‘What’s everyone’s home-working policy? I’m basically back five days in the office’

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By Legal Cheek on

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Is WFH over? questions associate


In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, a junior lawyer wonders whether WFH is slowing becoming a thing of the past.

“Hello. I am a junior lawyer at a London law firm and I am curious to know what other firms work-from-home policies currently look like. We (associates) were initially required to attend the office three days a week, however this moved to four days towards the end of the summer last year. We’re now essentially being told its back to five days and you’ll need a good excuse for not coming in. I wondered if this is now the norm or whether we are being treated unfairly? I’ve seen a few news stories about firms (mainly US ones in London where the salaries are much higher than ours!) moving to four days in the office, so I’ve a feeling we might be.”

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51 Comments

V

Are you at a U.S. firm? If not, that’s peak

Anon

Five days a week in the office? What is this, 2019?!

Bob

That’s certainly not the norm. Our firm has a 2-3 days a week in the office policy.

CC Insider

50/50 policy

Silly q-er

Silly Q, but the CC 50/50 rule always intrigued me. Does that mean you can do one half day in the week? and the remaining days office/WFH? Also are they strict with this requirement?

CC NQ

It means 3 days one week, 2 days the next. 50% over a 2 week period.

Anonymous

In house – 2/3 days in office. Rest at home

WFH enjoyer

Emphasis on the ‘rest’ at home.

Hehe

LOL

US NQ

3 days a week in office.

Anonymous

which firm? most US firms I have seen are 4 days in office or seem to intend to move towards that

Lawyer

I’m around 15 years PQE and generally (not always) you can tell the difference between a lawyer who has been in the office and one who works from home.

The quality of young associates we saw after covid simply do not have the same knowledge base and confidence as those who have had real time in the office. Some things are just picked up when working round other lawyers.

Do not get me wrong I agree there needs to be scope for home working but those critical initial years really do need real time in the office; and of course candidates vary.

WFH enjoyer

Problem is, what is the point in going in the office when you don’t sit or interact with senior colleagues/partners, who are in 1 to 2times per week?

Jed

Fluent Yapanese here – there’s all this talk about needing to learn by osmosis around other lawyers but how can that be done when the senior associates/partners are usually the ones that WFH the most even when juniors are forced to be in 4+ days?

MC Associate

This is a complete myth (in my firm at least). Partners are in 4-5 days a week, as are most senior associates. The only senior/managing associates who don’t are the ones with families to spend time with – which is a fundamentally different dynamic to junior associates, who seem to largely want to WFH because they don’t like to be in the office.

US Associate 4PQE

It’s not a myth, we hardly ever see many partners because they’re allowed to blatantly ignore the return to office mandate whenever they want yet we’re told all the time that we have to be in to learn in the office. Who are we supposed to learn from? The problem isn’t even necessarily the mandate, it’s the hypocrisy

Associate

or maybe, there’s junior associates out there that enjoy having a life – and also have family and friends they want to spend time with?

Legal Counsel

4 days a week, in-house (3.5 PQE) but adding to the discussion above there’s a weird generational gap.

Senior management are in the office 4/5 days a week, as are juniors, but the mid levels (10 PQE) try to wfh as much as possible.

I completely agree that juniors should be in the office to learn, but it is hard when the people who have the knowledge to share are trying to stay far away from the office.

Everyday I'm juggling

Mid level i.e. the ones with young kids who need the flexibility most…

Anom

There’s a misunderstanding here, WFH means working from home, not taking care of your family. It’s people like that who are responsible for the policy being pulled back

Mid Level

Lol do you / have you ever had childcare responsibilities, it’s about cutting out the commute to help with school/ nursery picks, WFH when they’re inevitably ill, etc.

Tired

It is because the ones in the middle have young children.

Lawyer34

International law firm associate here circa 5 years pqe – our firm says 2-3 days too and they don’t strictly enforce that. They are very flexible.

WFH

Laughs in barrister.

Cowboy

I agree . Working from home as a barrister is not the way forward . Go to Court , interact with the real public , do trials and get professional satisfaction – maybe even get paid by Legal Aid before you die !

Lurking

2 days at the moment. Moving to a US firm and we’ve agreed to one day a week – winning!!!

I’m calling bull

Oh yeah and what US firm is that then?

Anon

Are there any firms that are 100% remote? I thought Denton’s was?

Anon

Quinn is

QE London

No it’s not lol. QE US is fully remote (lucky ducks). London…is not.

Anon

The Linklaters policy across most depts is 3 days in office for associates. The disputes team almost had a strike when this came out and everyone wrote very scary, long emails but the rest of the firm accept it.

Non Linkser

As in, the disputes team dont adhere? Give us more insight!!

LL

Links Associate here in a smaller team. No policy for 3 days in my team but partners drill in to all the juniors to come in at least 3 days. Definitely different rules seeming to apply for juniors

GG

We can work from home 2 days a week, which seems to be the norm.

Akin Associate

Three days a week, but it’s pretty flexible.

A&O trainee

60%/3 days a week in office. Some sub teams come in less. Some partners are keen for 4 days but that’s not enforced at all.

mid-market NQ

I am at a mid-tier international firm and I do two days a week in the office. This is pretty standard. Most people in the team do two or three days a week. Some partners are in every day. Quite a few senior associates seem to WFH most of the time. I’ve never heard of anyone getting grief for not coming in enough. The pay isn’t huge (it’s still good) but it’s nice to have the flexibility to WFH if you want to. I believe some firms (e.g. DAC Beachcroft) allow 100% WFH.

Anonymous

You juniors don’t know you’re born. In my day we had to walk 16 miles barefoot in the snow 5 days a week for work.

Then have hole punchers thrown at us by an angry partner when we made a mistake.

7 PQE

I am 3 days in the office and 2 days at home at 7 years PQE in a multi-office regional firm. There’s a lot of talk at my firm about “productivity and efficiency” which is making us all think they’re gearing up to try to get us back in at least 4 days a week. The trouble is that not all the “leaders” lead by example and are often only in a couple of days themselves, or arrive into the office at lunchtime. One partner notoriously arrives at about 4pm to work later into the evening when it’s quieter and people have gone home!
Management have not given any reasons / evidence as to how and even if people are more efficient in the office than at home. More viability yes, but often shorter hours due to the commute / more distractions / queues for the toilets (3 womens toilets between about 40 on one floor lol). Visibility is not the same as productivity.
Anyway, it was good enough for them when we were all slogging our guts out WFH and covering furloughed colleagues during the pandemic, so why not now?

Anon

City firm – 1 core day a week, looser expectation of it being 3 days a week, get away with 2 days a week. I personally do 4-5 per week.

In-house NQ

I’m an NQ in-house, and we are 5 days a week in the office as the policy. However senior members and favourites have more flexibility for 1/2 days at home.

You can ask to WFH but there has to be a “reason” otherwise you’ll get grief.

Anon

I thought the whole point of going in-house was for a better work-life balance with a cut in pay. That sounds grim.

Eww

That sounds like an awful role honestly – I just can’t see why being in five days makes any sense anymore.

Happy

3PQE in house. Totally flexible. Could do 5 days at home and nobody would mind. I do 2 days in the office because I like my colleagues. 10/10 no notes.

Zerg

Signature Litigation is 5 days in office

Nona

Large international firm. In the office once per month for the departmental meeting. Not on a remote contract.

Tommo brassic

I am a mere trainee. I am supposed to be in 2 days a week but I do 4 days a week because I guess I am weird. The other trainees only do one day a week, and a few trainees haven’t been in for about 4 months! ( as their teams are not in ).

I hope I win the lottery soon

AugNQ

US Firm here, NQ.
I go once or twice a week tops, my supervisors and partners are in once a week and sometimes not even the full day…

I don’t miss going in 5 days a week and I enjoy the flexibility of WFH but I agree with others that I feel my progress and development may be slower than it needs to be due to the lack of face to face contact. With that said, I do have a 12y PQE for support who is happy to jump on calls with me anytime, the rest are… harder to pin down.

Sparvey Hectre

I am a mid level trainee partner NQ having worked in house for 5PQE and I can’t believe the new 4/5 in home office space wfh hotdesk policy with no kids at nursery. It’s not 2019 post-Covid anymore! US firms don’t pay their non-employees in different law firm offices enough – it’s especially not fair seeing as barristers get to work from home every day.

DLawyer

2-3 days in the office seems to be the norm and widely acceptable in the market. My firm allows 100% wfh with approval but very few people other than IT and finance actually seem to take or apply for it. Ironically IT and finance and those teams performing badly at the moment.

Dan

I’m a senior legal recruiter/headhunter working the London market. I can confirm that most firms have a policy that requires associate to be in the office 3 days a week. There is of course exceptions to the rule but this is the “general” across the market.

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