Adam was going to have to replace his fun, imaginary colleague for some real ones.

Gowling WLG is changing its remote working policy for lawyers to increase the minimum time in the office from 50% to 60% from May.

An insider told RollOnFriday that following the pandemic lockdowns, the firm surveyed staff about their preference for remote working, and the majority voted for one or two days in the office. But in 2021, despite the survey results, the firm opted for a 50/50 flexible policy under its 'Agile+' scheme. 

It now appears that Agile+ is becoming more Agile-, as lawyers have got in touch with RollOnFriday voicing their disapproval of having to spend more time in the office. One lawyer said many of their colleagues were "not happy...especially as there was no consultation or survey about it this time," adding, "we don't feel like our opinions are valued as the firm did not engage with us."

Andy Stylianou, Chair at Gowling WLG said: "We always keep our agile approach under review to ensure we are delivering the very best for our clients and fostering a strong team culture, alongside flexibility for our people". 

He added: "We know from our experience over the last year or so that more regular time in the office supports collaboration, helps our people build their skills and experience by working side-by-side with colleagues and ensures that our culture continues to thrive." Stylianou also described the new policy as "a small but important change that will benefit both the business and our people as they build their skills and careers."

A firm spokesman confirmed to RollOnFriday that the change won't affect the teams outside of legal (such as business services) which will remain at 50%. 

Gowling staff will just hope they don’t end up like the office pigeons when they do attend the More London workplace. 

Last year, Osborne Clarke made it mandatory for its staff to attend the office three times a week, in order to be eligible for a bonus. While Gately increased the number of minimum days in the office, based on the PQE of its lawyers

Recently, some firms have started monitoring the attendance data of staff, including Magic Circle firms Slaughter and May (which requires 60% of time in the office) and Clifford Chance (50/50 split).

Some of the US firms that pay megabucks have moved to four days in the office, such as Sidley Austin, Ropes & Gray and Skadden. Although when Skadden made its announcement, the policy only applied to lawyers, as business services staff were told they would only be required for three days.

Spill the beans on the WFH policy at your firm in the comments.

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Future Trainee 28 March 24 11:41

Anyone have info on other mid-upper mid market firms? What is the policy of NRF, DLA, Simmons, Evershed, Hoglov, Bakers?

To Future Trainee 28 March 24 11:41 28 March 24 11:59

DLA's is "we'd like you to be in 3 days a week". While at various points monitoring has been suggested, it's not materialised yet. Now we're hotdesking in London you can see that the number of free seats suggests that 3 days a week is probably slightly higher than the average. Hotdesking also suggests that we're not going to go back to "everyone must be in nearly all of the time" as there's no longer room.


In practice, I aim for 3 days a week but when something happens like a home emergency, super early call or really late night, then that can go down to 2 or 1 (but no one minds). Some weeks I turn up 4 days (mainly if my partner is out of town). 


I'm fine with this policy as 1 day a week really isn't enough to have any cohesion with your team, 2 days a week you can easily miss people who are on a different 2 days and 5 days seems a bit old-fashioned these days. The flexibility implied in the policy is nice, and it shows the firm supporting its people and treating them like adults.

Anonymous 28 March 24 12:05

“Helps people build our skills”. Andy genuinely wtf are you talking about? What research is this based on, what evidence is there to support your statement? Just admit that this is an attempt to justify very expensive, very unnecessary open plan offices where no one can hear themselves think let alone work or “build skills” once attendance gets above 15 people. Obviously you’re not happy with how the numbers are shaping up for this year but getting everyone back in the office is not the way forward. It’s embarrassingly lazy thinking especially when the overwhelming feedback and evidence is that fee earners are more productive working from home. If you want to increase profits you should get rid of 50-60% of the office space we have but don’t need, increase billable targets, and put pisstakers who are consistently at 60-70% time recovery on a performance improvement plan or show them the door. All this new policy does is alienate fee earners who you didn’t consult in advance this time around because you know what the response would have been. Hugely disappointing policy and completely contrary to the values the firm supposedly stands for

papercuts 28 March 24 12:15

"We know from our experience over the last year or so that more regular time in the office supports collaboration, helps our people build their skills and experience by working side-by-side with colleagues and ensures that our culture continues to thrive."


Sorry, my meaningless HR drivel detector just exploded.

Has anyone checked to see if this guy is a hologram with a Chat GPT text-to-speech facility?

Noodle 28 March 24 12:16

Sounds more about controlling people than collaboration.  Some partners can’t stand not being able to control people. So the partners will squeeze everyone as hard as possible whilst lining their own pockets.  Get back them back in work, work them like dogs (like they are at US firm) then watch them leave when they get a dire pay rise.  Maybe they’ll throw out a wellbeing bone too because they’ll need it by the time they’ve squeezed the life blood out of them.  

Anon 28 March 24 12:30

Control, control and control is all it is about. Certain partners can’t stand people working from home. They aren’t happy unless they have them in their sights. They want people in so they can justify the poor salaries they pay them and make people feel miserable. Being in the office doesn’t build people skills it just makes you realise how annoying some partners are and how decrepit and depressing the building is. 

ScepticDave 28 March 24 12:37

“We always keep our agile approach under review”. 

What’s the bet Gowling never come down from 3 days a week now? We need another pandemic.

Nonny 28 March 24 12:50

This doesn’t achieve anything other than ill feeling and bad press. There are better ways to reduce head count you know. 

Anonymous 28 March 24 13:26

A nice kick in the teeth from Andy before he steps down next month, and the new WFH policy announcement timed to try to avoid ROF publication (last week). Classy. 

Anon 28 March 24 13:52

No doubt PGLs will be padding their timesheets out by checking door swipes. Or they’ll have dob your co-worker in policy.  Remember big brother is always watching  you. 

Noni 28 March 24 14:04

When a US firms mandates RTO, it makes sense because it’s part of the Faustian bargain when you accept the sky-high salaries. Gowlings is a tinpot shop with mediocre salaries so they should be doing everything they can to not annoy their employees…

Slashed? 28 March 24 14:07

Not sure a move from 50% WFH to 40% constitutes the entitlement being "slashed"?

Although if it does, I'll definitely tell my doctor at my next check-up that I plan to slash my wine intake.

Anonymous 28 March 24 14:14

Looks like that next Great Places to Work Survey is going to be getting a lot of "Mostly Negative" answers next time round...

@Anonymous 28 March 24 14:18

They’ll use their practice office managers do their dirty work. Whilst the fee earners will still get away with not fulfilling the 60%. The PAs will have no choice or they’ll be punished! Treatment of PAs not changed much from LG days. Nasty. 

Anonymous 28 March 24 14:23

"unnecessary open plan offices where no one can hear themselves think let alone work" - sounds like you're not thinking particularly loudly if this is a problem for you.

@anonymous 28 March 24 14:25

Most likely timed announcement to avoid being near great places to work. In the hope people will forget how this made them feel by then…not a chance in hell of that. If they end up a winner again on GPTW it’d be guaranteed that the pass rate must be so low that they are giving the awards away to anyone that applies. 

anonymous 28 March 24 15:21

A serious own goal by Gowlings. An Andy Stylianou who was on top of his game - and not leaving - would have consulted on this first. Not only is it a god awful decision in itself, but it also gives the game away about the direction of future management approach to people - zero concern, zero consultation, zero common sense.

A big signal to those in the Birmingham office to snap up the offers from London firms of 50%+ pay increases  with fewer days commuting to the office.

An astute new leader would gain kudos from a quick reverse ferret...


Anonymous 28 March 24 15:29

Great places to work will not be effected as the management tell teams what they have to put and where to rank it. Threatening bonuses if they don’t reach that target. The firm is a sham and run by “has beens” it needs a modern shake up, get with the times ! Poor salaries, poor spaces and very poor leadership. 

Anon 28 March 24 17:40

An out and out dreadful firm. Arrogant and narcissistic leadership team so up themselves they can’t see clearly. Its obvious they need office presence to feed their egos. Run down offices, managed on a shoestring. Not somewhere I’d want to be 1 day a week. 


Anonymous 28 March 24 18:05

This is, quite obviously, a stealth redundancy. The high performers will not be checked up on but if a few mid ranking associates actually follow through on their threats to leave (for once) then we won't have to make as many redundancies when the time comes and may avoid it all together. 

Anon 28 March 24 19:00

Gosh - highly paid juniors expected to meet colleagues and learn from them; and highly paid seniors expected to teach by example.   What an injustice! 

Andy 30 March 24 06:55

Interesting to see the flood of negative comments coming through during the middle of the working day.

Worried that you may have to actually do some work, rather than loafing around commenting on RoF articles?

Lazy dossers

Anon 30 March 24 14:23

Would be interesting to know how these mandatory policies are going to be enforced. Are Gowling amending employees’ contracts? Is anyone really going to get sacked for coming in two rather than three days a week? Or is it more likely to be a case of getting marked down in appraisals. Either way, what a toxic policy. 

Anonymous 31 March 24 10:26

What do you mean amending contracts?

It is incredibly standard for lawyers to have 'we can tell you where to work' clauses as standard in employment contracts. 

It's been that way for decades but was relaxed during COVID. 

I'm sure all those NQs on 100k a year (not at gowlings tbf) know what the contracts say.....

Roscoe P. Coltrane 31 March 24 11:18

Gowling had 50% for 3 years, then changed it. Hopefully the next person who leaves Gowling will claim unilateral variation of contractual terms / constructive dismissal (if only to get out of restrictive covenants, or just for fun/revenge)...I'm sure we'd all like to see that judgement.


And surprising that Osborne Clarke requires three days to be eligible for bonus, in the name of "preserving our unique culture". They were previously thought of as having a culture of caring about their staff/not being longer. I wonder if they would include in the "number of valid reasons" when it "isn't always possible", that they're neurodivergent/have kids/prefer sleep, exercise, leisure or time with family to commuting 2 hours a day/prefer appointments to being available for interruption at any moment/prefer having healthy food on hand and a place to lie down if needed. 

Anon 31 March 24 17:11

Bakers still mainly does two in the office, two at home and one where you need to be for business demands.  Some teams are more likely to require you in when busy for three or four days.  But the new office is quite a bit smaller than the old one so there isn't the capacity to have everyone in on three days comfortably.    


Alex 31 March 24 18:15

Anonymous 28 March 24 15:29

 Threatening bonuses if they don’t reach that target..

Your kidding ? You now want a bonus for not hitting your target?! 

thecynic 04 April 24 11:14

An employer is entitled to decide how it wishes to operate its business (within the bounds of legality, of course). An employee is entitled to decide whether he/she wishes to work for an employer, taking account of how that employer operates its business. To summarise, "if you don't like it, you know where the door is".

Anonymous 05 April 24 10:00

Moan all you want but I have noticed the standard of trainee learning has substantially decreased with the increase of WFH. Trainees don't pick up the work ethic or working style when spending most of their time at home.

I think in the office vs WFH doesn't make a huge difference for senior members but how can trainees sufficiently develop without senior members in?

Alan 05 April 24 10:27

You can work from home after 6pm and at weekends. Otherwise you should be in the office. 

TakenToTheWoodSHED 05 April 24 22:32

Stealth redundancies for sure. Sheds is 3 days a week minimum. Can only imagine that’ll increase after FYE, alongside the CH target…

Open plan is a concentration-free zone 12 April 24 06:48

Open is utterly terrible though, to be fair, unless you're a chatty person who struggles to concentrate, in which case it brings down everyone to your level of functioning.

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