"Buddy, how can I put it - the office is a risk worth taking"

Charles Russell Speechlys has been accused of threatening business services staff with pay cuts to drive them back to the office in order to support fee-earners who don’t want to work from home.

"Charles Russell Speechlys are pressuring people to go back into the office", said a source. HR told them fear of Covid "is not a good enough reason" to stay away and that if they did, they would have to use their annual leave to take days off, or WFH on 75% pay, said a source.

"They clearly don't care about staff safety or general well being", said a furious employee. 

Others also claimed that HR had “threatened a reduction in salary if we do not come in”. One employee said their manager had proposed a one week in/three weeks out rota, and that pay would "be withheld” from staff who refused their office shift.

"What kind of pressure is this?! Are they even allowed to do this?", an insider asked.

The firm told some staff their roles could not be carried out from home, said a source who was earmarked for the office, “which is a TOTAL lie given that we have been doing this since March”.

“I have been able to operate efficiently from home for most of this year", said a secretary, who told RollOnFriday she was being required to travel to work, while solicitors weren't, because the firm had "stupidly opened up the offices again" and some of the lawyers were going in. "I don’t understand why they would risk my health and safety over and above theirs. Why is it different rules for them and us?”

"We have today received an email at CRS pressurising us to go into work", said a sixth source in business services on 4 December. "Other law firms are rightly still not opening fully. Yet the lawyers at CRS want to go in. This is disgusting behaviour".

The issue of office openings is a sensitive one, with some staff eager to return to an office environment, as others remain fearful of the infection risk of the office and their commute. In a poll of over 2,500 lawyers and business services staff conducted by RollOnFriday in June, 38% of respondents said their preference was to WFH permanently in the short-term once the pandemic was over.

A spokesperson for CRS said that, in order to continue operating for its clients and open its "COVID-secure" offices "for certain business or wellbeing needs", it had "identified some essential roles that are required  to be in the office". 

"We have consulted with individuals to assess their circumstances, minimise frequency in the office where it is preferred and put in place rotas and revised working practices to accommodate this. Nobody with medical or shielding needs is being asked to come into the office", she said. 
"Throughout the pandemic we have listened closely to staff feedback and have generally had very high levels of satisfaction with the firm’s response. Like many firms we have had to adapt and make changes to working practices which we will continue to review as the situation evolves". 

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Tip Off ROF


Anon 18 December 20 08:20

My firm is basically bullying people to come into a small, non covid secure office, even those who have close contact with vulnerable people. Come in voluntarily or we will make you appears to be the approach.  The sooner I get out the better

Anonymous 18 December 20 09:34

Oh boo hoo.

Get out of bed, get on the train, go to work. It's what they're paying you all that money for.

Or, if turning up to do your job sounds like too much to ask for; if you think that it's just totally unreasonable for someone to expect their secretary to physically get out of bed in the morning; then stay in Essex all day and find another job there which will pay you the same money for sitting around in your pyjamas all day. I'm sure that with your unique genius and rarefied skillset you'll pick one up in no time. Perhaps the Sugar Hut needs someone to aimlessly shuffle papers around all day while chatting about their next shellac appointment - you'll be a perfect fit!

This kind of entitled crap is why firms are happily binning overpaid support staff left, right and centre. They are colossally overpaid for what they actually deliver, and then they moan when you ask them to do anything more than the barest of minimums.

Genuinely astounding that they are so blind to how cushy they have it. They're literally complaining about being asked politely to do their jobs!

Crusty 18 December 20 09:51



Indeed. And of course their employer has a duty of care to provide them with a safe working environment and they have sick pay rights etc.

The court of public opinion may be sympathetic to partners needing lowly paid support works to come into the office to help keep them PEP up.


Anonymous 18 December 20 09:53

This does sound extremely one sided and biased....

We all know that this is likely to come from Essex based secretaries who are loving getting to stay at home while hardly working. At the end of the day, if the work requires office based support, get into the office or change jobs!

The fact that they have been offered 75% salary but have the option of staying home (while not really doing their job) is a pretty sweet deal.

Anonymous 18 December 20 09:55


You're talking a load of rubbish.

If the job requires you to work in the office, that is what you need to do.

Anonymous 18 December 20 09:56

Er...including those essential roles which have been carried out effectively remotely since March? The dinosaurs are still trying to pretend that the meteorite thing never happened. *Everyone* except the extroverts, office pests and lonely hates commuting in. Let them go in if they want to. I'm going nowhere.

Anonymous 18 December 20 10:02

Yes, I agree with @09:53.

Like, are we sure that Unnamed Secretary 4385's fee earners agree that she has "been able to operate efficiently from home for most of this year"? Is that a self-certification that they would endorse? Or perhaps they feel that she has been a bit more like 75% efficient?

Who knows why that number came to mind to use as a percentage... 


Also, a guilty laugh at: "Why is it different rules for them and us?

It's because you have different jobs. You muppet.

Boba Fett 18 December 20 10:04


"We all know that this is likely to come from Essex based secretaries" 

...respect and diversity in action

Gobblepig 18 December 20 10:51

These people sound rather pathetic to be honest. Sure CRS could have handled this better, but they sound like they're being asked to go over the top at the Somme. 

Anon 18 December 20 13:54

I think if I was support staff I would currently be doing everything possible to show value and commitment.  They are revenue takers not revenue generators.

Tier 3 is the magic number 18 December 20 18:17

What a non-story. Law firm asks people that can’t work from home to come to work in line with COVID-19 Government guidance and their contractual obligations. What’s your next scoop, bears defecating in the woods or a certain pontiff in Rome being declared Catholic?

Not a lawyer 18 December 20 19:05

It is interesting when lawyers discuss wfh and how it benefits them, they are all for it but then when ROF puts up a story that has one secretary asking why it is different rules for the lawyers and one for support staff, the lawyers rush in to call secretaries from Essex lazy and stupid (muppet!?!) implying that secretaries should be grateful.  As a secretary not from Essex, I find my colleagues from Essex are the usual mixed bag of excellent, hard working and diligent secretaries as from everywhere else.  Where I work the majority of secretaries are from Essex and not one of them is lazy or stupid. As for being grateful, I would imagine that everyone, like myself, is glad to still have a job that can be done through the pandemic and that I can, if I choose, work from home (as the government has requested everyone who can does) but the implication is that somehow you are worth less than what the role is offering and so should never query the great masters' decisions.

To the person who said that secretaries are revenue takers should consider if they could still meet their hours targets if they had no support and had to do all the admin stuff themselves.  You should be grateful that your firm has not decided to go down the route in other sectors and only have secretaries for the most senior people.  In a very real sense, having a secretary means that you are more likely to meet your billable targets (depending of course whether you are actually any good at your job) and so should be considered by you as a revenue support structure.  

The vileness of the comments is very much the attitude that these mostly overpaid posh boys and girls strut around the corridors of city firms with.  They truly think they are something special because they get huge bonuses for working "the hours", that they are the only ones who do any work and they are the cleverest people on the planet.  They complain they have it tough because they have demanding clients and partners and that being under pressure justifies them yelling, or sighing and making derogatory comments about their support staff, who no doubt is working for 10 or 12 of them across different teams with different deadlines and priorities, with little information being provided because god forbid you actually tell a secretary something useful.  It is equally shocking when you see a 3 or 4 year qualified lawyer being downright rude to a project manager with more than 20 years experience, or the contempt with which they speak about the business development people.  Unfortunately for secretaries, and for the wider business services staff, we have to bite our tongues and smile sweetly at the under-bred geophagists who blight our work lives.

To the person above who asked, why do we work in this sector, fortunately, the majority of lawyers are really decent people, both men and women, who appreciate the support they get and who you can truly respect and admire for the brilliance of their minds and the generosity of their spirits (and no that doesn't mean what they give you as presents at Christmas, it means that they say thank you for the work you do and understand why it is important for the work you do over and above is recognised) to make being a secretary at a law firm an interesting and rewarding role. 

PS.  I am choosing to go into the office most days because I prefer to do so (I am one of the extroverts), but we have the choice in my firm and it makes for a very much happier and more collegiate firm when everyone is respected and treated like adults. My colleagues who are wfh are still working at the same intensity as those of us in the office, and are still available to cover and assist when necessary, so I put it out there that if your secretary is not doing what you need it is probably your fault. 

Strawman 18 December 20 23:05

Looking past whether or not those being asked in can do their job effectively or not, I think anyone who, since 23 March, has taken opportunities to go abroad during the pandemic should go in if asked to do so. 

It's morally bankrupt to decide the pandemic is unsafe when mutually convenient to you to do so, but you're otherwise flitting about completely disregarding it in your spare time. 

Anonymous 19 December 20 01:08

19.05 - your comment is magnificent. Quite rightly so you make very valid and excellent points.

Let the dinsosaurs go in and be entitled. What because you have a degree and you are highly paid doesn’t mean you are the gods of this earth. Get a grip lawyers! Many many people out there in other sectors who are educated and highly paid and those that have worked their way up with good old fashioned hard work. 

When firms cut highly valued support staff or dock pay for prioritising their own safety and then they leave to move on to more progressive firms and industries, these dinosaurs will be the first ones to pipe up that they have ‘no support’ and be outraged.  

Anon 19 December 20 01:29

@13.54 "ThEy'Re ReVenUe TaKeRs NoT rEvEnUe GeNeRaToRs"

Wow you're so right mate. Let's insult the secretaries who handle all your Admin, the IT people who fix your problems on a daily basis and everyone else who does their role so you can basically do yours.

Probably the funniest thing I've read all day. 

Warren 19 December 20 02:40

Seems reasonable for people not to want to risk catching the vuvu with the vaccine just around the corner for everyone.

After they have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, burn them. 

Anonymous 21 December 20 21:21


I want to agree, but to be honest I’ve asked for a secretary to do things perhaps 7 or 8 times since March.

Anon 22 December 20 10:25

The partners were kind enough to top up their furlough and keep their jobs safe....where is the mention of this?? All of the lawyers are as busy as ever this year, having to bust a gut at home, and need the support from the support staff. Its not a free holiday to 'wfh' and this is how lots of the support staff are treating it. The support staff who are making these comments need to accept that they cannot do their jobs from home. It is as simple as that. Playing the mental health card is appalling when there are actually people out there who seriously suffering.  Around 95% of the staff at CRS will completely disagree with this article. It is a load of rubbish. You should be saying thank you to CRS for the support, 100% pay over the year and job security. 

Anonymous 23 December 20 08:58

I am so sick of this attitude. We have a small minority that are "fearful" to come into the office but plaster all over social media what they get up to outside, half the time not even socially distancing. The offices are covid secure, a lot if time and effort (and expense) has gone in to making it a safe environment to return to. People in this article are so entitled. There are so many out of work right now, try being grateful you actually still have a job at a firm that cut their own drawings so that we wouldn't have to take pay cuts or reduce hours to get by. 

As for "effectively working from home since March"... I don't think so! Other people were going into the office when needed to complete jobs that are impossible to do at home and thats across all resources. They were carrying you. Get off your high horse and join the rest of us. Get in the office and do your job! 

Anonymous 23 December 20 12:09

Slow hand clap to @19.05 and any other a$$ hats on here turning this into a lawyers vs support staff war. Shows your true and deeply arrogant, divisive colours. Not all support roles are the same, some can be done effectively from home, some can't. Not everyone's personal situations are the same either. To lump everyone together as part of your argument is as lazy as it is inaccurate. Slagging off people's backgrounds and place of residence illustrates your ugly snobbery. You truly are an embarrassment to the profession. 

Anonymous 02 January 21 01:22

Seriously, who are the 9 who down voted the last comment?! As someone who has been contemplating entering this profession for a while now, it is nothing short of illuminating to see the bile on here. Save to say I am reconsidering. Then again, self awareness is all. 

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