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US law firm Gibson Dunn tells London lawyers ‘work remotely whenever appropriate’

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Trainees too

US law firm Gibson Dunn has laid out its post-pandemic approach to lawyering, telling lawyers they’re free to organise their own office schedules.

The new working policy was communicated internally last week by managing partner Barbara Becker, but Legal Cheek can now reveal it also covers lawyers and trainees in the firm’s London office.

“You are free to work remotely whenever it is appropriate, taking into account the needs of our clients and your teams, and you should feel comfortable doing so,” Becker said in an internal email. “The ability to structure our schedules in a way that is responsive to the needs of our clients and teams, as well as our essential personal and family priorities, is key to a vibrant and sustainable career.”

But lawyers, and particularly juniors and trainees, will be expected to show their faces from time to time, with Becker stressing that the firm didn’t “want anyone to miss out on the immense training, mentorship, and professional development benefits that come with being together in person”.

She continued:

“And we know that we learn and grow from working together. This is especially true for our most junior attorneys and those who are new to the firm, who must not only develop substantive legal skills and expertise, but also thrive in a variety of professional situations that cannot be replicated in other settings.”

A raft of firms have trumped new flexible working initiatives in response to the lifting of lockdown measures.

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Fellow US outfit Ropes & Gray confirmed its lawyers, including those this side of the pond, will no longer be expected to be in the office five days a week, while other City firms have given the go-ahead for staff to work from home two or three days a week.

But not everyone is loving the blurring of home and work life, with one Legal Cheek reader recently taking to our comments section to write:

“I don’t think senior people quite grasp how awful it is. Most trainees are in house shares or live alone in small apartments. The learning by osmosis and being able to sit round the partners table and listen in on calls without being announced: gone. The little walks, coffee breaks and lunchtime chats with your cohort: gone. The ability to bond with your new colleagues and get used to living in London: gone.”

Another lockdown fatigued rookie seemed to agree, responding: “All the old farts who bang on about WFH being ‘the future’ need to read this.”

6 Comments

Perceptive Future Trainee

This WFH thing is p*ssing me off now I must admit

Will lead to a poorer quality of trainees, who are less connected to the Firms they work at, and thus, more receptive to lateral moves. As much as people don’t miss the commute and the early alarm that accompanies it, the office I feel binds people together into a more collective, cohesive group – if you are just WFH this feeling of identity and belonging within Firms is lost.

Really hope that once things go back to normal working in the office trends back to the normality.

Really sad state of affairs

(20)(50)

Yawn

You misspelt prospective.

(21)(5)

LOL YAWN

Must be all that in-person training

(1)(0)

Annoyed Trainee

The only acceptable policy.

Shame the rest of the industry lives 10 years in the past and thinks they’re doing something with their 2 days a week.

(21)(0)

Anon

“Most trainees are in house shares or live alone in small apartments”

The only reason for that is proximity to an office! Remote working means people can live in locations where they will not be forced into a grim house share in a crime-ridden part of London.

(12)(3)

Don't stop fighting

I wish more law firms would take the next step and realise that offices are not essential. Pre-pandemic, did you know your average worker logged an extra 1-2 unpaid hours per day? Of course, I’m talking about the commute. Allowing greater flexibility and WFH would save all of us this extra 1-2 hours of unpaid labour per day. This extra time could be used for rest, extra work, taking care of children or family, or whatever you want really. In fact, several studies show that working from home even boosts productivity and speculate that the lack of commute is the reason for the increase: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-22/yes-working-from-home-makes-you-more-productive-study-finds . Obviously, I don’t deny the benefits of working in-person and learning by osmosis, but law firms really need to start considering whether maintaining the commute(and possibly lowering productivity) is worth it.

(6)(1)

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