Ardent consultant Jon Kennedy reviews the impact of the pandemic on job locations and working practices in the legal industry.

One of the emerging conversations recruitment consultants have had with clients and candidates in the last 18 months is “where is the role based?” In order to stop disenchanted talent from moving on, as we emerged from our third lockdown last spring, firms started to announce longer term agile working policies that you’d never have imagined in normal times.

Hybrid working

As early as March, Simmons & Simmons announced a hybrid working system, with up to two to three days of home working per week, to take effect after restrictions lifted.  A similar policy of up to 50% home working was adopted by Freshfields, and Clifford Chance quickly followed suit.

By the end of the summer, equivalent arrangements allowing up to 50% (or more) working from home had been brought in by over two thirds of the law firms in the UK Top 20.

The pandemic continues to pose different challenges from one month to the next. As workforce feedback continues to evolve, we may see updates to many firms’ policies as we work through 2022.

Striking the right balance will continue to be tricky for firms. There seems to be quite an even divide between those who want more homeworking and those who want to be in the office more.  As agents, we have negotiated acceptable terms for candidates who want something more flexible than the standard company policy.  In other circumstances, we have sought assurances, on behalf of candidates set to join a flex-friendly firm, that there will be adequate supervision and contact time with colleagues.

Office space

The working from home agenda was closely linked to another hot topic of 2021 – making best use of office space.  Working from home means fewer people in the office at any one time. As a result many firms are reviewing their need for costly office space and seeking to reduce their premises. This may mean moving to an entirely new building. For many firms, a change of location will allow for a fresh start and agile working to be further embraced.

A new era looms for Skadden, as it relocates its 250-strong London team after two decades at Canary Wharf.  In 2022 they will take up residence in the second tallest tower in the City.

Whilst Kirkland & Ellis won’t move until around 2024, their new London HQ deal will see them swap the iconic Gherkin for a building known as “Gotham City”, as their London headcount continues to rise rapidly.

Travers Smith’s recent agreement to move away from Snow Hill is also an exciting development. The modern, sustainable and inclusive design of its new premises reflects the firm’s vision.

Linklaters might not be moving until 2026. However they have already started piloting flex working configurations with various practice groups to gather feedback and make plans accordingly.

As DLA’s leases in Liverpool approach the end, the firm is reviewing “innovative and exciting” ways to shape its workspaces.

 

Are you considering a move in 2022? If you want to understand how you might take advantage of these changing circumstances around job locations and working practices please get in touch with Jon.