Stephenson Harwood has introduced a permanent working from home scheme that will allow fee-earners to take one day out of the office per week.
The scheme will be rolled out in the London office on 1 August following a successful trial last year. The arrangements were arrived at following a consultation with practice group leaders and business service heads.
Fee-earners will be entitled to take one day out of the office per week while support staff will be able to take one day per fortnight.
However, the initiative will not be available to staff whose role is integral to maintaining a physical presence in the office, for example those working within the corporate team during a deal.
Stephenson Harwood managing partner Sharon White said: “We recognise the importance of creating a working environment that encourages individual productivity and operational efficiency. Attracting and retaining the very best talent remains a priority, and implementing this scheme enables us to provide employees with more flexibility without compromising client work.”
White added that the scheme has helped some lawyers, especially those who live outside London, to work better. “Increasingly people have to travel further into London and having a break from the daily grind of the commute has proven helpful,” she said.
White said that with partners available on their phones, remote working would not be an issue for the firm, rather, the trial scheme has proven to benefit employees’ productivity.
The firm declined to say how much it would save through the scheme, adding that savings were “not the rationale behind the policy or the priority”.
“The financial impact of the scheme is not the priority. We recognise that staff and partners appreciate flexibility, and modern technology means that we are able to offer the scheme without impacting on client service,” a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that “standard law firm technology” would allow lawyers to access the firm’s system from home easily.
Joint head of fraud and asset tracing Alan Bercow said: “This scheme is really good. It gives people flexibility, it’s popular. People like to work at home in the quiet – it’s nice to sit on your own when you have something difficult to draft, without having people coming in and out of the office. With a good IT platform you may as well be in the office.”
Bercow added that the IT platform had just been updated and that partners are able to use the firm’s laptops if they wish.
“This flexible working is happening everywhere in the City,” he continued. “The accountancy firms have been leading the way with their hot-desking.
“Now you can just sit at home in your dressing gown and bash documents from a conference call if you’re in a different time zone.”
Stephenson Harwood is the latest of a raft of firms to introduce flexible working schemes. In March, Morgan Lewis announced it would allow associates to work from home for up to two days per week from 1 May.
Perhaps the award for most radical shakeup of working hours should go to Mishcon de Reya, whose managing partner Kevin Gold told colleagues that they should work as many or as few days as they want, including unlimited holidays.
Gold admitted that this had “mildly irritated” some partners whose work schedule might not accommodate taking a three-day week, but it seems to be working for the firm, which has posted strong results for this financial year.
Gold said the firm had set out to make work for flexible for new mothers, as more women were entering the profession than men.
Other firms that have latched on to the flexible-working bandwagon include Addleshaw Goddard, Baker McKenzie, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells and Slaughter and May, which has allowed associates and and partners to work from one day per fortnight.