Hastings

A Paul Hastings employee welcomes the news


Paul Hastings has sent a memo to all its global staff telling them to work from the office "by default" from 7 September.

The US firm gave a strong indication that it expects all its employees, including those in the UK, to be back in the office full-time from the autumn. "By default, we should work from the office when we are able," said management in its memo to staff. 

The memo seemed to suggest that some remote working may be allowed, if staff provide a good reason (a preference for working in pyjamas may not cut it): "We understand and respect the flexibility that individual circumstances will require," said management.

A source told RollOnFriday that, rather than having a set policy, group leaders will be left to decide what flexibility to allow their own teams. So staff wanting a regular slot each week to wfh will have to hope their boss isn't a stickler for presenteeism.

Paul Hastings' policy that the office should be the default venue for staff contrasts with the stance of several City firms which have recently announced a hybrid policy to include remote working; many of those firms highlighted that they sought feedback from their staff and clients when reaching their decision. 

Firms that are allowing a specific amount of remote working include the Magic Circle. Clifford ChanceLinklaters and Freshfields announced that staff can split their time 50/50 between the office and home, while Slaughter and May and Allen & Overy will allow their employees to wfh for 40% of the time. Meanwhile, other City firms have opted for various percentage splits, such as Eversheds Sutherland  swinging to 40% to 60% homeworking.

DAC Beachcroft and Irwin Mitchell have gone for the most flexible approach by giving staff the power to decide where, when and how they work. 

A firm's long-term policy on wfh might well have an impact on whether they keep hold or attract new staff - a RollOnFriday poll of thousands of law sector professionals revealed that over 50% of lawyers would swap firms if they couldn't work from home. 

Paul Hastings declined to comment. 

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Comments

Anon 11 June 21 10:11

I mean - in fairness to PH, I can't imagine many of their UK lawyers are their as a lifestyle play so maybe its better to just weed out those that'll bin it for work life balance early? Slight hint of sarcasm here but more seriously, if you're at PH you aren't shooting for work-life balance I wouldn't have thought so flexible working might just be part of that sacrifice!

Anonymous 11 June 21 11:02

Watch PH's attrition rate double and their gender diversity fall through the floorboards...

 

Fred the Shred 11 June 21 11:11

Complete nonsense to suggest whf is a "lifestyle" play.  I work long hours - typically 8am to between 11 pm / 1am - wfh.  I live 2.5 hours away from the office.  If I need to spend 25 hours a week commuting, my energy / time is reduced massively and my health suffers.  Further, as a senior lawyer, my workaday communications are 99% me and my clients.  Most of my clients are not even i the same time zone.  They’re certainly not in the so-n-so office.  Our office is entirely irrelevant to them.  My travelling 90 miles for 2.5 hours merely to switch on a laptop is bonkers - do you really think my clients give a flying fig what wifi I’m using, ffs?

All this city centre bricks n mortar obsession in an Internet age nonsense is an outworking of how employers increasingly are becoming paternalistic. In this century, employers increasingly want to be a mix of your employer, your nanny, your police officer, your life counsellor, your chaperone, your careers adviser, your health and safety adviser, your social events planner, your matchmaker, and your shrink. Team building sh1te.  "Developing" you.  “Evaluating” your “performance” and giving you points out of 10.  Mandatory socialising / forced fun.  The effrontery of it all.  Fluck off!

Already, I am telling my kids to aim for entrepreneurship as early as possible; since employee status and infantilisation nowadays are coterminous.

Anonymous 11 June 21 11:26

"Watch PH's attrition rate double and their gender diversity fall through the floorboards..."

... while revenues climb ever higher as the low productivity employees leave for Work Life Balance at firms willing to offer it.

The partners will be crying hard into their diamond-plated teacups, I'll bet.

 

 

Obviously the HR Box Ticker will have fits over the gender diversity impact, but that has zero real-world impact on revenues and profits so again few tears from the people who matter. Oh no, we're paying less mat-leave, whatever will we do?

Anonymous 11 June 21 11:57

@Fred

I think that is a wind-up post... but on the slim off-chance it isn't:

 

1. You sound like a dreadful employee (with a level of irascibility and introversion that suggests a broader underlying pathology). 

2. You are a fool for moving 2.5 hours away from your place of employment.

 

That's a you thing, not an "Internet Age" thing. 

Revealed preferences 11 June 21 12:02

Yes, Anon at 11:26 is correct. Diversity is irrelevant. A more blunt précis of the “diversity bandwagon” grifters’ schtick is simply: “We’ve failed to achieve our left-wing social engineering goals using objective measures of merit and competence, so we’re now switching to blackmail, quotas and affirmative action”. “However, "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” sounds so much nicer than blackmail, quotas and affirmative action, doesn’t it, though?

The most valuable employees are those who can focus 100% on their career. They are the people who will determine how well firms succeed. That’s not discrimination, it’s the inevitable result of a world in which clients have freedom of choice where to take their business. Maternity leave in particular is a politically-engineering EBITDA-killing monstrosity. If you want to take a year off work, whether to live on a beach in Bali, or drop sprogs, do it in your own time, at your own expense. Why should your fellow fee earners subsidise your life choices? (In 2006, maternity leave was extended from six to nine months, with employees able to request an additional three months on top. Add on holiday entitlement accrued while on maternity leave and women can easily be off work for 13 months or more.) The fact that the law allows you to dilly-dally around and not tell your employer for ages when you might deign to return to work makes it even more hideous. 

George Orwell warned that:

[...] we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. *Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time*: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield. [...] In private life most people are fairly realistic. When one is making out one’s weekly budget, two and two invariably make four. Politics, on the other hand, is a sort of sub-atomic or non-Euclidean world where it is quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously. Hence the contradictions and absurdities I have chronicled above, all finally traceable to a secret belief that one’s political opinions, unlike the weekly budget, will not have to be tested against solid reality.  www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/in-front-of-your-nose

Please don't misunderstand me: we all know that we must parrot diversity mantras whenever asked by recruiters, when recruiting ourselves, at dinner parties, or on surveys, but the economists' cold-hearted term, 'revealed preference' makes liars of almost all of us: when actually spending our own money (and in the privacy of the poll booth), most people couldn't care less about diversity, and how we work and structure our businesses - we pursue our perceived economic self-interest.

It's the same, mutadis mutandis, in professional services: clients focus on the bottom line. Some large corporations which have market power are using that to force suppliers to deliver diversity (like the idiot at Coke who was sacked: www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/coke-gc-resigns-12m-after-radical-diversity-plan-bombs), but that's usually in notable contrast to their own hiring and promotion practices, and it only applies to very large corporations who can monetise their actions for PR purposes. Most clients still pick based on relationships, efficacy, efficiency, and responsiveness. Obviously, it's harder to build client relationships if you have child-rearing responsibilities, and can't/won't drop everything 24/7/365 to be responsive. 

One advantage of this however is that you can pay people less who demand flexibility: one of the reasons why women's pay is lower is because they choose to have children, become the primary carer, and work part time. This also allows mid-market firms to attract such people by offering part-time/flexible work. That doesn't apply to Paul Hastings, though: top tier firms don't need to make compromises.

Efforts to make reality match political wishful thinking are failing. Covid and childcare was a useful wake-up call that:

1. None of us, male or female, can “have it all”, no matter how much we “lean in”. People who choose to have children must decide which partner will take primary responsibility for raising them. 

2. Primary carers - male or female - can not give 100% at work, in the same way that child-free colleagues can (who are in competition with them). 

3. The most valuable employees are those who can focus 100% on their career. For as long as companies and firms compete for customers and clients, based on cost, quality of service, attentiveness, responsiveness, etc. those companies who employ people who can give 100% to the job will thrive, and the remainder will be at a disadvantage. Employers want people who can give 100%.

4. Wishful thinking won’t survive international competition. In a global economy, all the domestic legislation in the world forcing employers to accept inferior performance won’t change competitive dynamics from overseas rivals without such handicaps. We can’t change economic reality via employment law.

There are 168 hours in the week for everyone, whether child-rearing or child-free, and so the former necessarily are less able to focus on the needs of their employers, colleagues, clients, etc. But that's the wrong answer politically, so we don't say that openly.

What have I missed?

Anonymous 11 June 21 12:34

"What have I missed?"

The opportunity to record approximately ten billable units, or to just go outside.

 

I agree with everything you've written, but F me it's a lot of words for a RoF thread.

Libel Bint 11 June 21 12:43

All I can say, @Revealed Preferences, is that you are clearly not someone giving anywhere near 100% to your own career given the time you have taken out of the working day to write that diatribe... but hey, you do you!

All about the money 11 June 21 12:56

There's a difference if you're a lawyer at a US firm that's paying you mega bucks .... you've entered a Faustian bargain and sold your soul - a lack of remote working is part of the price you pay.

A smaller firm paying its associates peanuts in comparison will have to allow remote working now, or they'll see staff leave in droves. 

Revealed preferences 11 June 21 13:59

>The opportunity to record approximately ten billable units, or to just go outside.

FWIW, I wrote it years ago, and just copied and pasted it here, having added a contemporaneous reference to Paul Hastings :)

MK 11 June 21 14:04

@Revealed preferences: You sound like a real charmer - "drop sprogs", seriously? And yes, so hideous of all those horrible women not to commit in advance of childbirth and the first couple of months with a newborn baby to when exactly they will return to work. Of course they all have a crystal ball that tells them if they or the baby are going to have post partum health issues and if childcare arrangements are going to work out smoothly.

In real life, most mothers I know tell their employer when and to what extent they plan to return to work, with the proviso that plans will have to be changed if unforeseen circumstances arise. And guess what, unless unforeseen circumstances arise, they all stick with the original plan. I'm writing from Germany and maybe women here handle things differently, but I somehow doubt it.

Anyway, you also state: "Most clients still pick based on relationships, efficacy, efficiency, and responsiveness. Obviously, it's harder to build client relationships if you have child-rearing responsibilities, and can't/won't drop everything 24/7/365 to be responsive."

Many inhouse lawyers have children and find it remarkably easy to build relationships with other parents. And why would efficacy or efficiency be impaired by child-rearing any more than by working too many hours? As to responsiveness, yes, that might be an issue. Funnily enough, though, I know quite a few lawyers who work full-time and have more issues with responsiveness than any of the part-time mothers. Also, I'm baffled that all the full-time lawyers in your world apparently sit around wiggling their thumbs or doing insignificant stuff most of the time so they can drop everything 24/7/365 to be responsive. In my world, that's definitely not the case. If you're in a client meeting or at a court hearing or have a crucial deadline to meet, you won't be able to drop everything to be responsive either. The illusion that any individual has to offer 24/7/365 availability is just laughable.

Razza 11 June 21 14:25

Agree @All about the money.

I'm at a mid-tier firm where my annual salary is probably the same as the bonus of a solicitor at a US firm. If our firm asked us to come to the office "by default" there would be an exodus. But I don't feel sorry for the Paul Hastings solicitors, as it's all relative to what they're earning.

What will be an interesting is if support staff at Paul Hastings (on a fraction of the solicitors' salary) will be willing to accept the policy, or if they'll start looking at other firms that guarantee remote working. 

It should matter to management, as it will have implications for recruitment and HR, and the budget allocated.

Anonymous 11 June 21 14:48

"Many inhouse lawyers have children and find it remarkably easy to build relationships with other parents"

Well sure, but nattering around the water-cooler with other inhousers is hardly something to brag about is it?

Meanwhile, turning our attention back to the kind of lawyers who actually have to build practices and be genuine subject matter experts...

Anonymous 11 June 21 14:55

"I'm at a mid-tier firm where my annual salary is probably the same as the bonus of a solicitor at a US firm."

But why do you not just earn more money?

You could simply go to a bigger firm and then they would pay you more. Then you could afford shoes made out of real leather rather than the plastic ones that just look a bit like it in low light conditions.

Why would you not do this? 

Do you not have any self respect?

Or are you secretly aroused by the fact that low-status individuals who literally dance naked in seedy nightclubs for the money that City solictors pay them are earning more than you?

Wait... are you the same person?

80's spirit 11 June 21 15:58

@Anonymous 11 June 21 14:55  

Harsh.  If its a lifestyle choice, then fair enough.

If not, then yes there are loads of law firms out there to choose from to get a bit more $$$ (and if you look at our websites we are all market leading so you can't go wrong....)

To revealed preferences 11 June 21 16:59

No, this isn't worse at all.

          FWIW, I wrote it years ago, and just copied and pasted it here, having added a contemporaneous reference to Paul Hastings :)

14:55 11 June 21 17:07

A big FU to all of the Budget Lawyers By Day And Marginally Less Budget Strippers By Night who negged me.

I can only assume that you are somehow deriving masochistic pleasure from the lifetimes of degradation and humiliation that you are wilfully living out.

Enjoy wearing your plastic shoes.

 

 

Both the sensible daytime ones and the ones with heels and a platform.

MK 11 June 21 18:09

@Anonymous at 14:48

You’re missing the point. It’s not about what “inhousers” might do amongst themselves, it’s  about the allegation that as a practicing lawyer you can’t build proper client relationships with said inhouse lawyers if you don’t work full-time because of childcare responsibilities. You also seem to suggest you can only be a genuine subject matter expert if you work full time, which I find curious. I wonder how well your relationship building is going if you are always so snarky about inhouse lawyers, people who don’t work full-time and other people in general…

@Revealed Preferences 11 June 21 19:07

You might have missed that there are good quality lawyers who don’t want to work like a dog, and firms willing to hire them. 
 

Of course, that matters less in practices which simply involve churn. Many don’t. 

Anonymous 11 June 21 23:34

The life of an in-house lawyer:

Start in private practice 

Survive for 3 years post-qual before being moved on/realising themselves that they can’t cut it 

One day receive legal question from the business

Get chased for response at 5pm 5 days later

Quickly send email to external lawyers at 5:30 requiring memo by 10am next morning - go home

Give interview to legal press the next day bemoaning the work/life balance of associates at panel firms and demanding those firms create a more forgiving work environment. 

Receive bill for memo. Refuse to pay full amount. 

 

Anon 12 June 21 08:35

I wouldn’t instruct a firm that did this. Far from seeming ultra-professional and client focused, it just makes me think the partners are wankers. 

Toby Greenlord - Freeman on the Land 12 June 21 11:39

I don't work when I'm at work so I won't have any problems not working from home.

Fake Partner 12 June 21 20:51

I prefer to work in the office. It's just that if, for example, I have a medical appointment at 10:30 A.M. on a Tuesday near my house, I want to be able to work from home after the appointment, assuming there is no critical reason why I must be in the office that day. It's the option and flexibility really. Firms have to recognize that things have changed. What's the point in me slogging in to the office to arrive at 1PM, when I could have been working at home at 11:30 A.M.? Firms must not be short sighted. 

anon 14 June 21 17:06

A flawed approach and not very forward thinking. They couldn't pay me enough to work under those conditions. 

Anonymous 16 June 21 02:53

On the odd occasions I nostalgically glance back in here from my position on the first line, ex in house, ex ex outhouse, it’s reassuring to see the dispiriting blend of naïveté and arrogance that sees mid tier associates willingly continue climb into the woodchipper of private practice continues to prevail.

You are not “true subject matter experts”, you simply cover different topics. Yours aren’t more worthwhile. Yes, some in-house lawyers are rubbish postboxes unable to add their own value, but there are plenty of useless private practice lawyers too, and it isn’t their billables that make them competent. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that competent, well integrated in-house lawyers don’t add far more value to the business than largely interchangeable private practice providers.

Finally, if you fail to appreciate that we, and our customers, really care about inclusivity and sustainability, you will increasingly look like those lawyers who refused to learn to type.

 

 

Anonymous 16 June 21 08:16

If more people held Revealed Preferences’ views, law would be full of white men who left child-rearing to their girlfriends, wives and ex-wives. Oh wait.

... 17 June 21 00:04

Unsurprising from PH, which seems to be solely staffed by either semi competent socio/psychopaths or monstrous incompetents serving out their year or two before leaving.

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