Clifford Chance is launching a pilot scheme this month which will allow its lawyers to take a two month sabbatical. 

The initiative, called Clifford Chance Choice, is being piloted in the firm's Spain, Italy and Istanbul offices, as well as the finance, capital markets and TMT departments in London. Associates and senior associates will be eligible to apply for two months of unpaid leave during the 2019-2020 financial year. The CC Choicers will not be required to provide a reason for the break.


Dave had intended to spend the two months digging a well in Africa and writing a novel

To prevent the designated offices turning into the Mary Celeste, leave will be granted based on predicted workloads and sufficient cover in the teams. As part of the initiative, the firm will also reach out to its alumni network to work on specific projects, offering those ex-CC lawyers flexible options where appropriate.

This external aspect of Clifford Chance Choice may attract some of the alumni talent, such as parents at home, who at the moment are turning to flexible providers such as Axiom or Lawyers On Demand. A Clifford Chance spokesman told RollOnFriday that the scheme would give "alumni another avenue to continue to develop their career working closely with people and an environment they are familiar with". He also said it would benefit clients who would "get access to a more scalable team and flexibility for the kinds of work they already come to us for, as opposed to creating new offerings such as embedded placements of lawyers."

In a profession beset by awful working hours, the two-month breather or flexible offering for alumni, could be welcomed by current or former associates who think of the Magic Circle firm as the Death Star. A number of CC lawyers complained about the work/life balance in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey 2019: 

  • "You feel the daggers of eyes as you try and sneak into the lifts before 6pm."
  • "It's to be expected, but chasing money-hungry clients leads to some pretty unreasonable expectations on their part, which partners are loath to disabuse them of."
  • "There are plenty of people working themselves much harder than they are paid."

CC is not the first Magic Circle firm to attempt to address concerns over a healthy work/life balance: in 2017 Linklaters piloted a 40-hour week in Germany.

Thank you for taking part in RollOnFriday's survey of in-house lawyers. We use the results to write stories and reports. We don't take your name and so the answers you provide will be kept anonymous.
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Fat Chance 08 March 19 12:43

So CC are expecting a downturn in London capital markets, finance and TMT work, and have decided to spin a way to cut their wage bill and remove that under-utilisation, while keeping their skills and avoiding the costs of redundancies, by offering it as an opportunity to their teams?  Nicely done CC, nicely done.

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