As this year’s bumper partner promotion season wraps up, we spoke to several top partners with enough experience to offer precious words of wisdom to the freshly minted generation this week. Some great pointers in this collection, including “don’t act like you’re in the Hunger Games”, “think like a business owner”, and “buy your colleagues lots of coffees,” from the likes of Penny Angell, Tamara Box, Richard East and Nicole Kar. But it’s not just new partners that can learn from established lawyers and firms. The reverse is true too. The industry has woken up in recent years to the lifestyle that many younger lawyers have come to expect – and that means firms thinking about more than just the ‘work’ side of work. Several initiatives introduced by major firms this week point to how they want to be perceived as businesses and places to work. Linklaters followed several peers in the U.K. business community in introducing a formal menopause policy, to support its people through what can be a very difficult experience. Slaughter and May rolled out dramatic absolute emissions targets that will no doubt impress future lawyer’s green leanings, while HFW also committed to a more climate friendly future with its move to what it calls London’s “most sustainable tall office tower”.
Of course, hard cash doesn’t hurt a firm’s pulling power either. Hogan Lovells has shaken up its U.K. bonus arrangements, Hannah Walker reported, adding more flexibility into the way associates qualify for the awards as well as raising the amount on offer. All the above efforts speak to an industry attempting to make itself as attractive as possible to the new generation, and next generation of partners. Higher bonuses may attract talent, while new, greener offices and solid health policies will keep them there. Because workloads show no sign of easing. Data from the Office of National Statistics released this week showed the U.K. legal industry turnover jumped by 19% during March, while deals such as BT and Warner Bros.’ sports venture this week hand plenty of billable hours to lawyers. For those lawyers who may be approaching or even hitting feelings of extreme stress, anxiety and other symptoms of burnout, legal mental health charity LawCare has once again stepped up. The offering has expanded its online chat function to operate five days a week, up from just one. And former Big Law associate and current coach and burnout adviser Charlène Gisèle shared her top tips for coping mechanisms in this highly practical piece.
While Stephenson Harwood may have hoped its announcement last week about offering full time remote positions for a 20% pay cut to its staff and lawyers would be met positively, some in the U.K. legal industry were fairly horrified at the concept. Responses to research undertaken by Varsha Patel into it included one counsel at a large law firm saying a policy such as Stephenson Harwood’s is “unfair in principle”, while a partner slammed it as “ridiculous”. They added that if they were to be penalised for home working, they would “go and find another job where I was valued for my contribution, not for my presence in the office”.
Any law firms looking to emulate such a policy would do best to undertake some internal research of their own before rolling anything similar out and risking the wrath of their people. But (perhaps thankfully) lawyers aren’t the only people in the world. And they certainly aren’t the only people fellow lawyers should think about creating a comfortable environment for. A select group of lawyers at Ince Group would do well to remember that, after accusations of unpleasant behaviour by them towards an employee in a Cardiff restaurant appeared on social media. Owner of Cora restaurant, Lee Skeet, tweeted an image of an email which The Telegraph reported was addressed to Ince’s head of finance and administration, John Biles, in which he accused Biles’ management staff of abusing one of his employees—a 22 year-old front of house staff member—claiming that she was “talked down to, disrespected, and touched unwantedly by members of [the] group”.
The firm is now investigating. Its website boasts that: “We are known for turning complex solutions into comprehensive explanations.” Let’s hope it rustles up a comprehensive explanation into the behaviour of some of its seemingly most boorish blokes ASAP.