WFH guidance to be dropped on 19 July
Almost a quarter of junior lawyers are expected to work from the office full-time after government guidance to work from home is dropped on what is being dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ on 19 July.
Twenty-four percent of junior lawyers that responded to a recent Legal Cheek poll said that their firm expects them to get back in the office in less than two weeks’ time on a full-time basis, and in spite of the pandemic showing working remotely at scale is achievable.
Whether such an expectation is welcome is questionable. From the conversations we’ve had with junior lawyers many seem to welcome a return to the office, for greater supervision, camaraderie and a chance to develop more healthy boundaries between work life and home. Others, meanwhile, have expressed fears of “micro-management” and a return to the long working hours culture in addition to commuting time.
There have been numerous reports of flexible working policies introduced by law firms across the City in recent months. The majority have taken a middling approach that will see their lawyers and staff split their time evenly between working from the office and home. Slaughter and May and Hogan Lovells, however, have gone so far as to specify their trainee solicitors can only work from home for one day a week (those more senior get up to two days), while Paul Hastings has told its lawyers and staff to work from the office “by default” from September. By contrast, Ropes & Gray has done away with the expectation its lawyers in London, and globally, must be in the office for five days a week.
It’ll be interesting to see how these new policies play out in practice, and whether the results of our poll of over 1,000 junior lawyers ring true. Whether they need to be in the office depends on a multitude of factors such as the department they work in, team and client need, and the peaks and troughs of a deal. Legal Cheek will be following closely.
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