City firms embrace work from home

Freshfields is the latest Magic Circle firm to allow its UK staff to operate remotely 50% of the time

City firms embrace work from home

A number of City firms have embraced working from home, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Freshfields) being the latest to join the fray, reported the Law Society Gazette.

The Magic Circle firm unveiled a flexible working policy for its London and Manchester offices that would enable its UK-based staff, including solicitors, to operate remotely for up to 50% of the time. The policy was developed based on staff feedback, and comes into effect after lockdown.

Applications to work from home must, however, take into consideration staff’s commitments to clients and businesses.

“Our guidance follows feedback from colleagues who signalled a clear preference for more flexibility but also recognises the importance of in-person interaction to our culture, personal development and client engagement,” London managing partner Claire Wills said in a statement published by the Gazette.

The firm follows in the footsteps of Linklaters, which has permitted employees to work remotely 20%-50% of the time, and Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF). The latter introduced a hybrid working policy last December that allows partners and staff in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to operate from home up to half the time, even after COVID-19.

“We believe our new hybrid model will allow us to retain the best elements of remote and in-office working, providing our people with a more dynamic working environment,” NRF managing partner Peter Scott said in a statement published by the Gazette.

Dentons also trimmed its UK branches last year, closing its Aberdeen and Watford offices and allowing partners and staff to work 100 % remotely.

Nonetheless, Olivia Balson, who serves as director of Freshfields’ Manchester-based global centre, said that office space continues to be valuable to the firm.

“We still see the office location for the global centre in Manchester as holding an important role in our connections, our collaboration, development and innovation. At the same time, we strongly believe in the value of a balance between remote and office-based working,” Balson said.

The firm also described that the new work-from-home policy as an “interim approach” that could change depending on the preferences of teams and clients once the environment normalises.

Last year, a number of major firms announced flexible working policies as well, including Herbert Smith Freehills and Ashurst. However, some firms continue to advocate for staff to return to the office.

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