I was recently asked to condense my thinking as to why we should embrace agile thinking into five points. Hopefully, these will prove useful to you no matter where you’re practising.

If the client comes first, then let’s put them first. Working on site with clients is one of the most amazing experiences. It feels good to watch your advice get put into action and hear how it plays out in the commercial decision making process. Working in the same place can inform and improve your advice. Which brings us to the next question: who is best placed to decide when you should work on the client’s site, or next to a colleague. The bad news for you is: this question is impossible to answer. The good news is: you get better at getting it right as your career progresses.  In my view as a Chief People Officer, I think that, earlier in your career, you should expect to spend more time back at base camp with colleagues learning your craft and building your internal networks.  As you advance with experience, you should branch out and spend increasing amounts of time client side. At Partner level, this becomes a fine balancing act of spending time with clients and bringing others on.  The golden thread throughout your career is that you should always be part of the conversation as to where you’re best spending your time – whether you’re a trainee or a Partner.

If we trust our people, let’s set them free. If you need to travel to London to see a client, you can work on the way.  We’ll do our bit to make sure that you can connect and use all your systems as appropriate in doing so. If you occasionally need to work from home and it helps you deliver client or project work, then so be it.

If you’re clear about where you are and what you’re doing, it works. There’s no rules at Burges Salmon as to how to make this work, but there are loads of ways in which you can make it work, including being well organised (having the right files with you and diarising what you’re doing when), ensuring your domestic IT equipment can support you and that you have secure access to relevant documents, that you can retain the appropriate level of confidentiality needed to conduct business, and that you actively communicate your whereabouts to your team. For some people, it’s as simple as putting a sign on your office door saying ‘I’m working out of the office, contact me on XXX’.

If you treat it as a normal working day, it works. There’s no getting away from the fact that the needs of clients and colleagues must continue to be met. If you’re agile working, no-one should need to provide any additional cover for you. If you start out allowing for that fact, then it’ll work out just fine.

Don’t confuse agile working with flexible working. The two are distinct. Agile is for temporary, one-off situations, flexible is a formally arranged policy which fits around your life on an ongoing basis. You may explore a long term option to work flexibly by starting out with agile working, but one key to its success is its informal nature.

Our approach has been warmly received internally because it entrusts our people to make the right decisions.  I hope that this helps you make the right choices for you.

Robert Halton, Chief People Officer at independent UK law firm Burges Salmon LLP



Anonymous 08 August 16 14:56

Dear ROF,

does advertising via a blog cost firms the same as advertising elsewhere on the site?

Dear Burges Salmon,

welcome to several years ago.

Anonymous 08 August 16 18:48

This puts the BS in Burges Salmon. It's like Mr Miyagi meets HR Toolbot 2.1- "There are no rules, except rules." "We will give you the tools, except when you are at home, when you must buy the tools." "If you are working, then you are at work."

Anonymous 09 August 16 10:39

"I was recently asked to condense my thinking as to why we should embrace agile thinking into five points."

Really? Did that really happen? Did somebody really come into your office and say:

'Robert, dear chap, I understand that you've been doing quite a lot of thinking about why we should embrace some piece of management nonsense rather embarrassingly called 'agile thinking'. You see the thing is, Robert, I feel that there may have been just a little bit too much thinking going on. Think of the current accumulation of thinking as a watery broth. Robert, what I would like you to do is reduce and condense that broth into a thick and satisfying stew of five points. And that, Robert, really is the important part. You have to express the totality of your intellectual explorations in five points. It doesn't matter if some of the points are so vague and vacuous that they don't actually mean anything, or are re-treads of other equally vapid points, but I have to insist on five of them. No more, no fewer. A pentagram of platitudes, if you will, bench pressing the future. And once you have polished the pentaturd, Robert, I'll get it published on RollonFriday, because that seems to make more sense than emailing it to our staff, and at least nobody on there will take the piss.'

Anonymous 12 August 16 00:50

Having worked at Burges Fish and knowing solicitors currently expericing it's application of flexible working, what a load of BS. Have they employed a former Booker prize nominee to write this blog?

Anonymous 12 August 16 16:02

"Chief People Officer"? What even is that? As for the nonsense written, well I guess the rumours about Burgess Salmon being full of crap are entirely true!

Anonymous 17 August 16 09:08

"Working on site with clients is one of the most amazing experiences"


Anonymous 19 September 16 17:33

The final straw for me at BS was when a female partner overruled a male partner's decision to allow me to bring my day forward by 15 minutes one day a week to help me do children pick up. Am sure things have changed in the 5 years since then though!

Anonymous 21 December 16 16:05

This policy really puts the BS in BS. Flexible working does not exist at BS. It's discretionary - read as beg for it and then always have it refused