Another Major Law Firm Goes Full Big Brother To Enforce Office Attendance Policy

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Hidden CameraThe impact of the Covid pandemic can still be seen in Biglaw. The presumption that attorneys at the biggest law firms in the world need to be chained to their physical desks eight days a week is gone — though the billable hours expectations haven’t changed. But navigating the balance of in-office and work-from-home time continues to be a challenge.

At Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May, they’ve settled into a three in-office days requirement, but not everyone is living up to that standard. And though they admit it is only a minority who have shirked this obligation, they’re putting technology to use to make sure EVERYONE is on board.

RollOnFriday reports on an email that was sent out earlier this week by Deborah Finkler, the Magic Circle firm’s Managing Partner:

In an email to the firm on Wednesday, Finkler explained that “While we have all experienced benefits from having some flexibility in our working week, this has to be balanced against the very clear benefits in terms of culture, collaboration and well-being of working together in the office”.

For those reasons the hybrid arrangement is now common to many UK firms, and, said Finkler, “That is why we require everyone” – except trainees and new joiners where the requirement is higher – “to spend a rolling average of at least three full days per week (or the pro rata equivalent) in the office, or at a client, in court etc., and of course more if client or business need requires it”.

But a minority of the firm’s solicitors have decided to swerve the commute, the Pret and IRL collaboration in favour of a stroll to their home office with a garden view. “While most people have been adhering to this requirement; it is clear that some have not”, wrote Finkler.

The email continues, “Gate data (showing when people come into and leave the office) will be shared on a monthly basis with Group heads, Business Services directors and HR managers,” and the firm isn’t afraid to use it, “so you should assume that if you are not in the office (or at a client, in court etc.) in line with the policy, this will be raised with you and you will be asked to comply.”

Given this not-so-veiled threat, my guess is a lot more people will suddenly be complying with the in-office standard.

Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon

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