Herbert Smith Freehills sets 60 per cent baseline for office work under flexible working revamp

CEO Justin D'Agostino puts move down to recognition employees have 'greatly valued' flexibility during pandemic
Justin D'Agostino

HSF CEO Justin D'Agostino

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has announced changes to the firm’s flexible working policy with partners and staff expected to work in the firm’s offices 60% of the time, as a baseline. 

Arrangements under the revised policy, which was first introducted in 2015, will be determined on an individual, team, or practice area basis, allowing for a variety of approaches to be taken by managers. They will also be subject to client demand, the needs of the firm and the nature of the work done.

The moves follows magic circle firm Linklaters’ announcement in August of a 20-50% baseline for flexible working, and a similar initiative announced by Squire Patton Boggs last week. 

HSF’s new policy applies across the partnership, as well as to both legal and non-legal roles, including the firm’s alternative legal services offices.

Flexible working will be rolled out as and when pandemic restrictions allow offices to be physically opened and operational, and subject to the caveat that relevant Covid-19 regulations had been relaxed or removed.

The firm’s CEO, Justin D’Agostino, said: “Despite the pressure and worries of the pandemic, we know that many of our people have greatly valued the flexibility of how, where and when we work, gaining more time for their families, health and other commitments.”

He added that he recognised that “the office will remain an important place for connection, collaboration and learning, with clients and with each other".

With the firm looking to increase productivity, as well as performance in next year’s financial results, he stressed the new policy was a benchmark for post-pandemic operations, saying: “We hope to give our people the flexibility to design a working pattern that suits them, their colleagues and our clients, and to offer some certainty in uncertain times.”

While the policy would be supported by relevant health and safety assessments as well as cybersecurity protocols, D’Agostino warned that its implementation was subject to circumstances outside HSF’s control, given the pandemic. 

“We cannot predict with absolute certainty what the workplace will look like six months or even a year from now,” he said.

The intention, however, was to give “every part of our firm the freedom to start imagining and designing new ways of working as those workplace practices evolve”.

The announcement comes hard on the heels of a launch by D’Agostino of a reinvigorated global policy to improve diversity, HSF having earlier joined a UK cross-firm initiative on racial fairness.

It unveiled ‘10 Actions for Change’ on 4 September to drive progress on ethnic diversity globally, with regional initiatives to improve representation and support for black, First Nations, Asian and ethnic minority colleagues.

D’Agostino said the actions provided "a framework for all regions of the firm to shape to suit their local communities and issues".

He added: “We are not where we want to be, or where we should be, in our ethnic representation or our progress in dismantling systemic racism. The tragic killing of George Floyd in May spurred us to redouble our existing work.

"Since then, we have been consulting across the firm about how we can actively become an anti-racist organisation, committed to confronting the deep-seated inequities from which no society or business is exempt."

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