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Law Society issues trainee support guidance following flurry of flexible working policies

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Many firms now letting lawyers work away from the office 50% of the time

The Law Society of England and Wales has issued fresh guidance on trainee support in response to the rise in flexible working polices being introduced by law firms.

The Chancery Lane guidance, published yesterday, aims to ensure law firm staff, particular those at very junior end, are appropriately supervised and supported when working away from the office.

Scheduling regular catch ups with a supervisor or as team to gauge the workload and wellbeing of trainees is essential, the Law Society says. Rookies should also have an opportunity to ask questions in order to better understand their role and responsibilities.

Elsewhere, the solicitor body advises law firm bosses to consider “how to share their thinking” by using technology to draft together on separate screens or using coaching questions to elicit answers from their junior staff rather than providing solutions.

Other top tips include setting clear working hours and expectations, and ensuring that senior staff model the expected behaviours and do not unreasonably make demands on junior staff outside of these arrangements. You can view the guidance in full here.

Commenting on the guidance, Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “Since March 2020, solicitors have been working and supervising junior staff and trainee solicitors remotely. It’s clear the pandemic has changed the way we view work. We want to guide our members on how to ensure their junior staff are being supported in the best possible way.”

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She continued:

“With the imminent return to the office, many firms and organisations are considering a hybrid model, with some form of remote working arrangements alongside time spent in the office. There are some areas of good practice that should be taken into account when deciding working arrangements to ensure junior staff, and trainees in particular, are appropriately supervised and supported as the profession plans its return to the office. As such, we have developed guidance based on member feedback to support employers and staff come to suitable working arrangements.”

The guidance comes as law firms announce longterm, hybrid work policies in response to the easing of the lockdown measures.

The likes of Freshfields, Linklaters, Clifford Chance, Gowling WLG and Taylor Wessing have all recently gave the go-ahead for their lawyers and staff to work away from the office for up to 50% of the time, while US outfit Ropes & Gray confirmed last week that it no longer expects its UK lawyers to be in the office five days a week.

Other law firms to implement hybrid work policies include Irwin Mitchell, Norton Rose Fulbright, Herbert Smith Freehills and Squire Patton Boggs.

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8 Comments

Anonymous

Has anyone on here had a good experience doing the first year of their TC online?

I’m starting in September and I’m worried that the permanent switch to WFH 50% of the time will make it far harder to get to know my team and to receive training.

Perhaps I’m being overly pessimistic and I’m aware that the experience will be entirely dependant on how active your supervisor is, but it would be good to hear from current trainees.

Thanks!

(5)(25)

Anon

I’m about to complete the first year of my TC online and it’s been rough. Heavy workloads with no visibility, limited access to superiors, unsustainable hours…it’s all happening. These lip service ‘guidance’ announcements do little to address the issue I’m afraid.

(13)(1)

1st year trainee

Been great,

have done 5 days in the office in my first two seats. Literally hundreds of hours saved in commuting. Not to mention the cost savings on travel and lunch.

I am more productive wfh, less distracted than working in the office. Supervisor is only a call away. My reviews have been great.

Absolutely love it, will not even consider qualifying into a seat that requires me in the office more than one day per week.

(5)(3)

WFH shill

Great banter lad. You must be very accustomed to extreme isolation if you’d rather work one day/week in the office, not to mention content with getting a severely worsened training experience. 99% of supervisors are shovelling even more work our way because they know there’s no commute and that we’re at home now.

Having said that, maybe you’re training at a third-rate firm where expectations are low – in which case lol.

(5)(7)

Anonymous

“Extreme isolation”? They probably don’t live on a desert island, and a lot of the isolation everyone has experienced this year is not due to WFH but you know… the global pandemic and lockdowns.

If you can’t get hold of your supervisor and they’re giving you unsustainable workloads, sounds like your firm is the shit one.

(9)(4)

1st year trainee

Could be,

Alternatively I just prefer to use my time more productively, am not afraid of getting more work, don’t need to be in the office so I can use phrases like ‘great banter lad’.

More realistically you lack the confidence to work alone and prefer to spend your time chatting, brow-nosing and showing off the Gucci socks your mum bought you.

Horses for courses my friend horses for courses. Fairly sure I know which one I prefer.

(4)(2)

Goober Alert

Stick to making 90k/year bub.

(4)(0)

Joe

I guessed you have to be there to experience it. WFH has come to stay I am afraid with its pros and cons. This is similar to when computer was introduced, it came with its problems but people got over it.
On the side of training, I agree that it can be quite worrisome to train by remote learning, hey, if it is the new way of training, I guess a little adjustment would suffice.

(0)(1)

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