Over half of the legal profession would consider moving to another firm if their employer insists on making them come to the office, according to a poll of over 2,400 lawyers and law firm staff.

54% of respondents said they would think about leaving if their firm prevented them from working from home for most of the week. Earlier this month 5 out of 10 lawyers said they wanted to work from home for good.

wfh

Getting face-to-face again with colleagues and, to a lesser extent, clients, was by far the main attraction of returning to the office, according to two thirds of respondents. The "buzz of the office and absorbing what colleagues are working on" was important, but several picked out the social aspects, specifying after work drinks. Only two horndogs* honed in on "office romance" and "more opportunities for nooky".

14% said they were most looking forward to a break from home, and another 6% were keenest on the lack of distractions represented by a sealed, air-conditioned office bubble compared to the parade of housemates/tots/parents/partners and pets barging into their designated corner of the kitchen table.

most

But there was a lot of love for those same endless irritants. Longer hours away from home was the least popular aspect of returning to the office for 38% of respondents. Followed by the commute, which 35% of people said they were least looking forward to, for a combination of reasons including its cost, its length, the risk of infection and the unpleasantness of traffic jams and packed trains and tubes.


ho

John's only condition for returning to the office was replicating his home work station.


Only 5% said they were most concerned about returning to the office because of the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, with double that number more resentful about the prospect of dealing with colleagues and supervisors again.

least

As for what the legal profession will miss most about WFH: the commute, for over a third of lawyers. Closely followed by the flexibility WFH affords. The 1% of respondents either living with people they despise or tearing their hair out by themselves said they would miss nothing about WFH. "WFH is working from hell", said one respondent. "Please let me get back to the office", begged another. 

But the fondest memory for 0.3% of respondents will be the permanent pyjama party. Like the lawyer who said they will miss "sitting around in my pants all day", and the partner who said they will miss "Seeing the missus in pants all day". Perhaps they are a (very happy) couple.

miss

*Don't worry Graham Parnold and Paulette Finchamp, RollOnFriday takes its data protection responsibilities seriously and your responses will be kept anonymous.

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Comments

Anon 26 June 20 09:56

Why would anyone want to spend £10-12k of gross income on commuting costs, lose two to four hours a day on a train then be crammed into the tube and be possibly exposed to getting a virus that kills you, when you can work at home, see your children, save money, use the four hours saved to record time and / or do something else like exercise, and instead go in maybe once or twice a week max every couple of weeks for check in days.   And firms can reduce office space and save money.  It’s a no brainer.  Firms that don’t offer this degree of WFH - by which I mean two or three days a week at home minimum - are going to be well well behind the curve.  

Anonymous 26 June 20 09:58

I *hate* having to chase the kids to do their school assignments / trying to stop them fighting, eating entire jars of Nutella in their room, and lazing around the whole day. Trying to keep that circus from descending into chaos and the constant interruption really screws up my working day.

HR 26 June 20 10:06

2-3 days at home makes sense, however moving to WFH 5 days a week has been shown in various studies not to work!

Anonymous 26 June 20 10:12

Folk often cite the stress of hounding their children all day as a reason for WFH being hell. But the hope is that children one day return to school and suddenly the house is quiet and empty for most of the day. WFH will then be bliss.

Anon 26 June 20 10:14

@09:56

I'll tell you why. Because being in the city all day is the only chance some of us get to escape from the missus and kids. It allows us to have a few pints with colleagues after work and means we don't get home til 8pm+ when the kids will be sorted out.

 

 

Anon 26 June 20 10:28

a balance is needed. I like being able to see more of the family, being able to help  at the "witching hour" of getting kids fed, bathed and into bed. in the office even if i leave at 6 i'm not home till after 7, which limits time with them. I would like to be able to go in 1 or 2 days a week to keep up with colleagues, do big printing jobs etc... but sod going back to spending 10+ hours a week commuting and parting with lots of cash for that. 

I appreciate the office is a social place which is important for those who live alone and for younger folk, but even at full occupancy city centre offices are a very expensive, underutilised (used for approx a third of the day for 5 days a week) asset.

Anonymous 26 June 20 10:33

@10:14 Your wife is sleeping with her pilates teacher, and together they mock your inadequate lovemaking.

Simon 26 June 20 10:37

As a single bloke in a house share in Wimbledon I cannot wait to get back in the office. A split in opinion across age groups and other factors like family. Some firms such as  Slater and Gordon however are using this as a massive cost cutting exercise under the guise of well being....

Anonymous 26 June 20 10:50

WFH is great early in the week when motivated to churn through work. 

 

Friday is an office day. Shirk through the morning and an early finish for the pub. 

Anonymous 26 June 20 11:03

@10:06 I've WFH 5 days a week for over 20 years. I get more done without the distraction of office banter or politics and actually enjoy catching up with colleagues on the rare days I go in for meetings.

Basement Jack 26 June 20 11:24

You are all missing the point here.  What will we do without the Slater & Gordon 'Summer Loveboat' Party on The Thames?  Come on guys, it's what people live for.

Anonymous2 26 June 20 11:33

Certainly enjoying working from home, but appreciate that it's not as easy or practical for many others -  I'm very lucky that (a) I get on really well with my partner and enjoy his company (b) no kids around every day - although we had the kids last week and it wasn't a problem, but can see it may be an issue if the kids were younger or here all the time (c) I don't have to make 6-7 hour round trip to London one or sometimes twice per week (d) I am lucky enough to have a proper office replicating my work set up at home, as has my partner (e) it's nice to be able to get out at lunchtime occasionally for a walk in the woods and (f) there's the opportunity for a bit of afternoon delight if the mood takes us and we're not crashingly busy.  I'd like to stay WFH for at least part of the week, but do think going into the office one or maybe 2 days per week would make sense.  I'm sure the expectation will be for us all to go back to the office at least 3 days per week eventually.

Jaxx 26 June 20 11:54

Buyer beware ...

People don’t seem to appreciate that you may save on travel costs but expect pay and benefits to decline materially (if they haven’t already) and competition will become national if not international creating further downward pressure very very quickly ... 

So you guys in London -  the single largest market in the UK - if you are not in the office you will be competing with those say in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester - easy commutes to London .... and they are big legal markets etc. 

This is not a win win for the average lawyer in the south east  ...  

Anon 26 June 20 11:54

The whole premise is that this is life after Covid, so all the comments about childcare etc being an issue wouldn’t be relevant.  If covid is still sufficient an issue to cause schools and nurseries to close, then we will have no option to work in the office anyway.  
 

The option to meet in the city and socialists etc is possible when you do a couple of days a week there surely 

Anon 26 June 20 12:08

I enjoy WFH but I don't think it's good for me. Especially when it's hot I spend most of the time in my pants not really doing much work. I normally crack open the first beer around 4pm and if I want to "relieve" myself, I do so without hesitation. This type of lifestyle can't be good long term.

Anonymous 26 June 20 12:20

To max client opps you need to be in the office for the majority of the time ... the last 3 months have been exceptional. 

The “I like to wfh for upwards of three days a week” chatter is an extension of “I like to work 9-5” -

Yep that’s lovely but logically expect opps and reward to be less. Easier clearly if an individual been at a certain firm for longer and have relationships. 
 

Further those that are competitive and want to progress quickly will come in placing pressure on others ...

None of this is new. 

Anon 26 June 20 13:14

@1220 you’re out of touch.  Working at home has been embraced by leading city firms for years with many requiring you to do at least one day a week.   The world is changing. The attitude you highlight belongs in the 1990s and beyond.  You’re also just wrong because productivity increases when WFH as there is more time to get things done and people value the benefit of WFH so want to make sure they retain it by working hard.  

Magic Grandad 26 June 20 13:44

Where I work the office has been mothballed and will be handed back under the break provision of the lease end of this year. The "plan" is we will move to smaller premises reduce rent etc.. meanwhile we will all WFH. While that may be fine for a small comnercial team who know each other it got me thinking how the hell will this work for trainees, new joiners? So i reckon there are hurdles to get over.

Ouch. 26 June 20 14:14

@1314 yes embraced by many but not for the majority of the time. That is the major difference. 

The harsh reality, is that, beyond some specialist teams, the strongest partners (and those that aspire to be one) are the ones out with clients,  creating opportunities with colleagues whilst also developing their teams. 

If you simply want to churn work - yes simply stay at home. But be clear as somebody else said earlier/above - you are then increasingly competing with a national supply of labour that will depress packages (more supply/greater price difference etc) for the majority.

Further, as opposed to just churning, if you aspire  to win work, build relationships and create opps and arguably receive better supervision you need to be in and mingling, developing relationships etc. The more you are in the more opportunities you may create (if you are any good). All my colleagues on the continent went straight out to see clients/booking dinners etc as soon as they possibly could post lockdown ...

All comes down to what you want, how much you want it (relative to others) and of course talent - always has, always will. Developing relationships and selling has always meant getting out there to see current and prospective clients - the more you are out there the more you tend to win  

Issue for younger generations is:
- how do you get the specialist technical input you require when all the senior partners opt to work remotely and

- how do you create new clients relationships of your own. Many senior partners will still be working with clients they met and developed in their late 20s / and throughout their 30s ...

Discuss!!

 

Frustrated commuter 26 June 20 14:40

A big win here will be that rail strikes won't have the same annoying impact on commuters, now we're all used to WFH. Any future rail strikes should mean that affected staff can just work from home, rather than trying to squeeze onto a crammed reduced service train simply to show their face at the office.

This is likely to result in less power to the rail unions who won't be able to threaten the rail companies with a walk out with the same disruption to City workers again. 

WFH at your cost 26 June 20 15:14

Same work output and fees but lower overheads in terms of heat and light, less £ per Sq ft as less space needed, lower business rates etc.   Do you not think that greedy bastard partners or those who put their investors first and employees last will not demand wfh so you can burn through your own gas and electric and drive cost savings through you shoulderIng the overhead burden?  

It is here to stay whether you like it or not.

 

WFH at your cost 26 June 20 15:20

Same work output and fees but lower overheads in terms of heat and light, less £ per Sq ft as less space needed, lower business rates etc.   Do you not think that greedy bastard partners or those who put their investors first and employees last will not demand wfh so you can burn through your own gas and electric and drive cost savings through you shoulderIng the overhead burden?  

It is here to stay whether you like it or not.

 

Partner with a Capital P 26 June 20 15:23

I call tell you all now, if you ain’t commuting to the City you ain’t getting a City salary. I’m not paying you £40k more than I pay in the regions for you to sit at home all day. End of. You can’t have cake and eat it. Simples. 

Anonymous 26 June 20 15:44

^ +40k  exactly right. 
Time to wake up people and properly asses what  a new deal could look like   ..... we haven’t just stumbled on a new magical way of working.  

Trainee inquisitor 26 June 20 16:06

Hmm Mr Capital P, so you are prepared to fork over £40k more just to be safe in the knowledge that someone is having a miserable time on the commute? Come on, why is it actually worth more to you that they come to the office?

Member of the younger generation 26 June 20 16:51

@14:14 it's easier to get supervision and feedback because you can now speak to your supervisor in private face-to-face over a video call. There's no longer any need to muster the courage to slink into an open plan 'pod' and ask a daft question (or admit a mistake) for everyone else to hear. This encoruages a healthy an open relationship with supervisor.

Re clients, no one is suggesting that client networking is done from home. Client meetings can still take place in person. Over the course of a working week, these can be few and far between. WFH simply cuts out the office politics and the gossip that we all must suffer from open plan layouts.

@15:23 I wonder if clients will take the same view in respect of your fees - why should they help cover the office rent when your employees are now WFH? Of course, clients will still pay the fees because the fees correspond to the market rate, not the cost of living/expenditure. Therefore, anyone working under you, regardless of where they are geographically located, is working on City work at market rate and should be paid at that City market rate. Otherwise you just get richer and someone else gets poorer for no valid reason.

 

Trainee 26 June 20 17:20

@16:51 

As a trainee at the moment (September 2019 intake), I have found it to be completely the opposite. 

Now rather than asking a daft question in two minutes (and being able to preface the question with a wry smile and a bit of self-deprecation) I have to spend ten plus minutes writing an email that asks the question I want the answer to whilst ensuring I don't look like an idiot. 

Perhaps it's a difference in office culture - I was told on my first day that I shouldn't be afraid to ask questions. 

Reality bites 26 June 20 17:37

@ Member of the younger generation

Freshfields are charging out their Manchester office @ London rates. What do you think they are paying their Manchester based teams?

Big 4 have large operations in Eastern Europe to support UK practices doing consultancy and now some legal work/ support - they are charging big 4 rates for their jobs. What do you think they are paying people? Certainly not London rates!

DLA Leeds working on London matters charging London rates being paid a Leeds salary

Accenture the same.  The list is a very long one. 

Re the partner who said they are paying £40k more  - the reality pre March is they were/are paying the market price to recruit somebody into their London office. If they don’t need to be in their London office they can recruit nationally - at say £40k less. This will put pressure on existing London salaries as supply and demand starts to balance. 

The reality is that certain firms will require a London presence with enough people in their office to be credible .... they may have fewer than before but ....

Sage 26 June 20 17:45

@ Member of the younger generation “@14:14 it's easier to get supervision and feedback because”

Maybe if doing straightforward instructions (to an easy timetable) I would agree but if your case load involves complex and time pressured insolvency, tax, derivatives etc etc you are in a different world especially if just starting out. 
 

 

Anon 26 June 20 18:20

The “Partner with Capital” doesn’t get it.  Associates at top firms are not paid more than in the regions based on where geographically they sit in front of computer but as a result of the need to attract the best and brightest talent to service higher value work and also to reward them for longer hours and pressure.  The market determines this.   Also getting the best talent now means the having the chance to get the best partners in the future.  If firm A drops its rewards by 30/40%, the competition will snap them up because clients will still be paying the same fees regardless of where the lawyers are based, and if you think top graduate talent is going to apply and then stay at city firms paying the same as regional firms but expecting longer hours then you live in a fantasy world.   

Anon 26 June 20 18:27

The above comments suggest that location is the driver for salaries.  Actually it is only one of several factors.  The battle for the brightest and best lawyers to service clients with high expectations on often complex deals is a huge driver, as is the need to compensate lawyers for long hours and pressure.  If you pay considerably less, then you risk losing the best talent.  And that isn’t a model that works.  

Anonymous 26 June 20 18:50

Agreed there will be downward pressure on City salaries and in contrast upward pressure on some regional salaries.  Half decent firms (with half decent associates) in Bristol, Manchester etc. are going to have to start properly competing with City firms on salary in soon to be high-demand specialist areas (see: Insolvency).  If you can commute two days a week to London and WFH the rest of the time, why wouldn't you seek a London salary without paying London house prices?

Anonymous 26 June 20 21:03

Ref

The “Partner with Capital” doesn’t get it.  Associates at top firms are not paid more than in the regions based on where geographically they sit in front of computer but as a result of the need to attract the best and brightest 

the point you miss is that the market dictates there is a premium to work “in” London. 

If you aren’t either “needed” in London or “won’t” go into London you are then competing nationally (likely unless very specialist) without that premium.

Yes there will always be a premium for the best but when you are competing nationally with a 50k+ other associates (or similar) the market price will reduce.  There are some great lawyers in Cardiff, Newcastle and Hull they are paid less than their equivalents in Birmingham and Manchester (at present) simply because less local demand ....  When the lawyers in these more remote cities are willing to commute a few days to say Leeds or London (take your pick) the market price will move downwards in those cities. Assuming of course the market does accept more remote working.  

Further in reality there are few exceptional layers - there are in reality who are very strong. The real talent in this space has always been the development of relationships and winning mandates. Expertise is (to a large extent) a given. 

Anon 27 June 20 10:27

expertise isn’t a given at trainee and NQ to a few years PQE level and that is where the pressure on salary inflation has been because firms want to capture and retain the best talent for the future.   Yes there are good lawyers out of London but the pressures and expectations are higher in the city.  It’s driven by clients’ demands and the fees they are charged and the nature / value of the deals / litigation.  As long as the income streams continue, City firms will be able to afford to pay well for lawyers to attract them.   It’s the income stream and demand for talent that drives pay as well as living costs.   It’s the last issue which is only relevant to location but as most people tend to leave central London to buy properties that is less of an issue.  And actually allowing WFH is another benefit that attracts top talent 

Stokie 27 June 20 10:55

Shoosmiths must be kicking themselves for spending an arm and a leg on remote working tool Cisco Jabber and now discovering that basically everyone with a VPN and a laptop can work from home using low cost video conferencing software. Yet another badly-thought-out investment from our lords and masters in Birmingham, Notts, London and feck-knows-where. We pay for it in lower wages and the mound of debt the firm has to service (which is an open secret). And the firm haemorrages good people and slides down the rankings...

Wfh times 27 June 20 11:43

Wfh is ok but it gets monotonous. I look forward to going back to work and escaping a small flat. My daily exercise has also collapsed because clients are more demanding than ever - get up log on sit there til midnight rinse and repeat. I used to work maybe one weekend in three. Since lockdown it's every weekend cos the clients are bored and demanding to do their deals across the weekend constantly. It's also impossible to supervise a trainee starting out remotely. 

City Centres face disaster 28 June 20 17:50

Have to agree with The Times article, also if everyone works from home it will impact many law firms.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/050589f8-b87e-11ea-809a-a9cf0f6249f6

Please Sir I want more 28 June 20 23:12

@ C C F D 17:50 Thanks for the link but i cannot afford a subscription to The Times as i work (or maybe used to work) in Law.

Anonymous 29 June 20 12:29

It cuts both ways and working from home may well end up driving *up* salaries in some areas.

Apart from cost of living, another factor in why the regions offer a lower salary is to do with there being fewer choices of employer for associates. If you do the kind of specialised legal advice that gets the big bucks in London, you run into problems of there being very few places that have jobs for you pretty much anywhere else in the UK (monopsony has been shown to keep down wages across the US).

An associate who works from home 3-4 days per week as opposed to 0-1 days per week can commute much, much further on the days they go into the office. Suddenly, their options dramatically increase and so too does their ability to command higher wages as the price of staying.

buzzkill 01 July 20 16:44

A lot of the comments on here assume that "city lawyers" are somehow better and brighter than "regional lawyers".

 

Spoiler: They aren't. Lawyers who want to live in Bristol or Leeds or the countryside can be just as bright as people who live in London. Lots of people train in the city but move elsewhere once they have a few PQE and want to start a family. Lots of people train in the regions and are superb lawyers.

 

If you are working from home all the time, you can't expect to be paid a city salary. If WFH all week became the norm that would increase the talent pool for city firms and surely have a downwards impact on salaries.

Trowby 01 July 20 22:38

There is a halfway house where you can go to work. Leave the big firms where career advancement is completely limited (for many never going to happen) and join some of the smaller firms out of London (or the bigger cities) where career advancement is definitely available and the quality of life is a thousand times better than these enormous outfits where the majority have not got a hope in becoming a partner if that is the aspiration.

I believe 80% or thereabouts of the law firms in England and Wales have fewer than 5 partners and they are crying out for people to join them

Be a true professional and work in the interests of the client and not be blinded by money. There is a salary gap to leave the bigger firms but it is easily compensated by the better life

Cities like Salisbury, Southampton, Winchester, Exeter (and Fordingbridge! --see Bonkers adverts a few weeks ago) to name a few have some wonderful smaller firms where quality of life means something. You will probably have your own room to work in (therefore no second hand germs), ability to work from home, no commute on public transport, see the kids as much as you want, live in a lovely house play a sport or follow a hobby of your choice and be home in reasonable time every day in time to fish on the Avon ,Test, Itchen or Exe or walk the dogs while the mugs of the world are still working at midnight! --why? Do not think all the good work is in London--there are probably more Rich list clients represented by firms out of London than within particularly in the Private Client/ Property sector. Get a life and don't moan! 

 

Anon 02 July 20 11:03

Trowby 01 July 20 22:38: true. And if you have absolutely no ambition, you can head to the career graveyards of the offshore world, such as the BVI. True enough, nobody will take you seriously from a professional perspective, but you will have a short commute and a generally higher quality of life.

Fair 02 July 20 11:08

buzzkill 01 July 20 16:44: people find their level. If you practise in the regions it is because you are not good enough to be in London. 

Anonymous 02 July 20 16:54

@Fair 11:08

As an associate I can afford a semi-detached Victorian house in the nicest suburb of south Manchester/Cheshire for the same price as a one bed flat in Battersea or Hackney Wick or some other gentrified zone 2 hellhole.  As much as you may be desperate to justify your choice to live in London (and I can see the attraction for some), there are many reasons why very capable lawyers choose not to live and work there.  In my case, and in many others’, it is not for want of opportunity.

Anonymous 03 July 20 08:03

If you work in the BVI, you probably have to set the bar a bit lower for yourself on professional integrity and accept you are complicit in corruption, organised crime and funding terrorism. Not sure I'd ever want to employ someone who was comfortable with that.

Anonymous 03 July 20 08:28

buzzkill - I worked at a mid-tier regional. Once you're beyond Hoxton, there's a really big drop-off...

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