Prior to Monday's announcement in the UK of the coronavirus lockdown, sources accused some firms of putting profit before the safety of their staff. But more firms were praised for their rapid, sensible responses.

Gill Turner Tucker in Maidstone was, said a source on Friday, enforcing office working and had hinted at pay cuts for those who demurred. The firm "suggested docking pay for workers not going to the office", said an insider. It did not respond to a request for comment.

In Mayfair, the CEO of a wealth management company sent an email to all staff on Friday afternoon ordering them to continue coming to the office every day and prohibiting working from home, said a source. "I have serious underlying health conditions", said the insider, but "a specific request to work from home based on that was dismissed with the comment, 'You should be pleased to have a job'". RollOnFriday is not naming the business to protect the identity of the source.

In Australia, HWL Ebsworth was accused of requiring all staff to come to the office rather than work from home during the coronavirus outbreak. "I suspect that one of the reasons the firm is reluctant to let people work from home is the lack of proper IT infrastructure", said a source. Also in Australia, the General Counsel of construction company CPB Contractors was accused of outrageous hypocrisy. By Friday the GC had been working at home for over a week, said a source. But he was refusing to let his lawyers work remotely. Neither HWL or CPB responded to requests for comment.


DINO

#notallfirms


The vast majority of firms appear to have reacted creditably. Several readers contacted RollOnFriday after last week's story to praise their firms for insisting well before the lockdown was announced that staff should work from home.

"As a recent joiner at BCLP I’ve been hugely impressed and reassured by the way in which management and Partners (and staff across all teams and departments) have been handling the Covid-19 crisis", said an employee. "Staff are being looked after and clients are being looked after and the remote-working arrangements are largely effective. I’m very pleased to be at BCLP", they said. 

CMS "moved their entire UK function to home working immediately on Boris’ announcement on Monday", said a staffer commenting on its measures after the lockdown, "though lots working at home for weeks with firm blessing". The office "remains open if people want to collect stuff but people are being told that no bit of paper is worth their health or other people’s...everyone’s got a Surface (inc. secretaries and support staff), bulk buying monitor capacity to receive at home for those that still need them, and amazing IT support". The insiders lauded CMS for having "Good, prepared, management who put people and long term good before short-term, short-sighted profit".

A Shearman & Sterling employee said they were "very impressed" by the US firm's "speedy response and good communication".

"I work for Ince Gordon Dadds and I have to say the Firm's approach to Corona has been extremely good", said one of its staff. "IT servers have been tested" in advance "so that everyone is able to WFH correctly. "This sounds like it is coming from HR or marketing (I promise it is not) but the response by the Firm really has been fantastic".

Several readers noted that their firms were ensuring staff received the necessary gear (computer, yoga mat, wine) to work from home effectively.

Macfarlanes is reimbursing staff up to £200 for monitors and printers, said a source, although, "I'm waiting for someone to ask about printer paper and ink if this goes on long term".

Clifford Chance was also giving £200 towards WFH kit, said another reader. "Just not printers, paper or ink - confidentiality risk".  

A Wedlake Bell worker said its staff had all filled in a survey to have monitors, keyboards, printers and scanners sent to them free of charge. "As a small/medium sized firm we can do this, but I'm still impressed to be getting all this kit", they said.

If you've got a tip about a firm's response, write in or comment below. We may all be stuck at home, but the gossip can run free.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

A I 27 March 20 09:32

The Clifford Chance response has been pure class. Partner with the virus (mild form) called me up a few days ago to check to see if I was ok. Firm has been encouraging people to stay home and take care of themselves. Hats off 

Anonymous 27 March 20 09:47

Shoosmiths' partners have ensured a very consistent approach to staff. They still don't give a shit about us and are chasing to get our bills in by month end. Fuckers.

Anonymous 27 March 20 09:57

Slater and Gordon have been brilliant- really quick to enable as many staff to WFH as possible, it was obvious the business was preparing for this situation and was able to react without delay, majority of the firm has recently updated kit to enable better WFH connections so we can all carry on as normal (as possible). Regular contact and live video updates from the bosses, morning catch up calls to make sure everyone is ok - it’s a good time to work for S&G

Anon 27 March 20 10:07

Baker Mczkenzie has been ace too.  Great comms, teamwork, morale and leadership from the top.  Recognition that mental health is important and partners clear that we should take breaks / regular rest periods.  Class firm. 

Jamie Hamilton 27 March 20 10:19

Sent to ROF: Just a note about RPC's response to coronavirus - I've been impressed with it. We were all told to work from home before BoJo got round to mentioning it; we've had frequent updates from the managing partner; we've been encouraged to set up team Whatsapp groups for non-work chat to keep morale high and the partners are leading the charge; they've also announced a £150 fund per person to buy equipment for working from home. It looks like they actually are putting people first. Good job, RPC!

Jamie Hamilton 27 March 20 10:20

Sent to ROF: DWF have been very fair, pretty much everybody across the globe is at home, they offered a paltry amount towards a work at home kit or the opportunity to loot the office for screens etc but their response to managing work with young children at home has been significantly more mature than others, they have shown their family values again which is pleasing.

Jamie Hamilton 27 March 20 10:21

Sent to ROF: I have been hugely impressed by the response of DAC Beachcroft. Within an hour of Boris's statement on 16 March everyone had been emailed and told to WFH effective immediately (many with underlying health concerns had already been WFH). 

Employees are being reimbursed for kit purchased to support home working.

Management have shared regular, informative updates on the firm's approach and have been very reactive to issues raised. 

Employees with children at home have been given a great deal of flexibility about core hours to enable them to manage working and childcare, and there has been an acknowledgement from management that this will necessarily impact on utilisation. Senior partners have been making personal phone calls to employees with children to check that they are managing and to ask if further support is required. 

There has been a real effort to combat the possibility of isolation, depression and anxiety as a result of long term WFH. Firm resources for dealing with these issues have been promoted, online social activities have been planned, and management have been regularly checking in with employees. 

Anonymous 27 March 20 10:23

Kennedys' response has been excellent. A number of offices around the world - initially in Asia - were already operating on a remote working basis for some time; as were people in other offices, for whom it was wise. But everyone, globally, was sent home to work remotely from Monday 16 March, a week before Boris's announcement in the UK dictating this. No drama. The IT set-up, and the big strides the firm has made to be paperless wherever possible, allows that. The communication, every step of the way, from senior management has been very good. (And, no, I am not part of the senior management team or the IT crowd.)

Anonymous 27 March 20 10:33

TLT has been good and supportive, with people WFH and copious workarounds being found.

smurf 27 March 20 11:00

Stephenson Harwood have been excellent.  All staff, with the exception of key Facilities and post room, are wfh.  We've been given an allowance to purchase tech items, plus we can claim additional ink and paper costs.  There are regular updates from senior management and also individual team chats.  There i also plenty of work to be getting on with.  Very impressed all round

Jamie Hamilton 27 March 20 11:45

Sent to ROF: A shout out from Surrey to Stevens & Bolton who have been fantastic. The IT team have gone above and beyond to get everyone connected and working from home quickly and efficiently and have even delivered equipment personally to people's homes. As well as work related issues the firm hasn't forgotten the need for personal connection and support - the office pilates class is continuing on line and this afternoon the real estate team is having virtual happy hour via Zoom. We're getting regular updates from management and HR. Can't fault it.

Jamie Hamilton 27 March 20 11:46

Sent to ROF: Glad to say that Stephenson Harwood has reacted competently with the crisis, giving everyone £150 to buy tech equipment and allowing everyone to work remotely. They struggled getting there (split team working lasted about a morning I think) but now we're sitting on our sofas working away (longer hours than usual I think...) getting updates of the CEO building a shed in his garden.

Anon 27 March 20 13:56

W&C's response has been pretty solid too. Everyone was "encouraged" to work from home weeks ago and then mandated to do so as of this week. They're also forking out £200 for WFH kit. Daily emails from the OEP with encouraging messages and "funny" quips/videos also included. 

Anonymous 27 March 20 14:42

Small shop in the provinces here.  What turns out to have been a robust and quite brilliant plan was devised by my elders and betters long before Monday.  By lunchtime that Tuesday the whole firm (bar a very skeleton staff) were WFH remotely and securely.  I was going to say that it was seamless, but the seam was Tuesday morning.  Before that, isolation was more imposed than tolerated for those with any matching symptoms.  We're running well.   Think we're as happy as we can be as well.  Communication is good.

The only criticism I have (and it's a really very small gripe) is the obviously contrived, directed-from-above expressions of faux-concern we have to endure in occasional but regular forced emails, the contents of which sit uncomfortably in the mouths of their authors.  Is there anything I need outside work?  Well, since you ask, could you pop into the kitchen and knock together a G&T?

Anon 27 March 20 14:50

Small shop - if your partners said nothing and expressed no care, would you be happier? 

Anon 27 March 20 15:32

Knights PLC response was - we are cutting your pay by 10% & we must keep the shareholders happy. 

Anonymous 27 March 20 16:01

Small shop here.  No, not at all.  The absence of it would be jarring to the point of dispicability.  I'm just finely attuned to having scripts read to me, and I don't like having scripts read to me.

Anon 27 March 20 17:56

Small shop - so they can’t win either way? And all messages are managed in all firms.   

Sidney Smut 27 March 20 19:00

Addleshaws have given everyone in the firm an allowance of £200 to spend on WFH kit and have set up a new tab on the expense system to make it easy to claim. People who have specialist chairs have also been able to take them home. A good response.

 

Anonymous 27 March 20 19:52

Simmons here. All working from home except skeleton staff. Very good communication from senior management who look like they’re trying their best.
 

No allowance for IT or anything similar. Would be nice for the partners to realise the additional cost of putting together a home office with limited choice of supply is expensive and would be nice if they followed other firms by giving a small allowance to purchase monitor etc or provide an opportunity to have IT kit delivered. Longer hours than usual on a tiny laptop is hard. 

Anon 27 March 20 19:57

Russells (Music Lawyers) have been fantastic, they have provided staff with laptops, printers and scanners and the IT has worked perfectly. We even had a quiz with wine evening this afternoon where we all connected on Zoom. You really know the pedigree of a firm by how they respond in a crisis.

Anon 27 March 20 22:08

Fact is most people are better off from working at home - no commute, far fewer opportunities to spend money, and for those with children, reduced nursery fees etc.   So having to buy a printer (£40) and some paper (£30) and a bit of kit (£50) is neither here nor there is it.  If you’ve been working at home anyway you might as well get it.  

Anonymous 28 March 20 13:53

Anon, except ‘kit’ isn’t that cheap and options are very limited at the moment. Lots of places incl John Lewis have sold out of reasonably priced monitors etc. May be insignificant sums to someone on a v high salary, but to a lot of us already facing financial insecurity on more modest incomes, having to suddenly buy overpriced home office equipment is a sizeable expense and we’d expect our firms to assist with this given our lack of choice. I, like many I expect, am working very long hours on a small laptop. 

Country worker 28 March 20 15:59

Husband(non lawyer) is facing a likely  25% pay cut and some will be furloughed. They’ve been good to prioritise lower earners for furlough so they suffer the least cut. Everyone else wfh with all kit provided. He’s working like a demon to ensure workflow so that everyone will still have a job by end of September. I’m very fortunate (lawyer) that I wfh full time anyway, company is busier than ever. 
Just wish all the law firm emails would stop about their COVID responses. It’s nauseating.

oldfool 28 March 20 16:56

22.08 parents probably aren’t paying reduced child care fees because the nursery will charge you anyway to hold the place. Even though they are closed. We’re paying our childminder in full because, for now, we can afford it and she needs the money and it’s the right thing to do. And I’m not commuting but I’m certainly spending as much money as I’m now feeding 5 people 3 times a day instead of the kids getting free lunch and me getting subsidised canteen lunch too. This is hardly a money saving time, especially given all the bog roll one needs to stockpile. 

Clemmie 28 March 20 20:02

Anon, we (like most I expect) are not saving any money at the moment. With a mortgages payment, we still have to pay childminder fees and the cleaner and other outgoings. Our food costs have gone up because we can’t do a normal shop at our local supermarket because the shelves are cleared whenever we’ve tried and we can’t get an online delivery slot so we’ve been forces to use more expensive vegetable and pantry delivery services. We’re both very worried about our jobs. Having a firm offer to contribute even a small amount to the sudden cost we’d have to meet by setting up a home office is the least we’d expect when continuing to work very long hours despite looking after our kids at home and the [email protected] show going on. Most City firms have given allowances towards buying kit because that’s the decent thing to do. Completely agree with the other posts above on this.

W2 28 March 20 22:03

I struggle to believe that Anon. We’d lose our nursery places if we stopped paying - everyone with kids in nursery is in the same position. Anyone with any decency is continuing to pay their childminders/nannies, cleaners etc. We all have mortgage or rent payments. Nobody I know is saving money right now - overheads continue.  

Clemmie 28 March 20 22:06

Your childless friends saving money by not going to the pub Anon? That’s a narrow group for comparison. 

Ahem 29 March 20 00:18

@Anonymous 28 March 20 19:34

Beg to disagree.

1. Rof articles are usually calling out poor behaviour. Positive mentions is a nicer way to do it.

2. As a veteran of the GFC, this page should be archived and easily accessible for RoF readers. When the crisis is over and the rapid exit for the doors commences, employees may like to check exactly how bad their new shop really is (unless they only care about the £££ in promised salary) on the WPC* scale

 

*[email protected] per capita  

Anon 29 March 20 18:31

The nursery we use in a large one in central London and it’s reduced fees to 20%.   That’s a saving of £1000+ a month.   No commuting costs - £200 a month.  No ability to waste money on the usual things (coffees, lunches out etc) working in London - at £10 / £15 a day that’s another £200 a month.   So that’s about £1,400 a month already.  

Anonymous 29 March 20 21:43

Nice to see a thread of comments calling out good behaviour, the odd negative comment aside. My firm (Boies Schiller) has been excellent. Office Zoom calls, Partners checking in individually, Partners opening their Zoom videos for 90 mins a day just to chat. We're all busy, but we feel looked after, and most of my friends at other firms feel the same. This has been a challenge for everyone, and people will be dicks, but I feel like the industry (including courts) are rising to it. If you're at a firm who isn't - look around: there are a lot of firms doing better.

Laura 30 March 20 08:21

Anon, that’s good for you. We’re still paying full cost on nursery fees so not experiencing those savings. We’re having to feed the full family for 3 meals a day, and as a poster said above we’re finding it much more expensive to source food from non-supermarkets. Our travel costs were low so no big difference there. We also still pay our cleaner and nanny too, because that’s the right thing to do. We’re not saving money at the moment.

Anon 30 March 20 21:18

I am in a fortunate position of walking to work. Albeit on a low salary. 
 

I will spend more on feeding the family at home, with only more expensive food available. And on more heating, electricity, gas etc. I have already had my pay cut and have to homeschool the kids at the same time as being told to work harder - or take another pay cut. Firm has zero trust in staff and zero flexibility in hours etc. 

Anonymous 31 March 20 10:25

Weightmans have been great - we were already all set up for home working with laptops, monitors etc and were given £300 a year or so back to buy desks and chairs, so the switch to wfh has been relatively smooth. We were also told to wfh before the announcement came. Daily updates from the board have been informative and reassuring, and a daily team call to discuss the day and workloads has meant we don't feel too isolated or unsupported as junior fee earners. For once, no complaints! 

Its great to see so many positive posts, but the firms dealing with this badly deserve to be called out - if you can't treat your staff well in times like this then you don't deserve good staff when this is all over. 

tofu 31 March 20 14:48

LW has been great, we've been working from home a week before Bojo's WFH notice, got a USD125 budget to work buy stuff and partners seem to genuinely trust people with managing their work load (without the forced 9am video calls multiple times every week to "check on employee's wellbeing in some unnammed firms). we have team meetings once every 2 weeks which is nice and partners call to check up on you every week to see if you need anything at all or if they can help you adjust to WFH in any way.

Kudos to the management team for dealing with this promptly and efficiently!

Anonymous 01 April 20 11:00

Counterpoint - Shoos did "agile" years ago so you'd think we would be OK. Unfortunately management did it to save on office costs and did it with shoddy technology and poor quality laptops. In addition we have a shit SAP accounts system which literally no other law firm would touch with a front-end which is more complex than a 757 flight deck. Oh, and IT "support" never answer the fucking phone after 5.30pm. 

Anon 01 April 20 13:28

Yes it’s clear which firms are exposed and which have been responsible in terms of investment. 

Anonymous 01 April 20 13:46

Upvote the Shoos IT crapness. Our team's system keeps crashing leaving all the docs checked-out and no-one can access the final version until their system starts working. [FACEPALM]

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