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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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