work clock in

Linda is in the office. Linda is getting promoted.

Practice leaders at Pinsent Masons have been given authority to set the limits of hybrid working, with the result that at least one has already told his team to attend the office at least three days a week or risk their pay and promotions.

The mandated attendance level was communicated to Pinsent Masons' Risk Advisory Services lawyers this week in an exercise likely to be repeated across private practice as firms grope their way to a home/office mix they deem sustainable. Several US firms such as Sidley have already moved to a compulsory four day office week. 

“We all know the value of regular office working”, wrote the practice's Group Head, although he provided a reminder for the benefit of team members who might have forgotten in the fog of homeworking bliss.

“It leads to and drives effective client service, innovative business development, stronger professional and personal development and better interactions and collaboration, which allows us to nurture our culture and deliver on our strategy."

“This all depends on strong connections, which is ultimately underpinned by regular in-person interaction", he explained.

Too few of his lawyers appear to have reached that conclusion, however. “Whilst I see many of you attending the office, we need to ensure that attendance levels are regular and consistent”, said the partner, who has required his lawyers to work from home “for no more than 40% of our working time”.

The solicitors didn’t have to read between the lines to understand the other benefit of coming in to the office at least three days a week: “As with any required expectation, this will be a factor in considering your overall performance level and when making decisions around promotion and reward”.

One lawyer's ideal hybrid working mix is another's nightmare, with preferences differing between colleagues in the same team and at the same level. It means there is no easy dividing line between juniors and seniors, and factors such as 'the view from my country house' mean plenty of partners are also happy to stay away.

The latter issue is perhaps why Pinsent Masons' head of risk specified that a minimum 60% office attendance “is not just an expectation of team members – I am expecting the same from partners”.

Sources claimed that Pinsents was imposing three days a week "by stealth", but a spokesperson for the firm explained that was not the case, and that it was not implementing firmwide mandatory office attendance.  

“Our support for remote working pre-dates the pandemic and we believe that our people and clients benefit from a combination of office and home-based working", said the spokesperson.

"As we all continue to find our way to balance the advantages and challenges of hybrid working, we have encouraged our teams to develop an approach that is good for the business, our teams and our people, recognising that different teams operate in different ways”, they said.

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Anonymous 29 September 23 08:37

Some partners just want people in the office to boss around/feel superior around. These miserable types know they’d get slapped if they behaved the same way outside of work. Their greatest fear is an empty office. 

Mandated 29 September 23 08:45

PM associate here. No consultation with staff over this. It is very much a mandate, despite what they say. Zero consideration for working families by introducing this - ironic given that PM wins awards for that kind of thing. 

Same Old 29 September 23 08:47

Sounds good to say we trust you... difficulty is that we don't trust you to work unless we see you in the office.

Seriously 29 September 23 09:11

Pinsent Masons: a good firm, but not one that competes on pay or the quality of its work. If the firm had any sense, it would support hybrid/remote working and use it as a recruiting and retention tool. Why would a good lawyer at Pinsent Masons (of which they have many) choose to stay at the firm if its competition offers better pay and similar - if not better - WFH policies. 

As the commentator above has pointed out, this smacks of insecure partners who have come to the conclusion that they don't do much except lord over employees in the office. 

Former PM Associate 29 September 23 09:27

What PM and so many other mid level firms fail to understand is that US firms can mandate office attendance because they pay top dollar salaries. If PM are imposing this mandate by stealth (despite their claims to the contrary), what exactly is the draw then of working at PM?  

Such snowflakes 29 September 23 09:33

Staff these days are like little puppies oh dont say that to me i cant do that task  - none of em would have survived in the offices of the 1980s and 1990s and all of then look petrified.  Bless em get back in the office or youll get the cane and i dont care about your human rights or whether your mr miss she her him or them.

Elite US counsel 29 September 23 09:57

@Mandated - The partners aren’t obliged to consult you and rules should be set by experienced practitioners who truly understand the business of law. You would have had to work in the office 5 days a week pre-COVID anyway so the resistance / opposition is without merit and should be rejected. 

It is useful to have everyone back in the office for the purposes of knowledge exchange, collaborative work and team morale. 

Ultimately a career in law isn’t for everyone and is certainly not for shirkers. 

bananaman 29 September 23 10:02

"The corporal punishment never did me any harm, save for my inability to punctuate or spell."

Get real 29 September 23 10:04

3 days a week in the office is hardly a heavy burden when people are paid very handsomely to get the job done. PM doesn't pay US firm salaries, but nor does it expect US hours. Junior lawyers need to be around senior lawyers to learn and develop, and senior lawyers need to be around their team to manage it effectively.  I wonder how many of the people complaining are enjoying their London salaries whilst not wanting to do the commute that they chose when they bought their house in the home counties? 

Cynical Bastard 29 September 23 10:05

The PM associates moaning that this doesn't work with their family life, and that they can just flit to some US firm for vastly more money, are most welcome to try.

But if you think PM hours and 3 days a week in the office are bad, wait until you see the average US firm working practices.

Oh, and, incidentally, most of the US and similar firms are currently firing, not hiring, so there are not jobs to get there anyway. The downturn is here, and people acting like we are still in a boom market in which they can just walk into a much better job just really doesn't fly.

No really seriously… 29 September 23 10:12

One could be confused that the comments suggest a 5 day mandated in the office week - have I missed something? This is just asking only 2 days at home, 3 days for office and/or seeing clients etc does not seem a big ask for lawyers who are (in all firms) very well remunerated for their job when compared with other professions (teachers anyone?). Agree with @elite - always another career if this one doesn’t suit. Oh and yes as a working mum of 2 kids it’s not always easy but it’s entirely manageable … reality check needed! 

Solomon Smith 29 September 23 10:17

Call me old-fashioned, but my view is that facilitating any element of WFH is a significant concession on the part of an employer and should not be an expectation. The COVID lockdowns appear to have introduced a sense of entitlement, particularly in the public sector, that this should be the new normal. Unless you work in a call centre with a script for answering common customer queries, you are unlikely to be as productive at home as you are in an office environment. 

David Brent 29 September 23 10:57

The problem with the justification is that it is made up entirely of unmeasurable office jargon. How does one support the proposition that in-office working improves: "effective client service", "innovative business development" better "development", "interactions", and "collaboration". How does it help to "nurture culture" and "deliver strategy"?

In fact, the measurable factors that would be available to a law firm (e.g. how many hours are billed WFH vs in-office and how much money could be saved on not having to lease as much office space?) are not mentioned because they don't support the desire to get everybody back into the office. Management have also ignored the large amount of research suggesting productivity is improved when WFH.

This is a case of making a decision and then trying justify it with nonsense rather than a proper analysis of the pros and cons of WFH. =

Incidentally, I have been spammed by recruiters over the past few months about roles at PM. I was half considering it but now its a firm "no". 


papercuts 29 September 23 12:00

“We all know the value of regular office working” ... “It leads to and drives effective client service, innovative business development, stronger professional and personal development and better interactions and collaboration, which allows us to nurture our culture and deliver on our strategy."

“This all depends on strong connections, which is ultimately underpinned by regular in-person interaction", he explained.


All of the foregoing is arrant balderdash.  See my blog on this:

papercuts 29 September 23 12:21

Call me old-fashioned, but my view is that facilitating any element of WFH is a significant concession on the part of an employer and should not be an expectation. The COVID lockdowns appear to have introduced a sense of entitlement, particularly in the public sector, that this should be the new normal. Unless you work in a call centre with a script for answering common customer queries, you are unlikely to be as productive at home as you are in an office environment. 


I don’t care about your being old-fashioned.  I’m pretty old-fashioned myself, with unacceptable views on most things, and a 30-year-old Papworth briefcase (which I still use).  Your issue is you’re not being logical.   Most law firm offices are now open plan.  That is, full of noise and distractions.  How on earth is that "productive"?  In fact, how is it even in compliance with Law Soc rules to talk about confidential client matters in earshot of colleagues and colleagues clients’ on adjacent phone calls?  When I call colleagues in the office, I can half-time barely make out what they’re saying, due to constant sonic intrusions from garrulous open-plan colleagues.  If I was a client, I'd be pretty unhappy about that unprofessional, penny-pinching nonsense.   I hate offices in general, but 90% of my distaste for them derives from the fact that they’re no longer even offices in any productive sense.  I’m old enough to recall having proper individual offices, in the 1990s, and they were excellent.  Sure, you still lost a couple of hours on a needless commute, but, at least, ***once in situ, the working environment was almost as good as my home office***.  But the disastrous rise of cheap open plan means that professional people now are expected to concentrate on drafting, and provide confidential advice – in an environment little better than a call centre / coffee shop.  At home, I have a (1) soundproofed, lockable, office, with a (2) mobile 360 degrees camera and (3) roving mic, (4) a well-stocked legal bookshelf, (5) super-fast broadband, a (6) tailor-made chair, a (7) printer and (8) scanner, (9) filing cabinets, and (10) triple screens with an (11) electrically rising desk – and, of course, (12) peace and quiet, and (13) confidentiality.  In my office, of those 13, I merely have 7, 8 and 9.  Is it too much to ask that firms and companies should at least aspire to matching the functionality of my home office?  See my blog:

Dave 29 September 23 12:24

@David Brent

The data you mention is relevant but is a short term issue. Yes they could save money by closing office space and still get the hours billed but if the team connections fray and so you have higher turnover of staff over the longer term then you spend more on recruitment and loss of hours whilst replacing staff, and if your junior lawyers are not developing as quickly because they are sat at home alone then the quality of those hours will be reduced. It is difficult to quantify those things because there won't be the long term data available yet, so it is more of a gut instinct/common sense that says we should all be around each other a bit more to learn better and work better together.

Office space 29 September 23 12:28

I wouldn’t mind if the office was a nice place to work. 

Some firms are now moving to ‘innovative’ open plan set ups (with mini-walls and pink noise as the solution to noise). It ends up with associates sitting in a battery farm layout with noise cancelling earphones, with the occasional breeze from someone rushing past to dive into a windowless video conference room. No wonder people want to WFH  

At least give people their own desks in a quiet 2-person office. It’s better for training, morale and collaboration…





Arachnae 29 September 23 12:45

Good work. Coming in so they can do all those Zoom calls to clients in their loft conversions in casual clothes e from the office.

PM employee 29 September 23 13:03

PM employee here who works from home. I find that the WFH policy applies to certain people and at certain times. Working from home when drafting legal document to concentrate and focus but no come on to a lifeless office to collaborate and gel with a team, this is usually done by a meeting in a stuffy conference room that quickly turns in to a bidding contest on who can spout the most buzz words and other bullshit. Also when senior managers/partners abuse the WFH it's fine what worse is when they're supposed working from home they are unreached as they are clearly not working.

Anon 29 September 23 13:21

I wonder how this will work in practice because it's pretty easy to just be the person who comes in a lot.

What if a truly excellent associate says to themselves "I'm ok with my promotion prospects being diminished in exchange for only coming in once a week" whilst a poorer quality associate decides to come in five days a week? Come promotion time, are the partnership really going to hold back somebody doing excellent work over somebody who simply turns up.

STB 3PQE 29 September 23 14:03

Come work for us 3 days in the office and make some serious bees and honey. But the firm only recruit first-rate associates. 

Anon 29 September 23 14:16

I don’t think 3 days a week necessarily sounds outrageous (it’s more than I want to do but I moved in-house for precisely that reason).

Blanket statements about people being more productive in the office are totally outdated though - it’s completely person-dependent. I’m infinitely more efficient at home and (particularly having young children) can work longer hours without factoring in the commute. Checking in with my team in person once a week more than does the job. My husband on the other hand (a private practice lawyer) finds it hard to focus at home and goes in at least 4 days.

The issue is firms (unlike good in-house teams) mostly struggle with the concept of trusting individuals to create working patterns that suit them. A few people may inevitably take the piss but generally speaking people are conscientious if you allow them to be.

Anonymous 29 September 23 14:31

The blanket "three days a week or else" is just lazy management.

If you're that concerned about people interacting, teams should agree on one or two days a week when everyone is going to be in. You don't get that even where people are in three days a week unless you plan for it.

You also need to define your time period and let people track where they are and where they need to be. I wasn't in more than two days a week in August because most people were on holiday- and those who had to do bits of work from holiday were only able to speak at odd times. If I'd then need to turn up four days a week in October to appease the presenteeism God, so be it. But I can imagine in most shops, the conversation is going to be after the fact when it's too late to do anything and based on stats which employees can't access. 

Come on, I mean, really? 29 September 23 14:38

3 days per week really isn’t a big ask… It’s not long ago that people wouldn’t even entertain the idea of not being full-time in the office. 

Free Agent Limo 29 September 23 14:38

It's weird because I work globally more than with London colleagues yet I have yet to be ordered to go to NY, HK or Singapore to reap the benefits of face to face contact. When it costs the bank money to do so, then remote tools are just fine it seems.

Nexis 29 September 23 14:43

One pattern I have observed:

-male lawyers with small children are eager to come into the office more to get away from them and work in peace;

-female lawyers with small children love working from home as it means they see more of their children as they are not having to commute.

As PM has explicitly tied office attendance to promotion will this mean that the already paltry numbers of senior women fall further?

Anon 29 September 23 15:09

Where is the actual empirical evidence on this?  Certain Partners’ opinions based on their need for control and their egos, and their own raising in a bygone era, are simply feelings and emotions.   Where is the actual evidence that being in the office increases productivity?  For instance, in lockdown chargeable hours at a number of firms went up because people avoided the wasted three or four hour commute and were also more likely to log on again in the evening.  


PM Client 29 September 23 16:16

As an in-house counsel who instructs PM quite a bit this doesn't really inspire confidence in the management of the firm. If you genuinely think that it would improve the quality of work then fair enough (though I'd like to have a chat about your work and billing over the past few years if you believe that quality has been an issue). If you think it would make the firm more money; also fair enough. However if you're doing it on the basis of nothing more than a hunch and, in so doing, racking up the number of trips your people need to make and consequently increasing the carbon footprint of your business, then prepare to see work going to panel firms that aren't as blinkered.

Rizla 29 September 23 18:18

@Come on, I mean, really? 29 September 23 14:38

...and it's not so long ago that PM were perfectly happy for their staff to work from home and keep the business going during lockdown

The Rizla says if PM want it this way then staff should respect PM's lack of flexibility and do the 9-5'er in the office



pm employee 30 September 23 16:36

Didn’t hear about this? Lockdown they recruited lots with no practical means to be in office 3 days a week. Office is empty anyway, why go in to do the same team calls since my team is split over 3 other sites?

just sack the underperforming or non essential staff and leave rest of us alone. I’m 1 day a week in office voluntarily to avoid a mandate. Save money on expensive office space, clients aren’t interested !

Anon 30 September 23 17:02

One big issue with barely coming into the office is you won't contribute to BD in any meaningful way.  Lots of 100% WFH people coincidentally seem to be the same people who pre-pandemic would just expect a steady stream of work to come to them without making any effort to develop client relationships themselves.  Fine for junior lawyers, and yes, it's the partners who ultimately win instructions (or at least take the credit), but if you're a few years PQE and are not making any effort BD-wise your career progression will quickly stall, and understandably so.  


Anonymous 30 September 23 20:10

@Solomon Smith 29 September 23 10:17

I am happy to declare you old-fashioned. Not only that, but if you really believe people can only be efficient in the office, I suggest you also are deaf. The tranquility of my home office is a major factor in my efficiency.

Just Petrified 30 September 23 21:18

The reality may well be the Partner imposing this may well history if performance does not pick up.


Anonymous 02 October 23 09:06

Can we all stop pretending that pre-Covid we all spent our time man managing trainees; having many face to face meetings; and working collaboratively. 

pre 2020 - I suspect that most of us would have a discussion and/or initial meeting with client and then agree actions. These "jobs" were divided up; and then all scurry away to focus on their 'bit'. Juniors merely sending their draft to a supervisor (if a partner they then ignore it for a few days despite it being urgent) before an amended version is sent back ready for issue to the client. ALL OF THIS COULD HAVE BEEN DONE ON TEAMS JUST AS WELL

The only people missing office time are partners, who have come to realise that if they cannot sit about pontificating, holding court and leering at juniors then then have no utility anymore. Honestly how many partners actually take the time to properly train and guide their staff. I suspect about one in twenty on a good day 

By the way I have been a department head, and have seen first hand all of the above!

Bojo 03 October 23 21:46

three days a week.....we really have lost the plot as a society if this is considered some form of hardship. They should be thanking their lucky stars its not 5 days like the investment banks, Get a grip people

It's all about the market 05 October 23 18:47

If you're a partner commuting in and out of work to be paid a third or a quarter of your billings and then someone like Keystone says "work wherever you like, including in our office on Chancery Lane, and make 60%-75% of your billings", why would you stay and stare at the greasy pole at Pinsents?

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