"But I like having the office all to myself on Mondays."
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is changing its agile working policy to require lawyers to spend four days a week in the office. Although it hasn't yet made a decision on business services staff.
The US firm's current policy is for lawyers to be in the office three days a week, from Tuesday to Thursday. But the firm has now told its lawyers that from September they will have to be in the office for a minimum of four days a week; with the option to only work from home on Fridays.
A Skadden spokeswoman said: “By affording attorneys the flexibility to work remotely on Fridays and during specified periods throughout the year, our modified hybrid work model will harness the best aspects of remote working while fueling innovation and professional development through more frequent in-person collaboration.”
RollOnFriday understands that the policy will apply to Skadden's lawyers, but the firm has yet to determine whether to bring professional services staff into the office for four days as well. It is a global policy, although there will be some flexibility for each office to differ slightly, according to region.
An insider told RollOnFriday that there are “a lot of discontented Skadden Associates in London” who are “not happy with the new policy to force us in 4 days a week.” The source said: “People will leave for firms that allow better flexibility.”
Presumably Skadden's management feels that chaining lawyers to the office is fair, given that they are using golden chains; NQs are on a base salary of £165k and juniors earn more than many partners make at other firms. But, for now, Skadden does seem to be an outlier when it comes to demanding four days in the office, even compared with most other US firms in the City.
At Goodwin Procter (where NQs are paid £160k) lawyers are required to be in the office three days per week, "other than those individuals with specific flexible working arrangements to the contrary," a spokesman confirmed. The firm also offers staff the opportunity to take up a block of "one week per quarter to work from somewhere other than the office."
Another top-paying US firm in the City, Kirkland & Ellis, also has a policy of three days a week in the office, rather than four.
At Sidley Austin, (where NQ salary is £159,500) the firm does not have a formal remote working policy per se, but RollOnFriday understands that staff tend to come into the office around three days a week.
The likes of Shearman & Sterling, White & Case and Ropes & Gray (which all pay their NQs in the £140k+ bracket), require their lawyers to be in the office for three days a week.
Taking a flexible approach, Gibson Dunn (which pays its NQs £162k) has in the past told its London-based lawyers that they are free to organise their own office schedules and can work from home when appropriate.
However, perhaps closer to the Skadden model, Paul Hastings has previously suggested that its lawyers should not work from home, hinting at a flexible structure akin to an ironing board.
In the Magic Circle: Freshfields, Allen & Overy and Slaughter and May require three days in the office. But Linklaters and Clifford Chance offer more remote working with a 50/50 split between home and the office.
At the most flexible end of the legal spectrum, DAC Beachcroft and Irwin Mitchell offer staff the option to work remotely full time. On the flip-side, when it comes to salaries, DAC Beachcroft NQs in London are on a minimum salary of £70k, while at Irwin Mitchell NQ salary ranges from £55-73k (depending on business area).
A RollOnFriday poll last year of over 4,500 lawyers and law firm staff revealed that there was a huge preference towards WFH for at least the majority of the week.
And early results in the RollOnFriday In-House lawyers survey indicate that most clients are happy for their lawyers to work from home.
"WFH has clear benefits for many people and leads to more relaxed, balanced habits," said one client. "We'd like our lawyers to be trusted to get things done without them being chained to their desks."
Another in-house lawyer said: "I want them to work however suits them and enables them to do my work in a way that doesn't screw up their mental health."
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