essentially done 6 months in a team. Whether that be extending to 6 months in a Corporate seat, doing a second (or third) Disputes seat, or doing Corporate Finance then e.g. Leveraged Finance.

I’d much rather the 6 seats then secondment structure than 4 seats (one of which may be 6 months somewhere you hate) and not knowing if you’d have loved a different practice area you never got chance to see.

Poopot

Love hearing references to FF’s culture.

You’d have a more collegiate culture in a Ukrainian Sulphur mine.

hmm

stories pls

Anonymous

I got mocked for not saying “schedule“ properly.

G

I was there many years back but I constantly got laughed at for the way I dressed.

Sad that things haven’t changed much

Charles

This is coming from the same people who say “you know” and “sort of” and “kind of” in every single sentence

Anon

Good. Those with a proper education would not pronounce it in the American fashion. It is a red flag.

Tom

How do you pronounce school? scholarship? scholar? scholarship? Schizophrenia?

shhhh

shool, sholar, sholarship, shizophrenia

Anon

Where to start?!

Ed

FF is far from collegiate.

The TC is based on a sheet scoring system which is ridiculous and makes for a highly competitive hunger games environment where trainees end up choosing seats based on lenient supervisors who are known for scoring highly rather than where they actually want to end up because there might be a harsh supervisor who is notorious for being strict when it comes to the scores

Elliott

As with any workplace, there are some people who might not be quite so lovely, but we were told that “HR makes valiant efforts to tackle” any poor and distinctly ‘un-Freshfields’ behaviour

– This is an actual line from a FF firm description

William E

“There is a lot of politics and manoeuvring to become best friends with the partners to increase secondment and qualification chances, which often means some of the quieter, hardest working trainees are ignored by the partners completely.”

Anon

Take a look at the RollOnFriday survey comments as well. The culture ones are quite funny.

Adam

“The firm has also taken seriously some complaints from a couple of years ago about tensions between the junior and senior end of the firm”

L

‘you don’t get to be as profitable as Freshfields by clocking off early and the grind is “expected” by most’ – another actual FF description

hahahhahaaaa

Jacob

“There is a lot of politics and manoeuvring to become best friends with the partners to increase secondment and qualification chances, which often means some of the quieter, hardest working trainees are ignored by the partners completely.”

– Quote from LC Freshfields firm description

https://www.legalcheek.com/firm/freshfields/

Not Propaganda

Don’t understand why LC keep trying to delete this comment when it is a quote directly from their own website.

Utterly ridiculous.

Frank

I noticed them delete it twice lmaoooo

tricky choices

this is going to put a lot of young people in an awkward position when it comes to choosing where to live

do you go for the more comfortable pad further out? or do you stay within a half hour commute of the office in a cramped room that you’ll also have to work from?

what about finding flatmates for living further out? a lot trickier. more options + many don’t want to live in random cheap bits of zones 3 and 4. non-law people will also have more time for partying/going out

i suspect that people will default to one of the two options:
a) live at home far away from the office and commute in 2-3 days a week
b) live close to the office, have a tiny flat, go to the office nearly every day as a result because the flat sucks

senior people won’t have to make these decisions if they have a big house somewhere nice but difficult to commute from (e.g. Chiswick, Wimbledon, etc)

Andrew

Could any associates/trainees offer some advice in regards to this please…

I am a future trainee starting my TC in september in London and have no idea which area to move to.

I have done some research online but it is largely generic and not aimed at young professionals working in central London.

Harvey

You can try to be stingy and frugel with the housing options but you have to question whether that is a sensible decision.

For instance, you can find a tiny room in a house share for less than £500 a month but would you feel comfortable? After a stressful day at work would you feel happy to come home to that room? Also having to share a bathroom/shower with multiple other housemates. Would you have enough space in that room to store all your belongings?

Simon

I agree.

Having your own space and an en suite is so important.

Grace

Having grown up in a house where I have my own bathroom there was no way that I was going to settle for anything less when moving to London

anon

> I have done some research online but it is largely generic and not aimed at young professionals working in central London.

If you can’t Google well enough to find info on where to live in London as a young professional, I really have to wonder how a firm thought you were a good candidate for a TC.

Will

I think that person meant that the information online is largely generic and not aimed at young professionals.

Improve your comprehension skills and stop being rude

Different anon

@Will – oh dear – perhaps it’s time to improve your comprehension skills (also I suspect that you’re the original OP using a different name).

Anon already understood that Andrew had only found generic information online. Their point was that Andrew should really be able to find specific information which is aimed at young professionals (i.e. articles with titles like ‘where to live in London as a recent graduate’).

Bill

How much is reaonable to spend on rent a month as a trainee in London?

Do most trainees do house shares or is it worth it getting a studio?

Ray

People in relationships or couples who move in together end up better off in the end.

You can get a studio for around 1k a month which is modern and all bills included and within walking distance to work.

With the bills split you only end up paying around £500 a month and that is in zone 1/2.

R

Can’t think of anything worse than working from home in a studio with someone else while sharing a fold out bed in the same room to sleep. Two bedrooms are a minimum and you will likely pay around £1k per month each in zone 2 for a modern flat.

V

How much would a mortgage be per month for that same type of flat, roughly?

Anon

I shared doing LPC and then TC until I was 9 months in (£650pcm in Holloway but this was several years back!) then my now wife and I moved in together into a 2 bed flat in North Zone 2 for the rest of my TC – ended up buying another 2 bed nearby at 1PQE. Seemed a fairly standard approach among my peers.

Sto

You forget young people like living centrally not just for work but because that’s where most fun things for young single people happen. Not many 20 somethings would enjoy living in a semi in Surrey…

Kyle

The trainees who are already from London and live within reasonable distance to central are so lucky.

Get to stay at home with the parents paying no rent and having meals cooked for you and everything done for you whilst you get to pocket a 50k salary in savings

Seriously concerned lawyer

Agree with many of the above comments. ‘I love WFH’ has got to be coming largely coming from 2 year PQEs or above. Imagine starting a training contract tomorrow. How bleak- just sitting in front of a screen for a ‘virtual induction’ and then getting on with your work in that same manner for 10 hours a day. that’s your life for the foreseeable…

At least seeing colleages, having the buzz of London, and nice offices made up for it somewhat…

Not everyone lives in a sprawling country house in the Home Counties…

Many trainees are holed up in London flatshares. I would steer clear of FF if this is how they value their future staff. Just because firms ‘adapated well’ to WFH, this doesn’t mean it’s an adequate replacement for being in the office, especially from a training perspective.

Seb

I would steer clear of FF regardless of the WFH policy

Anon.

Any reason??

Gross

Smelly feet of supervisors who took their shoes off in congested little offices.

Anon

Any stories?

Anonymous

I actually think WFH could exacerbate face-time culture. For me the issue is not whether you allow flexible working (that ship has sailed, it’s happening) but how you manage a team / firm that’s split between the office and home. It can be very tricky to ensure the members of the team who WFH feel equally included. Pre-pandemic I worked from home for a period while the rest of my team was in the office and I often dialled into meetings and realised I was out of the loop because conversations had happened, emails had been received etc. without me. In a fast-moving job, that’s inevitable. The result was that, despite the rest of the team’s efforts, I was simply not as integral a member as if I had been in the office.

If, say, the partner who leads your team generally prefers working in the office, then as a junior, assuming you’re ambitious, you will want to be seen in the office too, regardless of your entitlement under the firm’s WFH policy. Spread across an entire firm, this could create a two-tiered situation, where the ambitious and mobile are in the office while those who are less bothered (or those who have no choice) work from home.

That would certainly be a very unfair characterisation of why some people choose to WFH more often but it’s the perception that matters, especially e.g. when seniors consider promotions. This would be a very unfortunate consequence for e.g. women who are statistically more likely to bear the burden of child care and are likely therefore to WFH more than men (not discounting of course that men might become more involved domestically, although the studies so far suggest this has not happened). This is not a new problem but will be far more widespread when the hybrid WFH / office model takes off.

This won’t necessarily happen and obviously you can work out timetables so that people in a team are in the office or at home on the same days. But you can easily imagine references to ‘the office people’ and ‘the WFH people.’ The risk is worth considering, the road to hell is paved with good intentions etc.

Random passer-by

I just think people are going overboard with their reactions. Not everyone is going to work from home all the time, particularly not in a profession like law where the offices are so nice and well located. The good thing is now working from home once a week, say Friday, will no longer be considered an issue. Or if you have a very stressful home situation due to a loved one being sick, working from home 2-3 days a week for a few weeks will be tolerated. That seems to me to be the major difference. Arrange meetings for earlier in the week when you are there. I would still want to be in the office 3-4 days a week, but it would be great to have as standard a day at home without feeling like I am missing out. It could even help if one works from home on Friday, you feel less tired on Saturday and can crack on with some work then too from your already well set up home office.

Stop Crying

Why is everyone up in arms? “Up to 50%” is at most 2 full days at home (ok, 2.5, but would you really commute in and then leave half way through?). Were likely going to see a Tuesday – Thursday office working week. That seems good to me. I don’t see why you need to live a million miles away, likewise, I’m certain that firms with all of this real estate aren’t going to want to see it wasted. I’m sure if you want to work in the office, you can. If you want to work at home, you can. Now,if you want to work from home, you just need to factor that into your decision making process when getting s flat.

Tony Mony

The issue is that for those who don’t have the money or inclination to buy far out, nothing has changed.

These people are still going to have to go into the office for 3 days a week, and, given that no one wants to be working from a cramped apartment (and taking up valuable space with monitors, ring binders, etc.), are likely to want to go into the office for most of the remaining 2 days anyway.

So we have a two-tiered system where:
– senior staff and especially partners WFH 2 or 3 days a week if they want to
– junior staff still live in cramped central locations and WFH 4 or 5 days a week because there’s no real alternative

This is only a step forward for people who are senior enough to be able to afford a nice pad further out AND not care about having to be in the office for face culture/presenteeism reasons. Namely, partners, of counsel, and associates who are lucky enough to have a pro-WFH supervisor. This is a move that benefits the well-off. Great.

Woman in the corporate world

Agreed with this. I think that it’s especially important to point out that, unless you’re a partner, your WFH routine will be determined by someone else, such as a partner or the department’s policy. This, by definition, is not flexibility. It’s just a different work schedule imposed on a top-down basis. If it is decided that WFH won’t happen, it won’t. If it is decided that WFH will happen on Fridays only, that’s what will happen. You are theoretically free to come to an empty office on the days everyone else is WFH but no one worth seeing will be there.

I appreciate that this is how lawyering has always been but firms shouldn’t be able to get brownie points for such policies. I reserve my praise for firms that are genuinely happy to accommodate people WFHing at short notice and on unusual days (e.g. Wednesdays), and don’t set arbitrary numbers or limits.

anon

So we’re arguing that WFH is bad because it benefits the well-off, but it’s good because it allows you to be flexible, but it’s bad because it’s inflexible, but it’s good because it reduces the face-time culture… The comments section here is a mess.

Woman in the corporate world

What are you talking about? I don’t care about what the other posters said. I have my position, which is that the WFH policy is not as flexible as some portray it to be. The flexibility only comes to those whose bosses allow it.

The poster I quoted made a similar but distinct point about flexibility. WFH gives a lot more flexibility to those living further out than it does to those living in unpleasant central London conditions, who will likely transition back to the office in the long run.

I’m sure that other people have their own gripes with WFH. We’re not a monolith. Maybe if you started treating the sceptics with a bit more nuance than “oh they all hate WFH” you’d appreciate that. For example, I disagree with the suggestion that my family life should be impacted because a trainee wants a water cooler chat or their hand held. However, I agree that team building is important and that designated days should be set aside for that. See? Nuance.

Larry

You just want to avoid the commute, you lazy thing.

Sam

Sounds dreadful. Glad I don’t work there.

Freshfields Trainee

WFH has been a blessing for me. I have finally been able to concentrate on the actual legal work clients pay us for. I went into law to help clients. Any “training” I received at the office was how to avoid my psycho supervisor who would harangue and belittle me every single day in our tiny office for 70 hours a week.

Bore off

I would put money on the fact you don’t even work at Freshfields. WFH has helped you focus on “legal work” and “helping clients“? Please.

This comment section is a mess and blatantly full of bored students or people who have never stepped foot in FF using anonymity and/or fake job titles to post rubbish. A few of my friends are FF trainees and say it’s a great place to work, their supervisors have all been nice (some more chatty than others but all pleasant) and is very collegiate among their intake. Maybe I’ll post a comment as a “Freshfields trainee” saying my supervisor makes me pick up their dry cleaning and do the cha cha slide every morning and everyone will take it as gospel.

Freshfields Trainee

I do work at FBD. There was an internal London call at 4pm today. Not much else I can really say to convince you and don’t particularly care if you don’t think I work there 🙂

I work at FF

Don’t understand why people are getting so worried. This won’t happen. Very few FF partners or associates will WFH, certainly nobody who wants to do well and no one from any of their star big money departments. It’s a big announcement but won’t happen in reality. Some associates might WFH once a month or after they have pulled 3 all nighters in the office. Won’t happen. FF are not flexible. They don’t care. Toxic.

Comments section full of Deringers

No one who works there uses ‘FF’. Yawn.

^^

lmao

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