John is concerned that his imaginary Monday colleagues will have to make way for some real ones.
Sidley Austin is the latest US firm to tell its staff that they have to be in the office four days a week.
“We believe that there is substantial benefit, including in respect of professional and personal development for our lawyers, when we work together in the office," a spokesman told RollOnFriday. "As a result, we have implemented 4 day / week in-office attendance.” The new policy is being rolled out across the London office for all staff, including business services, not just the lawyers.
After the pandemic, the firm did not have a formal remote working policy per se, and staff tended to come into the office around three days a week, a source told ROF earlier this year. Although, in recent months, time in the office has increased to 4 or 5 days a week in many departments, according to a source.
Another insider told ROF that the new policy is being “driven solely by the new hires from Paul Weiss” in the corporate team. There was “huge upset over it” as the lawyers pushing for four days had "been off most of August and not in the office" due to "a big deal” collapsing that they were working on. The source said the corporate enforcers "want everyone in” for 4 days a week “but when they aren't busy their team can work remote.”
The insider added that the corporate team is "a deeply unhappy place and with everything else going on here lots of chatter among trainees & associates & support staff (who are also moving to 4 days) of seeking other roles.” They opined: “Expect Sidley's high scores in the annual firm review to plummet this year as so much value was placed on the flexible working.”
However, another source disputed that the new policy was down to the corporate team, stating that the decision had been made across departments, following a "natural evolution" of an increasing amount of time being spent in the office.
Sidley Austin's new policy mirrors that of fellow US firms Ropes & Gray and Skadden, which made similar internal announcements over the summer. Although at Skadden, while lawyers have to come in four days a week, business services staff are only required to come in for three days.
Sidley Austin's management presumably feels that four days in the office is a fair deal for lawyers, given the wedge on offer (NQs are paid a base salary around the £160k mark, not including a bonus). However, some non-fee earners on significantly less pay may not believe that they have signed up to the same Faustian pact.
A US firm staffer (commenting on a previous wfh story) said: "Business service staff are not on the mega salaries of lawyers. If the firm mandates that we also have to be in the office 4 days a week, there will be a huge incentive for us to leave for another firm that pays the same but offers more remote working".
And a number of US firms in London that offer comparable salaries to the likes of Sidley have better flexibility, requiring three days in the office. ROF has been reliably informed that at least one US firm's London office is quietly ignoring the 'all in' edict from across the Atlantic, having decided that it really doesn't suit the UK culture.
Let us know your firm's WFH policy, and whether it's changing, either in the comments below, or drop a line to ROF.