Slaughter and May unveils trio of associate part-time working programmes

Job shares and project-led flexibility among options presented to top UK firm’s lawyers
3D-Illustration timing from above

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Slaughter and May is introducing three part-time working programmes for associates as City law firms prepare for their return to the office next week.  

The magic circle firm’s associates will be able to trim down their hours by up to 20% under the ‘switch on/off’ scheme, which will allow lawyers to take predetermined blocks of leave to align with school holidays, for example, though the firm specified that the scheme is not limited to just parents.  

The second part-time scheme revolves around project-led flexibility, and will offer associates the opportunity to cut their hours by up to 20% and take unpaid periods of holiday between large transactions, on top of their annual leave allowance. Under the scheme, associates will commit working end-to-end for the duration of a transaction or a number of transactions.  

Finally, associates will be able to split their hours by having two lawyers work together to cover one role. The pairings do not require two associates at the same level to pair up, meaning a junior and senior associate could split their time together. Under the scheme, each associate will work three days a week each, with one day of overlap between them.  

“We want to find working arrangements that provide our lawyers with a sustainable way of working, but which also ensure they feel supported to do their work and continue to deliver value to clients, whilst also developing their careers, and managing work-life balance,” Slaughter and May partner Caroline Philips told the Financial Times.

These options for associates follow the firm’s announcement of its wider return-to-office plan in May, when it said the majority of its lawyers and staff based in London and Brussels will be expected to spend at least 60% of their time in the office, with up to 40% working remotely, according to a report by Legal Cheek.  

It followed close behind the announcements by magic circle rivals Linklaters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which both opted to phase in a slightly lower in-person commitment when they outlined a 50% work-from-home policy back in March.  

In April, Clifford Chance echoed the approach of its magic circle counterparts, announcing it expects its lawyers to evenly split their hours between the firm’s offices and working remotely once restrictions are lifted, providing the role allows for it. Allen & Overy said it would require its lawyers and staff to spend 60% of their time in the firm’s UK offices once restrictions are lifted.  

Meanwhile, regional firm TLT said it would completely forgo setting a formal office return date, instead introducing a full flexible working plan that allows its lawyers and staff to work from wherever suits their role requirements.  

Kingsley Napley also recently unveiled its flexible working policy to coincide with its move to its new London headquarters. Its lawyers and staff will be expected to spend three days of the working week in the office — or the equivalent of 40-60% of their time calculated on a pro-rata basis — starting in September, allowing for the firm’s workforce to have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccination. 

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