OC staff to be in the office 'more often than not' or they'll be paid 'less money than others'
Osborne Clarke is making it mandatory for staff to attend the office three times a week, in order to be eligible for a bonus.
The firm's Chief People Officer, Graham de Guise, told RollOnFriday: "We do expect our people to be in the office 'more often than not'," which means "three days a week spent in one of our offices or with clients."
Outlining how this would affect bonuses, de Guise said: "To be considered for a bonus, our people would normally need to reach our minimum expectations across a number of areas," which includes "being in the office 'more often than not'." He acknowledged that there would be a "number of valid reasons" when it "isn't always possible" for some staff to come in.
The firm has recently opened its brand spanking new HQ office in Bristol. OC's Chief People Officer extolled the virtues, from the firm's perspective, of working in the office, as he said it "brings so many benefits in building and maintaining relationships, collaboration sparking ideas and learning from each other as well as preserving our unique culture."
Those that meet the bum-on-office-seat requirement (and other targets) at OC may be rewarded with bonuses that include: "performance bonuses up to 20%" and "a discretionary long-term incentive plan with a bonus of up to 40% paid over a period of three years." The firm also handed out "a 4% profit share in June" to certain "eligible colleagues."
One OC insider told RollOnFriday that they would consider moving firms as the mandatory policy "won’t work" for their current childcare arrangements.
Skadden is another firm that has pushed for its staff to spend more time in the office. The US firm recently announced it would be changing its agile working policy to require lawyers to spend four days a week in the office (although this does not, as yet, apply to business services staff). Given that Skadden pays its lawyers handsomely (its NQs are on a salary of £165k plus a bonus) some may see the policy as part of a Faustian pact.
Other firms have embraced remote working. At the most flexible end of the legal spectrum, DAC Beachcroft and Irwin Mitchell have given staff the option to work remotely full time.
At the time of announcing its flexible approach, Flex Forward, in 2021, DACB's Managing Partner David Pollitt said: "If someone wants to start work early, carve out an hour to go to the gym and another hour to do the school pick-up, all while working from home, Flex Forward supports that." He added that: "We trust our colleagues to find their own balance and we want them to have the flexibility to design a life that works for them," said Pollitt. "The future of work is changing and so must we."
RollOnFriday's poll last year of over 4,500 lawyers and law firm staff revealed that there was a huge preference towards WFH for at least the majority of the week. And early results in the RollOnFriday In-House lawyers survey indicate that most clients are happy for their lawyers to work from home.
"WFH has clear benefits for many people and leads to more relaxed, balanced habits," said one client. "We'd like our lawyers to be trusted to get things done without them being chained to their desks."
Another in-house lawyer said: "I want them to work however suits them and enables them to do my work in a way that doesn't screw up their mental health."