Slaughters gets tough on desk ditchers with office entry monitoring

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By Rhys Duncan on

56

Data shared with management


Magic Circle outfit Slaughter and May is backing up its in-office requirements by monitoring when lawyers enter the building, and sharing their attendance data with management and HR.

The firm currently mandate three days a week either in the office, with a client, or in court, with trainees and new joiners expected to be present more frequently.

According to an email sent to lawyers from the firm’s managing partner, Deborah Finkler, “gate data (showing when people come into and leave the office) will be shared on a monthly basis with Group heads, Business Services directors and HR managers”. Staff should, therefore, “assume that if you are not in the office (or at a client, in court etc.) in line with the policy, this will be raised with you and you will be asked to comply”.

Legal Cheek understands that this comes in response to a small minority of lawyers not meeting the minimum attendance requirement, with the firm setting out its position in the interest of transparency, and to be fair to all staff.

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Also in the email, first published by the website RollOnFriday, Finkler noted that “we have all experienced benefits from having some flexibility in our working week”, but that “this has to be balanced against the very clear benefits in terms of culture, collaboration and well-being of working together in the office”.

The three day policy is subject to the caveat of requiring greater in-office hours “if client or business need requires it”.

This comes less than a month after the firm made permanent a new flexible working policy, ‘Switch On/Off’, which allows lawyer to reduce their hours and pay to 0.8 or 0.9 of their full time equivalent.

56 Comments

Slaughters Roz

I’m watching you, Slaughters associate. Always watching. Always.

Anon

The level of distrust Slaughters must have in its lawyers to monitor them like school children is, frankly, worrying. Surely, the work they produce should be the criteria by which they’re judged, as it were? This is especially true for a firm which likes to highlight its lack of billable targets and work/life balance initiatives.

Alex

Billable hours and work is just one aspect of being a lawyer. Being on hand to help your colleagues, giving advice, mentoring, or even just having a colleague sit in on a consultation are all things you cannot monitor by hours worked. Being in the office means you’re available for all these things.

Anon

“Being on hand to help your colleagues, giving advice, mentoring, or even just having a colleague sit in on a consultation”.

Which one of these things can’t be done remotely via email, teams, video call etc?

I personally find people who love being in the office are the ones bored at home not the busy ones and often come in and disturb others wanting to gossip or chit chat.

Alan

If you have nothing to hide then why do you resist being in the office? I suspect you are spending your day watching Netflix, iPlayer or whatever and letting your more diligent office based colleagues pick up the slack.

Name

While there’s no billable hours target at SM, the firm still does time recording. How exactly is it possible to watch Netflix all day and get away with it?

not a boomer

OK, Boomer!

OUTOFTOUCH@CC

CC have just introduced the same monitoring policy this week in the UK

Associate @ Bill Moore LLP

The majority of firms are sharing this data with management anyway. Just a scaremongering tactic to push people in. Lame.

AZAZA

Big Slaughter is watching you

Anon

Good. I hope more firms follow this lead. Too many people, particularly junior members of the profession are skiving off these days. I’m tired of hearing that young folks can’t make it in for various spurious reasons. The law is an office based profession, it’s as simple as that.

(15)(104)

Anon

Hard to skive off in private practice law though isn’t it where your billable hours are monitored week in week out?

Alan

I can only repeat what I said below. Billable hours can be falsified, being present under your supervisor’s watchful eye cannot.

Alan has rich parents

Alan. You are a failure.

Bazza

Tell that to Bazzas. Mic dropped.

Alan

And if a barrister told me he or she couldn’t attend a conference, or court, in person because they didn’t fancy it, or even worse, just asked my PA for a dial in just before, and joined in their pyjamas, I would never use that person again.

Barista

And you would be right to never use that person again.

However, absent an in-person hearing or an in-person conference, barristers have complete freedom as to where and when they work.

Cessle

But Barristers are self-employed. Big difference. Without the firm and its professional reputation your junior solicitor is a nobody.

Alan’s Mentor

Alan is too junior to instruct a bazza. How’s that second rotation going mate?

Personal Branding Consultant

You do not have to be in the office to be productive! More important data to be watching is billable hours!

Alan

Billable hours can be falsified, being present under your supervisor’s watchful eye cannot.

Anna Long

Alan, STFU

Alan

A highly skilled and structured answer, to which there is no response. Your answer reveals more about your character than I ever could.

Laura

If I were to pick a name to comment something like this, I’d probably say Alan.

Alan

If my name is a byword for sensible, well thought out and correct then I heartily agree.

lol

Such an Alan

sm

Another method besides the (newly introduced) mid-year review process to manage people out of the firm. Conveniently coinciding with a slow M&A market and little pipeline of corporate and financing work.

Partner

This is a great initiative.

It is frankly impossible to monitor associate office attendance when I am still at the country pad on Tuesday, hitting the personal trainer on Wednesday morning and leaving my desk by 4pm on Thursday to head back to the country.

Anon outside the legal industry

Being under your supervisor watchful eye does not guarantee work is being done. While your supervisor is watching you, what are they actually contributing to the business? Might as well go full on 1984 stick a fisheye camera above every desk and install screen capture software, allow A.I to determine if work is being done.

Actually replace the legal industry with A.I problem solved and you can all enjoy life in other industries where you’re not trapped in a gilded cage as over paid pen pushers and tome readers

Alan

What it does mean is that if I need a particular junior to undertake some work, I won’t have to call them three times, email them, text them and then give up and give it to someone else who bothered to be at their desk at 9:00am, all while the client waits. Said associate typically will appear around lunchtime on a team call, camera off and with a hoarse voice, having been shown as “Away” status on Teams all morning, but lo and behold, a morning of chargeable time has been posted. Should I leave my firm open to claims of fraud or simply ask people undertake their work as per their contract? Is it easier and a better use of my time to play detective or just have them in the office?

US Senior Associate

You’re a really sad person. You need to lighten up and you represent a lot of what is wrong with the profession being locked in the Stone Age.

JP

Then you should be dealing with “said associate’s” performance issues one on one, rather than applying a blanket policy to the whole office. Either the expectations aren’t clear to that person, or you’re consistently letting them get away with that behavior.

Anon

This is not the first large UK or US law firm to do this, nor will it be the last. It has been happening for at least two years or more in other firms.

Anonymous

I said this would happen many articles ago and got down voted by you overly optimistic hippies saying “iTs a ChaNgeD wOrLd nOw sToP beInG sO dRaMaTiC”.

Now look.

You people have too much ****** faith in senior partners.

Anon

Data protection laws anyone?

Alan

Kindly look up data protection before referring to it incorrectly.

InHouse

What about them?

You think they can’t argue a legitimate interest in knowing when people are / aren’t in the office?

There’s a thousand ways around most data protection laws.

DownTheSpout

You know a firm is in trouble when they start caring about attendance in the office as a metric. All that matters is billable hours, maintaining existing firm clients and onboarding new clients. None of these three require associates being in an office.

Former K&E

It’s clear that it’s the older lot that have their knickers in a twist. We are in a digital age now where majority of work can be done remotely. You’re living under the pretence that the current lot must go through the struggles you had and if they don’t, they’re not worthy or sufficient enough for the profession. Perhaps it’s because you’re not as intellectually inclined as you think, and you don’t understand anything about adapting to the current digital climate. For a firm to be tracking data and treating an employee like a little child is unreasonable considering how dire the pay actually is. Breaking down the hourly rate after tax is laughable, even more so for the magic circle. This profession only has prestige. What a smart person would do is take advantage of the digital age, qualify and work for a few years and understand investing in the current climate for some form of financial freedom as opposed to being treated like a child by partners who can’t see their feet because of how incredibly obese they’ve become. Majority of seniors in US/Magic circle firms are built like professional eaters sitting themselves into an empty grave. And the worst part is most lawyers have an amazing brain in which they could foster a better financial environment by working on themselves as opposed to working for someone else. Respect yourselves.

Anonymous

The 60/40 office/home split is in itself not at all unreasonable (and for those claiming that partners are never in the office – not sure which partners you’re looking at, but the vast majority are in the office four days a week or more). There are substantive advantages to being in the office, particularly with respect to ad hoc collaboration, and three days a week is hardly excessive – especially given the approach taken by certain US firms such as Skadden.

What is frustrating is the way in which it’s being messaged. Fully-grown men and women don’t need to be spoken to like children, and firm-wide emails set completely the wrong tone. If – as is suggested – there are only a small number of people systematically breaching the rules, the correct response would be for their line manager to have an informal word with them in private, and then if necessary to escalate from there. Instead the firm has opted to chastise and threaten en masse, which (particularly set against the backdrop of a sluggish economy and the spectre of layoffs) is not going to fill staff with confidence about the firm and their futures there.

s&m

Yes, absolutely, and they know this of course. The days of the working practices code and putting the job redesign programme up in lights seem long gone. We’ve pivoted from retention mode into attrition mode.

Cessle

Ultimately, most of those who are moaning about having to go into work are subject to the terms of their contract. You know, that quaint legal thing that sets out the terms on which they are employed and who gets to decide what those terms should be. Usually that gets to be the entity that has the upper-hand. In this case the firm. Usually too, those who choose to break those terms find their services no longer required. Given that Corporate, Acquisition and Takeover work has been tanking for some time you have to admire the bravery of those who put where they undertake the work provided to them before continuing to have a job, but not their stupidity.

Partner

I think work can be done from anywhere, but my experience is that 4 out 5 associates simply do not work very hard from home. They don’t pick up the phone, do whatever they do that’s not work, and double their recorded hours. Then they come back to the office the next day and do the work. Sure, we could police it, but for some reasons I don’t understand it’s frowned upon to tell associates to stop taking the mickey and do some actual work. Law firms simply punish those – of any level – who make waves. It’s also frowned upon to write off hours.

All that to say I’m not surprised S&M is going that route – associates did that to themselves.

Alan

Finally a voice of reason. Please wait for the trolls to come out of the woodwork demanding you apologise for their hurt feelings.

Dave

Good for them. The office is coming back and the slackers will get found out.

City associate

The office is a complete distraction! If I need to get work done and hit deadlines I’m way more
productive at home. The work quality speaks for itself.

Ridiculous and depressing that the world made strides forward in terms of work life balance during the pandemic and is now actively regressing.

Anon

If you are actually working from home, what has it to do with work life balance?

My own personal lockdown experience was that I found it unpleasant to work really hard from home as I started associating my home with the high pressure, even when I wasn’t working. I’d prefer to leave that world at the door.

anon

I presume it has something to do with commuting time and other minutiae…

But, the likelihood is that S&M’s associates live in/near the City so asking for them to go to work for 3 days a week surely isn’t a big ask with NQ rates higher than some partners earn in the mid-town firms.

For juniors/associates, a good boss will let you WFH when you need to, yes.

However, is a good boss someone who lets juniors work remotely, regularly? I’ve heard a lot about this happening and then they aren’t in the office when the junior does turn up. No, that is not okay.

I think a lot of it is fuelled by lazy seniors who also want the flexibility, and still expect to grow a competent and profitable team around them…..

Amateur DPO

ICO guidance states: “We are urging all organisations to consider both their legal obligations and their workers’ rights before any monitoring is implemented. While data protection law does not prevent monitoring, our guidance is clear that it must be necessary, proportionate and respect the rights of workers…”

In terms of Slaughter’s – necessary? Surely not. Proportionate – if it’s a “very small minority” then what about all the 100s of others who are having their personal data processed for no real reason.

I’m pretty sure Slaughter’s are relying on the fact that it’s career suicide to challenge your firm on stuff like this…

Alan’s Mentor

Please post on here any study which says that lawyers working from home are less productive than working from the office. I’ll wait.

Here You Go

Alan’s Mentor

Knew I’d get a bite from you Alan

Alan’s Mentor

Lol Rent Free

Fritalian

I’m amazed at how many people still believe that “so long as you get your hours done, it doesn’t matter where you work”. This completely overlooks a crucial activity that everyone should be doing, which is developing the firm’s talent by collaborating, supporting and training colleagues – an essential requirement for a high quality department. This simply cannot happen as effectively remotely.

BeigeNosersLoveTheOffice

Yeah – law firm profits nose-dived during Covid when their associates were working from home and associates didn’t have their pick of new opportunities in a red hot remote working job market during Covid…oh wait

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