25 May 2022

Dentons extends flexible working trial for UK, Ireland and Middle East offices

Firm launched You Choose last May to positive feedback from lawyers and staff

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Dentons has opted to extend its flexible working scheme until December after the conclusion of a year-long trial across its offices in the UK, Ireland and the Middle East. 

The policy, dubbed You Choose, allows the firm’s lawyers and staff to choose their own mix of home and office working. 

Dentons UKIME CEO, Paul Jarvis, said feedback from lawyers and staff had been largely positive since the policy came into effect last May.

“We've heard from our people that they value flexibility and the trust we've placed in them to manage their work locations according to client demands and expectations,” he said. 

Jarvis added that the firm tweaked the policy to help lawyers and staff to establish clearer boundaries between work and home life, a change intended to lend itself to improved productivity and employee wellbeing. 

To this end, the firm has clarified for which events it expects lawyers and staff to be in the office, including team meetings, training, social events and instances when there is clear client demand. 

“We also recognise that our partners, directors and business services team leaders have an important role in supporting and managing teams and providing the best developmental and collaborative experience to our staff,” Jarvis said. 

“With this in mind we are looking for our leaders to strike the right balance between home and office working and, without mandating them to attend the office for a set number of days or monitoring their attendance, we would expect to see them in the office more regularly.” 

The scheme’s extension applies to Dentons’ offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Milton Keynes and Dublin, as well as its locations in Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE. 

The move comes just weeks after the issue of remote work in the legal community made national headlines when UK law firm Stephenson Harwood announced it would cut the salaries of staff members who choose to work from home full-time by 20%. 

The City firm said it had hired lawyers based outside of London for resourcing reasons during the pandemic that received different salaries to its London lawyers and was now opening the option to take a similar package if they no longer wished to work in-person, according to the Law Society Gazette

Another firm to have a flexible working policy similar to Dentons’ is Womble Bond Dickinson, which last August unveiled a hybrid working model for its UK workforce that allowed its lawyers choose if they wished to work from home, in-person or a combination of both based on personal preference and business and client need. 

Bristol-based national firm TLT also established a ‘fully flexible’ long-term working approach last June centred on offering more choice for employees so they could work at ‘at a place and time that suits them, their clients and their role’ and enable a culture that is ‘inclusive of different working styles’. 

The issue of remote work in the legal industry has been one of fervent debate since its use exploded as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with some seeing it as crucial to improving employee wellbeing and productivity and others viewing it as detrimental to professional development and mental health, particularly among younger lawyers. 

poll conducted by GLP last year on Covid-19’s impact on working practices revealed 77% of 98 surveyed lawyers anticipated a permanent shift to home working once the pandemic died down. Nearly as many (69%) said they believed this change would improve work life balance, with 50% believing it will boost productivity. That compares to just 17% who expected work life balance to deteriorate and 16% who felt the same about productivity. 

Responses were varied, however, when it came to the wellbeing of more junior lawyers – nearly half (46%) said they believed this group’s productivity had deteriorated, against 37% who felt it had improved. 

Dentons said its flexible working policy would be kept under close review and adapted as required to suit the needs of its clients, teams and the market environment. 

 

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