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Work from home permanently but earn 20% less, Stephenson Harwood tells lawyers

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New agile option

Stephenson Harwood will reduce the salaries of staff who want to work from home permanently by 20%, as part of a new agile working policy due to come in force next month.

The policy specifies that lawyers and staff must work from the office for 60% of the time, or three days a week, but it also provides an option for employees to WFH full-time, at a price.

Under the deal, UK-based homeworkers will still be expected to come into the office at least one day each month, with the firm covering travel or hotel expenses. They will, however, see their salaries drop by 20% compared to their commuting counterparts.

“Like so many firms, we see value in being in the office together regularly, while also being able to offer our people flexibility,” a firm spokesperson said. “For the vast majority of our people — and the candidates we speak to — our hybrid working policy works well”, by providing them with the option to work remotely for up to two days a week.

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Legal Cheek understands that only a small number of staff have opted to work fully remotely, and none of these are trainee or junior lawyers. The policy applies on a case by case basis, with the hybrid model better suiting junior lawyers who require training and supervision and the remote model lending itself to professional support lawyers, senior associates or roles in business services.

Remote roles “may be a modified version or be slightly different in terms of the responsibilities of a hybrid role”, the policy specifies, but it is unclear whether this will translate to a reduction in hours or billing targets, for example.

“For resourcing reasons during the pandemic, we recruited lawyers who weren’t based in London, but lived elsewhere in the UK,” the spokesperson continued. “The packages we offered were different from what we offer our people in London. They’re fully remote and are not expected to regularly attend the office.”

“Recently we’ve opened the option to existing members of staff, so anyone interested in taking advantage of the additional flexibility offered by the package can have a conversation about whether it can work for their role.”

Back in November Stephenson Harwood raised newly qualified (NQ) solicitor salaries by 20% to £90,000, with associates across different levels of the firm receiving pay increases ranging from 8-17%. It also upped its target hours from 1,550 to 1,650 at the time.

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43 Comments

Bob

Are they charging their clients 20% less for their time, or requiring them to do 20% less hours?

Anonymous

One assumes SO !!
TELL THEM TO POKE THEIR MANKY JOB !!!
or any other company dictating this .
since lockdown the old management cant get it through their heads people do not want to travel on manky public transport or stay in over priced dirty Uk hotels ( I say this after having stayed in a Knightsbridge hotel of good reputation and being lunch for bed bugs )
or just go find something more enjoyable

Not a d*sser or a t*sser

Great idea. Some many big d*ssers hiding at home not pulling their weight and leaving others who make the effort to go in to pick up slack at my firm.

(33)(148)

Dave

Ah bless, one of the S&H Partners has come out of their cave to comment on this.

Observer

So city based lawyers could take a 20% pay cut and move to the wherever they want in GB, interesting. Aside from drawbacks such as court hearing, f2f client meetings etc – sounds like quite a good deal.

🤡

🤡

Ginny

Good. More firms, especially London-based firms should be doing the same.

Anonymous

Well the problem is .WHY don’t people want to go back ?? that’s the real question !!
if things were so good you would not have a problem .would they ?
Obviously on the hole the working population of the UK just do not like the old normal ?
there are those that cant be on their own who do i guess

The man on the Clapham Omnibus

As long as it’s 20% less work, billing clients 20% less for work done by remote staff, not discriminatory to working parents, and completely in line with rising costs of living…fine.
Otherwise partners look greedy in the most uncomfortable way.

(168)(10)

Associate

If I had no intention of making partner, or at least not partner at my firm, I would take that for a 10% cut. 20 is too much. This fails to recognise that the high salaries are not just about cost of living but our time, giving up the evenings and weekends or the anticipation of giving up evenings and weekends which means we cant plan. Do you know what having no life in paradise and having no life in London have in common? You still have no life. Should at least be getting paid well for that.

On top of that, we have been remote for years and its done the firms only good. We havent needed to be in the office and meet clients several times per week. This feels like another way to get cheap drones to do the work on higher rates.

Bleed them dry

You arrogant Ba**ard!
What about people in say Catering or Front line services, who work nearly all weekends (sacrificing a social life) and who’s working week involves longer hours than you work, and do all of this on salaries of less than C£30K having also taken time to accrue huge debts for their education/training.
Just think yourself lucky, good job, good salary, good life. There are so many who love to be in your shoes.
Next time you go out for a nice meal at the weekend, or find yourself in need of medical attention, spare a thought for the person looking after you and count your blessings.

A lawyer

Oh get out of it. I’m guessing you’re not actually a lawyer, or have never worked at a firm where you’ve had to work an 80 hour week and, on top of that absolute beasting, cope with the stress and pressure of not screwing up the multiple matters you’re stretched too thin to properly handle.

It’s not mathematically possible to work longer hours than what the busiest city lawyers are doing (I’ve known people to bill more than 370 chargeable hours in a month) and the stress and pressure is incomparable to something like catering.

This isn’t glorifying that by the way, it’s hideous, unhealthy and needs to be stopped; but to suggest that city lawyers have it easy and are overpaid is absolutely laughable.

Associate

All I am going to say in response to that is if you’re on £30k and working more hours than me then you’re less than minimum wage and you’re probably being exploited for modern slavery.

Anonymous

Maybe we can all agree that working in that fashion deserves higher compensation no matter the industry

PISSS TAKE

SH are basically assuming people who WFH do less work? I’m fact, I find it difficult to log off at home but still like working from home. I save a ton of time comuting only to bill more. However, SH are penalising those employees who choose to do this. I clearly won’t be joining this firm.

SHAME ON YOU SH FOR PENALISING THOSE WHO HAVE FAMILIES AND ARE FORCED TO WFH.

US trainee

Not just families, but disabled employees too. I never expected to be able to WFH before Covid, but it’s been a lifeline. I genuinely don’t think I could do five days in the office without a significant drop in my health.

Recruiter ready to pounce

Can’t wait to see the gender pay gap on this report.

FF

Pretty poor considering how much more work some of us end up with at home to add a pay cut ontop. Greedy.

Legal Sense

A nasty, spiteful, divisive, discriminatory, regressive and embarrassing policy. Wrong and nonsensical on many levels.

bewildered

Well obviously they will be getting a 20% cur in their hours target too I assume?

Otherwise this would look like a policy worked out over a coffee by a few partners p*ssed off that there is no one around to listen to their dull stories or admire their latest car/watch/holiday.

Devoid of logic or reason this firm is run by fools.

Yeah

“Here is a new policy that discriminates indirectly based on family status, gender, sex, socioeconomic background and health”

I want it all my own way LL.B

Boo hoo!

Poo poo!

Noo noo!

Syd.

It is a damn good deal if they don’t expect their staff to live in London.
My son will be starting at Linklaters in 2023.They pay really well so a 20 percent cut would still be much more than Manchester law firms pay.He could then live at home for a few years whilst saving up for a mortgage.It may be long hours but there would be no travel and he would have his food made for him and he has a good social life here. As I say best of all worlds.

Anonymous

If he’s a trainee he won’t be working from home.

We all used to commute

Dossers working at home should be paid less. You don’t work more and you don’t contribute . Junior lawyer support and BD falls on those in the office. You should take a pay cut for working at home or just grow up and get back to the office. Firms should start enforcing office attendance policies – it’s a joke that people can get away with not coming in at all.

Also it you think your job working from home is safe you are wrong. If you work from home full time then why should the firm pay a London weighting? You should get paid a ‘remote’ working wage. I think just a 20% discount is too generous.

Also those who come into the office hate the layabouts who sit at home all day. That’s why we don’t speak to you when you do bother to show your face once a month.

Meatandtwohedge

I work at a top tier US firm. I haven’t been into the office for over a year. I still manage to nurture and support our junior talent, have a well above target utilization and develop client relationships. I have also able to be a much better father the last couple of years. It seems like you are dealing with some things, but your career really is what you want to make of it. If you have the right skill set and work ethic you will not let the building that you tap away at a keyboard in define you.

Employment Lawyer

We (employment lawyers) were expecting a wave of formal flexible working requests as the pandemic eased but it never came.

The advice everyone was giving was generally:

“Sorry client, you’ve only got 8 lawful reasons set out in statute to refuse even a request to work from home 100% of the time. Benefiting company culture isn’t going to wash unless you have hard facts and tangible evidence that it delivers material benefits to you”.

I hope SH lawyers now start doing this as a way around this stupid policy in the knowledge that if the firm subjects them to a detriment as a result of exercising that statutory right they’ll have a victimisation claim under the EQA 2010. Not that they’d ever want to claim against their firm because we all know the realities of that and how it’d turn out but one mention of that and the idiots in HR will be in a frenzy. I’d LOVE to see it.

What BS

This is such BS.

Regional

Tempting if you’re a regional lawyer. Earn a 72nq rate while working from home.

Wonder what the regional market will look like if other firms follow suit

Emma

The most ironic thing is that those working from home are likely to be the most efficient and bill more!! I record significantly more time working from home. It’s such an outdated view that people working from home are not actually working – and, in a profession that requires time recording, it is very easy to see is anyone is missing targets and deal with it as a performance management issue.

The Ugly Truth

So basically, you could be a more productive top biller WFH associate at Stephenson Harwood, exceed target regularly and they will still reduce your salary by 20%?

Sounds to me like the last of a dying breed of partnership who are sore at the commercial rent they’re paying for their offices and are deflecting anger at such expenditure on to their staff.

Here’s an idea – lose the marble foyers, oak furniture, expensive cutlery and twinings tea boxes – clients know they can do most meetings virtually in this day and age, the day of the ‘show off office’ is fading away.

Margery

Utterly pathetic and greedy. I’ve no doubt they will both bill and expect the same amount of work to be done by those on 80% salary.

To the buffoon who commented above, no one has ever done my work for me in 20+years. So you can enjoy your wasteful commute to the office and leave me alone while I continue to out perform you while working from home.

Anon

If more London-based firms adopt this sort of idea it could be chaos for the regional firm market – it’s going to be harder to get mid-level associate talent paying ~60-70k when people can move anywhere in the country but retain 80% of their London salary.

Realist

Perfectly reasonable decision. Travel into the office is costly and time-consuming. Working from home 100% of the time is terrible for team cohesion, business development and trainee/junior staff development. It is particularly selfish and/or lazy of senior associates and partners to WFH permanently.

gif

okay, can the partners start coming into the office more often then?

the partners at my firm struggle to come in more than 2 days on average (some weeks it’s more, other weeks it’s less)

Roger That

Sorry I’m not quite clear on the concept of an average, could you clarify this further?

Neo

Most people appear to be missing:

(1) it’s optional. Entirely voluntary. City firms have a colluded line now of 3 days a week in office. It’s like going to a restaurant and being outraged that it has pork on the menu – you don’t have to order it.

(2) Regional offices of AG and DLA etc. pay much, much less and have attendance requirements. You can work at SH and live full time in Devon or Newcastle, but earn significantly more than “global law firm” DLA. There are lower costs of living, lower property prices.

(3) SH is first mover on this – if you’re good enough to work at SH, you’re likely good enough to work at a better firm. It could put heat on better firms to make similar concessions (e.g. to 10% reduction). For example, if Freshfields did the same offering at 125k NQ versus a 20% reduction to 100k, after tax, the difference is about 6k net, but the QOL and COL difference would likely outweigh it. Freshfields may not even be the likely competitor but those in the mid market trying to survive against MC and US firms, particularly as they salary bunch outrageously and as they are getting to the 100k-120k through NQ -7PQE, there’s pretty much no difference year to year on PQE and a salary hit has limited after tax difference when you’re losing most additional income to tax and loss of the personal allowance.

Regional

Couldn’t agree more. This is less about those based in London and affects regional candidates much more. Suppose you’d be compromising on long term progression for the higher short term salary but great if you’re not looking to make partner.

Toptip

The rich kids who could afford to live near the office come in daily and moan about the “WFH slackers”, when they are really complaining about those who do not have family capital to start with.

Dave

And so the big rejig begins in earnest. It’s all over, boo hoo boo hoo.

Anonymous

Yet another reason (in a long, long list) not to work at SH. The day I started at the firm I knew I’d made a terrible mistake. This isn’t a niche view — the associate and partner turnover does not lie.

Alan

If people want to WFH permanently and dodge in person BD, training, etc then it makes sense that they should get a bit of a haircut.

Wut?

I don’t get the issue with this at all.

Option 1: work a minimum of 60% in the office. Most big firms only have option 1. Mine included.

Option 2: dont comply with the 60% requirement and get paid 20% less.

As far as I can tell, they aren’t encouraging people to take option 2, or pressuring them to do so. It’s just one option out of two options. And most of us only have one option. Option 1. And we’re fine with it. And so why are we anti-two options?

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