Linklaters, a Magic Circle legal firm, has become the latest major City practice to move towards a flexible working model. With staff at legal firms around the country praising the benefits of flexible working arrangements and increasing concerns over the work/life balance available to legal professionals, more and more firms are now looking into ways of offering flexibility to their staff.
In the past, the legal industry has been criticised as a slow-adopter of flexible working principles. However, the sector now seems to be beginning to catch up as a number of prominent firms have announced flexible working schemes of late.
Herbert Smith Freehills, a major international legal firm, also recently announced a flexible working initiative. The firm’s UK staff will now benefit from more choice when it comes to time and location for carrying out their work.
A Linklaters spokesperson stressed the firm’s commitment to providing flexibility to its employees so far as client and colleague needs allow. However, it was also emphasised that the firm does not believe a “one-size fits all” policy to be truly workable. The spokesperson said: “The only thing a policy can do is draw a line that makes it clear that because people have a variety of needs, the ethos around flexibility is one that the business supports.”
At present, roughly 7% of the firms staff are working on a flexible basis. The flexible working arrangements that these employees have access to are formally built into their employment contracts with the firm. Linklaters piloted a flexible working scheme in London, aiming to break down people’s preconceptions around the idea of flexibility in working arrangements. This pilot scheme offered employees to work from home for one day every week if they chose to do so.
“Some did [choose to work from home], some didn’t,” the firm said, “but the option was open to all, talked about and championed. Since this pilot we have had other groups adopt this approach,’ the firm said. We don’t look at progress in this area through the number of formal employee flexible arrangements that we put in place.”
When Herbert Smith Freehills surveyed staff about its experiments in flexible working, it found that three quarters believed that this kind of approach could boost overall productivity. Almost 90% of surveyed staff also said that the option of working from home was either somewhat important or very important.
The concept of flexible working has strong bearings one one of the big topics for the legal industry at present. A number of recent surveys and studies have looked at the challenges involved in a legal career, and identifies difficulty in achieving an effective work/life balance as a key problem. Flexible working could significantly improve things in this area, and help staff better balance their private and personal lives in some significant ways.