City law firms push ahead with return to office plans

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Legal life slowly returns to (a new) normal

City law firms have begun outlining their return to office and remote-working plans in light of lockdown restrictions easing.

The government expects to lift most coronavirus restrictions by late June, which is around the time many lawyers are likely to return to the office in some form.

Clyde & Co said it intends to introduce a “hybrid working model” once lockdown is eased, with most people working from the office for a minimum of two days a week. The new model is expected to take effect in the autumn.

The firm also plans to vacate one of its two London offices. From 1 May, all London staff based in Beaufort House will move into the neighbouring St Botolph Building, eliminating 82,574 square feet of office space.

Once the move is complete, London teams will book spaces in the office using the same system introduced when offices were reopened in the summer of 2020, with teams sat in ‘neighbourhoods’ and Covid-safety measures in place.

Rob Hill, partner and chair of Clyde & Co’s UK board, said: “Remote-working for a long period under the spectre of the pandemic has not been easy for anyone, but it has brought with it many benefits too, many of which our people have consistently told us they value highly.”

Hill continued:

“We also know that people miss working together in a physical office space and as a firm we are keen to maintain the very many benefits that face to face interactions and collaboration brings to us and our clients. We think our hybrid working model will allow for the best of both.”

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Pinsent Masons, meanwhile, has re-opened its UK offices, the firm confirmed last week. It continues to advise its lawyers and staff to work from home where possible, in line with current government guidance, but said those with a need to go into the office are able to do so.

Pinsents is also understood to have surveyed its people on their preferences for post-pandemic working arrangements, with early indications showing the majority anticipate a blend of home and office-based working in the future.

Ropes & Gray is similarly said to be surveying its London lawyers and staff for their remote-working preferences.

Meanwhile, Latham & Watkins is operating a system in its London office where lawyers who wish to go in can do so as long as it’s on a ‘one week on and one week off’ basis. They can apply for permission to come in at other times.

A number of firms, including members of the magic circle, are letting their lawyers and staff work from home for up to half of the time. This could mean, in practice, that they spend around two to three days in the office and the rest working remotely.

In other instances we’ve seen national law firms decide to shutter some of their offices and move all lawyers and staff working there to permanent remote-working.

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Law firms and hot desking do not mix. Imagine trying to take calls with people yapping loudly right next to you and then having to clear your entire desk at 2am after a sweaty shift only to shove it all into a locker somewhere and fight for space in the morning.



Also, it would surely be much harder to preserve Chinese Walls in a hot-desking system?



It works if you can work without paper. I was sceptical too, but I haven’t had need to print anything in over a year.


Equity partner

The WFH during the pandemic has been awful, we have installed manacles at each desk for the return to the office.

Some might say saving on rent would help profits. These people forget that law firms’ real purpose is not profit, but to give immense self importance to partners with a severe need to cover the crippling insecurities resulting from years of dormitory bullying. That laudable aim cannot be achieved from the spare room or even a very expensive garden office.



Ha ha, I realise this comment is satire, but here’s another view:

I’m 2 PQE in a City firm in London. I want to get back to the office 5 days/week ASAP. The last year has been lonely and miserable, and professionally it can not be anything other than self-evidently inferior to being co-located with the senior associates and partners from whom I want to learn my profession. I don’t mind working 9am-9pm (and the rest), Mon-Fri, and many weekends: I knew what I was getting in to. I did not, and do not, however want to do that stuck in a room miles from everyone else, connected only by ephemeral Zoom calls.

That’s despite the fact that I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate in that, because I’m paid well, I live by myself and have fast broadband, a huge desk, double monitors, etc. That’s all irrelevant.

I recognise that there are many people for whom WFH is ideal, particularly those with children. There is however a misalignment between the individual lawyers’ interests and the firm’s interests (even if it feels politically inexpedient to acknowledge that). Having fee earners in the office 9am-9pm Monday-Friday definitely works for the firm, but it is also optimal for many/most junior lawyers.

It will be interesting to observe how things play out. My main point is that vocal WFH advocates do not necessarily – without any criticism of them – represent either junior lawyers’ or firms’ interests.



I can’t imagine many firms will stop you going into the office 5 days a week if that’s what you want to do (aside from the few who have made the unfortunate decision to close offices). But you can’t expect everyone else to do the same just because it’s your preference, or because you want to learn from them. The benefits of flexibility are too valuable, to too many people, for us to ever go back to exactly how things were. The challenge now will be how to encourage collaboration and facilitate everyone’s learning and development, when the entire team will rarely be in the same place at any given time. That is a challenge which will require innovative solutions and won’t be solved overnight.



@Realist I find it hard to believe you have never chosen to WFH, let’s really be real


Quick question (serious answers please)

Is Kennedys a good firm? And what do you base your answers on? Serious answers please



top insurance shop tippity top



Decent at what it does but VERY insurance focused – lesser reputation in comm lit, TMT, even corporate than some of the other insurance heavy firms (eg Clydes, HFW, RPC).



Would you accept a TC there?


:D :D :D




Did a vac scheme there back in the day. Nice firm but on the lower-end for pay and didn’t at the time fund the LPC/GDL – think it does now. It is very insurance focused and seems to hire a lot of people from the industry as well as uni graduates.



Approximately how much was the pay out of interest?



£200-300 pw.



Insurance. Shrinking market with terrible margins. Not good prospects for any of the players. No chance of them diversifying out either.



And why is that? I’m not the same person as the original questioner but a lot of the firms I’ve applied to for TCs do a lot of work for insureds. Just curious to know why the market’s looking bad.



I wouldn’t be worried. The market isn’t going anywhere. Rates are competitive, but that has always been the case. The benefit you get is that insurers will give you a very steady flow of instructions. Rates get competitive because law firms will be willing to drop their rates in order to get their hands on the work. Generally that means a lot of the work is done out of regional offices, with London retaining only the more complex or high value matters.



“Rates are competitive” really means “margin and hence pay is low”.


True, but it also provides for a relatively steady career path and work-life balance as a result. Generally speaking there is less expectation when it comes to hours working at a firm that does a lot of work for insurers. That is reflected in the target hours and culture of those firms more generally. If you want to end up at a firm where you are charged out at a high rate, you end up on a very good 6 figure salary as an associated, and you ultimately end up being a super high earning equity partner, then a firm that does a lot of insurance is not for you. If you’re happy to earn a salary on the lower end of the city spectrum in exchange for your 1500-1600 billable hours per year, then it is something worth considering.

Kirkland equity trainee

It’s a shet has-been firm that pays peanuts.

Avoid those toilet shops and go big dolla US firm only. Anything less is a mugs game for castrato gimps and loosers looool


Person that posted at 1:06

Thanks to everyone that answered the question btw. It’s very rare people get honest answers here and I expected to just get trolled lol (btw if anyone else has an opinion on the firm please chime in)


US trainee bagging phat dolla

It’s a shet ferm where you get payd peanutz. go big boi Kirkland or gtfo lil gimp



Half wit.



@Roland what would you describe as “the lower end of the city spectrum” in terms jf salary?



Probably anywhere between £60,000-65,000 at NQ, with diminutive raises thereafter. Not worth it in London.



Not enough to ever own a property in a decent part of London. So factor in long commutes into the work/life balance.



Above comment is accurate. I was on 65k at NQ, now on 76k at 3PQE.

As for quality of lifestyle in London, I get on fine. I purchased a property in a reasonable area (i.e. not a dump and a short commute) with my other half (who earns a good salary but not as much as me) a year ago. As pointed out by the above poster, if you did it on your own then you might need to sacrifice on commute distance.


Kirkland nq

Major oof brah.

I mean, if you’re 3PQE in the City and you’re earning just £76k gross, you might as well strap yourself into a Mitsubishi A6M Zero, load up gasoline and go Kamikaze into the nearest aircraft carrier because that is desperate.



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