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26 August 2020

Linklaters launches permanent agile working policy built on Covid-19 lessons

Employees able to work away from the office up to half of the time by prior agreement

By Ben Rigby

Linklaters is introducing a permanent flexible working policy Shutterstock

City firm Linklaters has announced a new flexible working policy under which employees will have greater freedom to choose the option to work remotely for up to 20% to 50% of their time. 

The policy is discretionary, meaning there is no automatic entitlement for employees to work from home for that period of time; it must be agreed on a team-by-team basis and subject to operational requirements being met. The principle of remote working, however, will not need permission to be granted.

While inspired by and built on lessons learned by Linklaters from remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic, the policy is not dependent on pandemic-era practices. Instead, the firm stressed it is a set of globally applicable principles agreed by partners, and which support the Magic Circle firm’s view that work has been delivered to standard with employees working remotely.

While making it clear that offices would follow the relevant guidance to their jurisdictions on returning to the office, the new principles are intended to form part of a long-term policy shift, part of which Linklaters characterised as being a “continuous and open dialogue” between the firm and employees as office returns are considered.

The firm previously announced a partial reopening of offices in June, including in London. Part of that dialogue will include flexible start and finish times, and modifications to set core hours to allow for non-work commitments. 

The tone from Silk Street was positive, with the firm saying it was “committed to ensuring that each conversation will start with a ‘yes’ to exploring the possibilities” as to how lawyers and non-lawyers alike would agree how, when, and where they would get their work done—subject to the requirements of client service.

At its heart, the firm sought greater consistency between offices, saying it was keen to be an employer of choice for working parents, while the principles, and their execution, would help advance gender equality. 

Discretion on a local basis would apply, with partners, managers and teams applying the policy in locally-appropriate ways. The genesis of the new policy stems from changes to the firm’s UK head office flexible working agreements, under which employees were able to request flexible working irrespective of length of service, without necessarily having to justify, or explain, their reasons for doing so.

Andrea Arosio, the firm’s Italy managing partner, said the pandemic and associated enforced remote working experiment gave the firm the opportunity to revisit its policies.

Arosio, a member of Linklaters’ global people committee, said its recent experience had demonstrated that “remote working has worked remarkably well and we can deliver high-quality work whilst working remotely.”

Stressing the need for collaboration and the people-centric nature of legal work, he added remote working had “reinforced the huge benefits we and our clients obtain from face to face interaction and the value of our offices as hubs of teamwork and learning,” adding “this policy does not detract from that.”

He concluded that such agility was essential to the business, its people and clients. He said: “We are committed to fostering our agile culture which encourages our people develop working arrangements which suit their needs, along with those of the firm and our clients.”

Separately, the firm announced it would be retaining 87% of its trainees in September, with the firm retaining 46 of the expected 53 solicitors qualifying then. The retention rate is a slight fall on the 91% of trainees (49 out of 54) taken on last year, and is comparable to those seen at other Magic Circle law firms. 

Earlier in August, Linklaters announced that salaries for newly-qualified solicitors would be cut by 10% to £90,000.

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