Linklaters is piloting a mould-breaking new career path which allows its lawyers to work a maximum 40-hour week. 

The scheme, called 'YourLink', is being piloted in the Linklaters German offices from 1 May and is open to any level of qualification from NQs to senior associates. YourLinkers will work a 40 hour week with pre-agreed clocking in and clocking off times, and unless they are the only person who knows where the body is buried, they will not be expected to check emails or take calls out of hours.

Naturally there is a price for a civilised 9-6 life, with newly-qualified German participants receiving a paypacket of €80,000 instead of €120,000. Payrises will also be smaller than for lawyers on the marriage-dissolving standard career track, and the YourLink promotion path tops out at Counsel. Pay is less “because we wanted to acknowledge the extra availability and responsibility that lawyers on the classic track have to show,” German HR head Thomas Schmidt told The Lawyer. “On the other hand, we do want the salary to compete with in-house positions of big companies like Deutsche Bank, Siemens or Lufthansa that might offer similar working patterns.” 

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The firm estimates that 20% of Linklaters solicitors could end up as YouLinkers, though whether a stellar client list will be sufficient to prevent converts from simply moving to a smaller firm which offers a similar work/life balance and salary remains to be seen. However, in a profession plagued by horrible working hours, it appears to be a serious effort to remedy what is, along with poor partnership prospects, the biggest reason solicitors leave biglaw. As lawyers from a variety of heavy-hitting firms revealed in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2017 survey, the problem is acute:

  • "Nobody ever has time to go for a drink outside of work, because invariably no one can get away from work at a decent time." 
  • "So much work! Weekends are now a thing of the past. SoS." 
  • "Work-life balance varies but when its bad, its BAD. My team is currently living in fear about being staffed on one particular matter." 
  • "Have you ever had to cancel a holiday while you were on the holiday?"
  • "Expectation to be available at any time. Working every weekend considered normal. Not going home for 4 day commonplace."
  • "Long, long hours. The firm doesn't respect holidays and you will regularly be required to work whilst on holiday, or cancel the holiday altogether."
  • "Advice to new joiners/trainees - consider whether the money is worth having to be constantly available and phenomenally responsive at all times."

Linklaters' London office is peering across the sea with interest. A spokeswoman told RollOnFriday, "We are treating the German 40-hour week model as a pilot to understand how it works and how it might be adopted in other markets". With the prospect of a good six figure salary and evenings with loved ones if it works, plenty of City lawyers will also be watching.
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Anonymous 21 April 17 10:16

I did like the comment that went along the lines of 'Work/life balance is fine; I hate each equally'.

Anonymous 21 April 17 10:17


I hope it is a roaring success and other firms follow suit. As a client, knowing my lawyer has actually had a break and time to think, I'm all for it.

Anonymous 21 April 17 10:32

Even in-housers will work outside of 9-6 when required. Not sure if strict clock-in / clock-out is really the way to go... but certainly sounds interesting, hope they give it a fair shot!

Anonymous 21 April 17 10:47

so in effect this values your life at around 35% of your salary - in case you are struggling to put a value on it

Anonymous 21 April 17 11:18

At Latham you can apply to move to a 75%/85% version of your current target with pay reduced pro rata.

Roll On Friday 21 April 17 11:47

It will be interesting to observe. Not very fair on those who go to work and work all day (no lunch break, no social media or anything but work) do as much as longer hours people sometimes. Perhaps it should be based on charged hours.

Anonymous 21 April 17 12:00

several depts. in LL's London office are empty after 6.30 PM anyway unless a deal is on the way. much fewer face time requirements than in Frankfurt where hardly anyone leaves before 8 PM

Anonymous 21 April 17 12:01

What an utter joke. Is the work suddenly going to reduce? I think not (at least until the robots take over).

Roll On Friday 21 April 17 12:41

That's the point though isn't it? If you are contracted to work 9 til 6 you should be able to turn it down. If your workload is getting too heavy for this to be possible, you'll have to ask for it to be reallocated.

This already happens in lots of legal environments e.g. part time workers.

Roll On Friday 21 April 17 12:51

And being perceived as a slacker by colleagues - good luck with that one

Anonymous 21 April 17 13:19

Terrible idea. How popular do you think that will make these associates among their colleagues when they suddenly shift all the surplus work onto others at nights and weekends? The "I'm not getting paid as much as you are" line will hold up for about three days.

Anonymous 21 April 17 13:51

Great idea, hopefully it will spread. Law firms are in need of this kind of thing if they want to keep getting any decent talent, the next generation of workers won't be interested in law when they can earn the same at some tech company where they work 9 hours a day on a bean bag.

Anonymous 21 April 17 14:18

Assuming the amount of work required to be done by the firm doesn't change, this surely means that the regular slaves merely have to work even longer hours?

At least they're trying to find a solution. Anyone targeting this profession with the hope of making partner should try to calculate the hourly wage of (Senior) Associates.

Roll On Friday 21 April 17 15:35

21/04/2017 11:51
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And being perceived as a slacker by colleagues - good luck with that one

Interesting. Do you think they would be a slacker if they left when they were entitled to, for reduced pay?

Anonymous 24 April 17 15:38

I like this idea a lot. It will need strong leadership because it requires Partners heading up teams/deals to support their colleagues when they respond with ~"I'll come back to you tomorrow during my usual working hours" or similar when a request comes in at 5.59 pm.

If they can make it work, it's the way forward I think, but it has to be supported from the top down.

Roll On Friday 24 April 17 19:03

Excellent initiative, revolutionary if it actually catches on. It's almost as if law firms will operate like every other business.

Funnily enough, I doubt if it the world will suddenly grind to a halt and, if it does, they'll have some plenty of money to get some temps in.

Anonymous 25 April 17 17:36

Surely not? A law firm is entering the 21st century in terms of how it is run?

Great idea - for the firm, a 40k saving (so can employ 3 individuals working on this scheme instead of 2 normal individuals or just take the saving which provide more retained earnings/PPP).

For the employee - IF you really can clock off, good money to actually be able to live a less stressful and unhealthy life.

Mind blowing..........

Anonymous 26 April 17 07:45

Brilliant idea, kudos to Linklaters.

Anonymous 27 April 17 08:43

@ Anon 24/4 14:38 - That's precisely why this isn't likely to work. Well, it won't in London at least. That would require the partners to actually manage instead of taking the "flog 'em, break 'em and dump 'em" model of "management" and privately griping about how overpaid their associates are.

Anonymous 27 April 17 08:59

@ Anon 24/4 14:38 - That's precisely why this isn't likely to work. Well, it won't in London at least. That would require the partners to actually manage instead of taking the "flog 'em, break 'em and dump 'em" model of "management" and privately griping about how overpaid their associates are.