Linklaters employees are now allowed to move to a flexible contract without having to provide a reason.
Under the new policy, any member of staff can make the request no matter how long they have been at the firm. This is more lenient than the statutory requirement, which requires employees to have served at least 26 weeks before becoming eligible. And staff, said Links, "will not be asked to explain the reasons for their request".
The 'ask no questions' approach covers anything that requires a formal contractual change, including employees moving from full-time to part-time, job sharing, or working remotely on a long term basis.
Working from home on an ad hoc basis was a separate issue, said the firm, which was "mis-interpreted a little" by other legal publications (sloppy). Contrary to some breathless reports, it means trainees will not be able to bunk off whenever they feel like it.
When RollOnFriday asked the firm if any request would be refused, a spokeswoman said permission would be granted with "consideration to client and team needs as well as the individual's". So given expectations at the Magic Circle firm (hint: considerable), it's unlikely that the entire office will be working from beach huts just yet.
"And now I work flexibly"
Nick Porter, partner at Linklaters, said the right to request formal flexible working "should be open to all". He added that the firm recognised "the needs of our people are continuously evolving" and that Links was committed to "finding the right flexibility" for its staff.
It is not the first time that the Magic Circle firm has explored agile options for its staff. In 2017 it launched a new career path that allowed lawyers to work a maximum 40-hour week for less pay.
The RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2019 survey revealed that punishing hours with little prospects of partnership was the norm across biglaw firms. Linklaters was no exception. One lawyer at the firm said that "hours are consistently long and weekend working is a regular occurence". Another senior associate said that she had worked "until 3am" regularly, only for partners to instruct her not to bill all her hours as it would affect their recovery ratings. Despite putting in the hours, one senior lawyer felt that "partnership remains a mythical beast". A slightly more upbeat trainee said said that flexible working arrangements at the firm were "brilliant, with the caveat "at least from what I've seen".
As all our lives become increasingly difficult and varied (clients demanding more for less, staff living increasingly further from the office, stereotypical attitudes to parental roles changing for the better) our profession needs to adapt and modernise. It can’t be left behind as employers in other industries become more flexible and accommodating; talent will leave to more welcoming environments.
Our profession also needs to shrug off old attitudes that working flexibly means bunking off. Given that most of us still need to clock every millisecond of our time, it really shouldn’t be a significant worry.
As an external observer, kudos to Links for trying something new.
"Clients demanding more for less". I think to be fair, a lot of in-house lawyers simply question 300 an hour for an NQ who basically performs bundling and photocopying!
At Irwin Mitchell you can ask to work flexibly. As long as it’s not too flexible and you work exactly the same flexible hours every week.