Linklaters is the first City firm to announce a long-term WFH policy, allowing its employees to work remotely for up to 50% of their time.

The Magic Circle firm's policy permits its 5,200 staff around the world to work remotely for up to half of their time, provided they tell their teams in advance and subject to operational roles being fulfilled. The firm said its decision was intended to apply beyond the Covid-19 restrictions. 

"The policy captures the lessons learned from remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic," said a Linklaters spokeswoman. She added that it reflects "that high-quality work can be delivered whilst working remotely, supported by the firm’s longstanding investment in robust technology."

The decision mirrors the desires of the legal profession in RollOnFriday's survey of over 2,500 staff in law firms - the biggest WFH survey of the sector.  44% of respondents said that in the long-term, they now only want to work in the office for just one or two days a week. Another 10% said they didn't want to go back to the office at all. Only 10% said their preference was to eventually return full-time. 

The forced absence from the office has permanently broken many people's tether to the office. As one respondent to RollOnFriday's survey put it: "Offices seem so 20th century now". A follow-up survey by RollOnFriday revealed that over 50% of lawyers would swap firms if they couldn't work from home. 


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A good, productive start to the day - how it used to look.


Linklaters also said it was discussing other agile arrangements with staff including flexible start and finish times, modified daily ‘core’ hours, and modified hours to allow for commitments outside of work.

"The firm is committed to ensuring that each conversation will start with a 'yes' to exploring the possibilities," said the firm's spokeswoman, adding that the firm would continue to foster a culture which "enables people to determine when, where and how they get their work done."

“Our recent experience has demonstrated that, whilst we are a people-focussed business and collaboration is key, remote working has worked remarkably well and we can deliver high quality work whilst working remotely." said Andrea Arosio, Managing Partner of Linklaters in Italy. "We are committed to fostering our agile culture which encourages our people develop working arrangements which suit their needs along with those of the firm and our clients.”

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Comments

Anon 04 September 20 09:54

I think City firms will soon struggle to justify their City rates when its lawyers are no longer based in the City. What's the difference between a lawyer at a regional office and a lawyer working from home in the suburbs...

Anon 04 September 20 10:07

The polling is interesting but I wonder what result you would get if you polled “do you never want to work in the office again?”.

I suspect most people want flexibility but that the office will remain an important part of the balance.  

However, I fear this will be used to justify downsizing offices too far, forcing people to work from home when it’s not appropriate for them to do so (eg junior lawyers in busy house shares).

Lydia 04 September 20 10:13

The point above rates in comments is a good one. I remember considering this back in 1994 when I set up. I think then I put my hourly rate at half what it had been (I live in the suburbs) but then and now people buy expertise which is good expertise no matter where you live. If the advice saves you a £100m fine (possible with my area of work) then if it does not reflect the fact I have now paid off my mortgage because I am old is neither here nor there.

 

However I support the move to this as long as younger lawyers can still get into the office if they want and even full time  - many don't have a suitable place in a shared house to work properly in and many can only learn properly by being physically around other lawyers in those year years.

Anon 04 September 20 10:18

I am a lawyer at a good regional firm and often work opposite top firms in the City.  It will be interesting to see how certain regional firms such as my own justify significantly lower salaries in a world of increased flexibility.

Being able to work for a top City firm while remaining in the South West near my family could be a game changer.  The increased hours might be off-set by the lack of a commute on most days and being able to work from home.

Peter Pan 04 September 20 10:29

The difference, Anon 09:54, is that the highest caliber lawyers generally work for City firms, which is the main factor justifying the higher rates. Yes, there are good lawyers outside of the City .. blah blah blah ... but on average that is where the best lawyers are based.

Fancy City digs just help convince clients how great we are.  But if the office space is no longer necessary, maybe firms can start building monuments to themselves to replace these.

Anon 04 September 20 10:33

Anon 04 September 20 10:23

 

Not necessarily - City firms with regional offices pay lower salaries and charge lower rates. What's the difference between a lawyer working for a City firm in London and a lawyer working for the same firm in Birmingham?

Anon 04 September 20 10:33

@9.54

I don’t think firms currently try to justify their rates to clients based on how expensive their building is.  

Anon 04 September 20 10:59

Anon 10.33

You’re reversing cart and horse. City firms can justify higher fees due to the service they can provide. Those fees enable them to pay high salaries and high rent. Clients don’t pay higher fees primarily for the benefit of instructing someone physically based in London. 
 

If fees get depressed, it will be because London firms are saving on the rent and can therefore be more competitive with their rates. There might, therefore, be an indirect market effect. My guess is that that will effect the mid-market more than the likes of Slaughters, however, as the mid-market is where firms compete more heavily on pricing. 

#Confused 04 September 20 11:05

So, technically, this policy is mandating that staff must work in the office for three days a week (how would one work two and half days in the office?).  Doesn't sound very flexible to me.  It also makes commuting uneconomical.

Anonymous 04 September 20 11:22

Once again the legal profession shows itself to be lagging so far behind that the curve looks like a dot on the horizon.

I've worked from home a lot in my legal career - usually fairly unilaterally (basically, and somewhat arrogantly with hindsight, pretty much daring the firms to fire me if they felt that strongly about it - which thankfully they didn't, probably mostly because I kept on delivering).

Obviously I couldn't wfh so much when supervising trainees - when I first started doing that, video-calls were in their infancy and even now I suspect they'd be a poor substitute for in-person / on-demand support and mentoring.

But generally, it worked, and worked well.  The whole obsession with presenteeism has never made sense to me.  If you get the job done and work well with your colleagues, what's the problem?

The legal sector's approach to wfh has, historically, basically been "we don't do that because we've never really done that".

So it's pretty funny to see the profession belatedly waking up to the fact that you don't need people constantly in a specific building to deliver a good service, trumpeting like they f*****g invented working from home.

Anon 04 September 20 11:25

Anon 11.05, it could mean alternate weeks. Depends on the firm’s policy of course, but ‘50% of the time’ is quite a flexible concept. 

Anon 04 September 20 11:46

So you have to work in the office three days a week (someone tell the Linklaters HR bod that 5 is an odd number) and tell your team every time you're working from home.  At least they tried.

Obviously 04 September 20 11:54

What no one seems to have caught on is that "50% of the time" relates to working from the office 09:00-17:00 then doing the next 18:00 to 02:00 at home.  It's revolutionary.

Anon 04 September 20 12:00

I'd be happy with 50%. Probably about the right amount for me. I never thought I would say this but I would certainly move if my firm did not allow it. I don't think there is going back to full time office work anymore and that is a good thing.

On fees - fees are set on quality. The reason the big firms were in the city was because their clients were in the city (and contrary to above, it wasn't a ruse to charge more fees). Now the clients are online and so those firms need to be there too. Regional firms cannot compete with city firms not because they lack talented people but because they do not have the type of expertise the big payers need.  

Anonymous 04 September 20 12:08

will it be long before I can sub-contract some/all of my work to a lawyer in a less expensive jurisdiction?

Anonymous 04 September 20 12:39

Oh dear.  So Linkies is just doing some of what my firm has been doing for a number of years now and claiming to be cutting edge.  The knife is rusty and blunt in Linkies case.

Anon 04 September 20 12:42

Surely this is over a two week period - so two days then three days etc repeated?  Not exactly rocket science but maths isn’t some people’s strong points!

toiler 04 September 20 13:02

SPB have announced the same - shame about the ongoing pay cut and redundancies though.

Anon 04 September 20 13:19

As someone at an MC firm, my view is that the rates / salaries get justified because our clients (and the partners) feel perfectly entitled to make us work round the clock, seven days per week. Presumably some of the price they pay is attached to the fact that clients don't just get an answerphone message after 5pm - and we don't get much of a life outside work.

Anon 04 September 20 13:56

“City firms with regional offices pay lower salaries and charge lower rates. What's the difference between a lawyer working for a City firm in London and a lawyer working for the same firm in Birmingham?”

In most cases, but not all, the stronger candidates go to the city office - not the regional offices  - because they are attracted by more money, more opportunities to see clients, and exposure to more senior management where decisions are made.   In addition, the city office will almost invariably get the bigger value and high profile work and so this itself is an attraction.   Certainly the more ambitious associates will gravitate to the  city office because of the rewards on offer.   The gearing of teams in, say, defendant insurance work is deliberately structured so that the regions do the lower value, more volume based work and develop that skill set but one which doesn’t justify higher rates; and the city office develops the skill set and expertise to handle major cases with big teams.   I’ve instructed both city and regional offices of the same firm and whilst there are some good lawyers in the regions, the expectations in the city are higher and you can expect more from the lawyers because they are paid more.  It’s not just about quality of advice but also responsiveness and levels of work.  

Anon 04 September 20 15:04

Confused 13.04

I said ‘50% of the time’ is a flexible concept. That is, that could mean alternate days. It could mean half-days. It could mean one week in, one week out. 
 

Essentially, it means that the comment to I was replying which said “that’s necessarily 3 days a week then” wasn’t correct.

Anonymous 04 September 20 15:27

I'm sure this has nothing to do with the rumour that the new lease they had signed pre-lockdown would have required hot desking or open plan for associates anyway.

Anonymous 04 September 20 15:36

I've worked in a London office of an international firm before briefly dipping my toe in the London office of a regional/national. The latter was utterly shit - full of puffed-up twats in Leeds and Sheffield. I left, back to the warm, comforting embrace of another City/international firm. You can't really compare - it's like apples and a bucket of sewage.

Fellow 04 September 20 15:40

I've worked for decades in UK and international firms in both their London and regional offices. Having observed both up close, I have concluded that the quality of advice that you receive from a lawyer at a decent firm in Manchester, Leeds or Birmingham is just as good as from most City firms. Indeed in some disciplines (such as Real Estate) you get much better value from a regional partner as they are happy to get out on site and see the client as opposed to delegating the job to a junior who hasn't got the experience (but probably has the same charge-out rate as the regional firm partner). Savvier clients are realising this- I'm now permanently based outside London and have scooped up a lot of work from clients who are disgruntled with London fees and service. Back in the 1990's the disparity in pay between London and the regions was not that great. It's a chasm now and is rarely justifiable in my view.

Awdit 04 September 20 16:09

As the City offices empty, statues of those great philanthropist partners should be erected outside those to commend their efforts and good works.

Anonymous 04 September 20 16:35

City lawyers aren't paid more because of where they commute to. They're paid more, and therefore charge more, because they're better lawyers. Clients aren't thick - they know this is true. M&A work won't suddenly shift to Barnsley or Milton Keynes because the City-based offices are getting quieter.

Anonymous 04 September 20 19:07

Can we stop the p1ssing contest about regional v city and focus on the fact Links are pretending to do this for the benefit of their staff when it's likely to be what 15:27 said?

Anonymous 04 September 20 21:05

Squire Patton Boggs have just announced that some of its staffers already work at home for 20% less pay and some others can work at home for ever, for no pay. Brilliant.

Irwin Mitchell also cutting pay, but in a nasty, underhand way through "take a pay cut else you'll be 1st in the redundancy round" discussions... And sure effing enough here come the redundancies including those who took the salary cut. *You fookers*, as they say in Sheffield...

Anonymous 04 September 20 21:12

[email protected]:40 - I'm genuinely intrigued. Who are these decent firms in Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham? Oh yeah, sorry: Freshfields in Mancs and Hogan Lovells in Brum have done some grunt-sourcing, but Leeds? Nope.

Northern boy 04 September 20 21:13

To anon at 16:35 - er, wrong! Every city lawyer who goes elsewhere for any one of a million reasons isn’t asked to leave their brain or their experience behind. They get paid less despite their city knowledge and experience because they choose to prioritise other things. I’m a Lawyer in Leeds and have been for over 25 years and I can assure you that the £260k pa is earn is a fraction of what I could earn in London but I choose other things besides cash. That’s a personal choice. And yes, I trained at a city firm. Didn’t enjoy it much though. Much better quality of LIFE and a better pace of life too. Mind you, my 25 minute commute door to door has been difficult at times.  

Whatever 04 September 20 23:06

Amazing change. I remember people being made to take annual leave to work from home at Linklaters.

Anonymous 05 September 20 01:10

Dear [Classically Chippy] Northern Boy,

1) It's vulgar to disclose how much you earn. It seems to be a (uniquely) northern obsession. "I'm as good as you are, I earn..." Your poor friends and family members; I dread to think how often they've had to listen to you bang on about how much your house cost you, how much your car cost you, how much your child's private tuition cost you. More importantly, it's not an even an impressive amount of money - not even for Leeds.

2) Were it not the fact that you were commuting to and from Leeds, a 25 minute commute would be great. But, by implication, you must also live in Leeds. So, you work in Leeds and you live in Leeds? From the bottom of my heart, I'm sorry. What happened? I'm not anti-north; I'm anti-Leeds. It's a sh*thole.

Yours,

Southern Boy

Anon 05 September 20 07:11

“I think City firms will soon struggle to justify their City rates when its lawyers are no longer based in the City. What's the difference between a lawyer at a regional office and a lawyer working from home in the suburbs..”

 

This implies that there is no other factor relating to rates other than location, such as experience, quality of advice, size of team and resources and contacts eg at regulators.  That’s clearly not accurate.  Also, does location impact Amazon when it sells online?  Or is it the market dictating supply and demand for a particular service?  Why doesn’t the market apply to legal services?  Are you saying that clients will start using high street firms for cross border  M&A because they are cheaper? 

Northern Boy 05 September 20 09:45

Southern Boy has clearly never been to Leeds. In 25 minutes by car you can be 20 miles into the Countryside. Also, I mentioned my pay to highlight has little not how much I earn. Plenty in Leeds at £1m + though if you want to chase the cash. Plenty of houses at £3m+ in Leeds too so like London, except the Leeds ones are going to be 5,000-10,000 square feet plus and not shoeboxes on the Northern Line. And as for Leeds being. Sh*thole, please keep thinking that. I’m sure it’ll keep you away. Please also keep commuting with you £4K a year season ticket. Southern Boy - sounds lame and is not original. I’m flattered though. (At least Northern boy is said with pride). 

Anonymous 05 September 20 11:09

"Where's there's muck there's brass m' boy." 

Not in Leeds there isn't.

Also, your people are universally despised on foreign holidays. 

Yours,

Southern Boy

Anon 06 September 20 08:19

I’ve wfh for a decade and set my rate to the top 10 firms in my practice area. I’m still 50% cheaper than them because I’m more efficient and less of a twat. 

Associating 06 September 20 09:48

Regardless the likely lease led motive, at least Links have implemented this now so their staff have some certainty as schools go back and public transport gets ever busier.

The charade going on here in a certain silver circle firm is pi$$ing us all off. When the economy settles, this traditional but trying so hard not to be firm will see an exodus of staff. They have committed to announcing a new agile working policy in autumn but want everyone back in to full hours in the office before announcing it. Presumably so those who need the ego boost of having their team in their line of sight can then argue the return proved remote working does not work. This is all against a backdrop of needless bullying of business services staff back into the office. If you're reading this, dear partners, please do not think we are naive to how differently you are treating them and us, and we do judge you on this. 

When the dust settles, the firms who keep their staff will be the firms who offer only 2 days in the office across the board, unless you want to be in more or have to when client work dictates. Wiffley policies that only give a veneer of offering this for PR purposes will be abused by 'manager discretion' which favours those with seniors who are ok with wfh vs those who work for old schoolers. No amount of culture and traditions like lavish parties, easter eggs and drinks trolleys will change wfh being the primary differentiator. Treating wfh as a 'novelty' that only the fee earners and heads of should enjoy as a perk just shows how naive you are to what your staff mostly want - and in fact need given the hours you demand.

Anonymous 06 September 20 23:27

This is a dick move, but... "Plenty of houses at £3m+ in Leeds..." According to Rightmove, there is currently only one (yes, one) property for sale at 3m+. Moreover, there are only four properties listed at 2.5m+. 

Anonymous 07 September 20 09:35

I scraped some Leeds off the bottom of my shoe this morning. Some people have no consideration...

Northern boy 07 September 20 17:50

Gotta love anon 23.27pm. Like anyone savvy in Leeds with a £3m property would be on rightmove!! It’s all Yorkshire Life and bespoke listings at that level mate. 

Northern boy 07 September 20 21:03

To US Senior Associate: of course you do. And that’s right. You prioritise cash over other things. It would be sad if you did that and earned less. I don’t chase the cash. It’s important, as I have bills to pay, but I also like my 5 day a week steady hours work-life balance. 

Anonymous 08 September 20 00:10

I'm not sure that you quite understand how Rightmove works. London, for example, [currently] has 2,438 properties for sale at 3m+. It's not that the people of Leeds are more savvy, it's that there just aren't that many expensive houses in Leeds. Unless you're telling me that they don't advertise their homes in fear of tracksuit-clad thieves... If this is the case, it may be true.

Anonymous 08 September 20 00:18

So what you're saying is that Rightmove is good enough for a 45m+ pad in Hyde Park but too shabby for an [imaginary] 3m+ two up/two down shack in Leeds? Hmm. Please stop. It's embarrassing. As I said, I'm not anti-north. I'm anti-Leeds. Harrogate, for example, is lovely.

Northerner 08 September 20 19:37

Harrogate is lovely. Jesus wept! It’s the drug capital of the north!! Loads of high school kids in the back of Mummy’s Porsche doing pills. It has a dark underbelly you know. Leeds doesn’t. Leeds is itself and doesn’t act like it isn’t. A bit like White City      as opposed to Shoreditch. Everyone thinks Shoreditch or somewhere similar is the place to be but as soon as they can they are off to somewhere decent. Leeds is The Venice of the North with more canals that Harrogate too! 

Anonymous 08 September 20 22:46

Venice of the North. Now I really have heard everything. Also, both Shoreditch and White City are shit. It's Hampstead or gtfo as far as I'm concerned.

Hampstead massive 09 September 20 11:16

Stay away. We don’t you City types up on our Heath. You work for a living - how repulsive. One’s trust fund ought to be enough, surely? 

Janice 09 September 20 16:08

I loved reading all this nonsense! Lawyers are not my favourite people, along with estate agents, but sadly a necessity at times.   As a Midlander who departed my home town 60 years ago to enter nurse training (not exactly a well paid profession) in London,  I am very conscious of the  the North South divide.  
All I can say is that Northerners are invariably more friendly and considerate than than Southerners...  My heart lifts when I get on the A1 and head north. Be happy, be kind and stop moaning👵

 

Anonymous 11 September 20 09:01

I grew up in the North East of England - people are indeed friendly there *to people who are like them*. I couldn't wait to leave and shudder at the thought of returning.

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