Norton Rose Fulbright is preparing for a ‘gradual and phased’ return to the office, setting out plans to provide staff with face masks and to introduce temperature testing.

The City practice said it will impose strict social distancing measures to allow people to return to work. Safeguards are likely to include restricting the number of people in each office building; limiting the gathering of people in kitchens, breakrooms, meeting rooms, bathrooms and on open plan floors; more hand sanitiser stations; routine deep cleaning; temperature testing; and providing staff with face coverings to wear in open plan areas.

The firm said it is ‘very mindful’ that most of its employees are wary about returning to the office and that it will not adopt a ‘one size fits all approach’. According to a firm-wide survey, two thirds of UK staff are cautious about returning to the office. In contrast, only 6% of employees in Asia and Germany report being very cautious.

‘We will only reintroduce office working when safe to do so and in line with government recommendations which will vary by jurisdiction and when our people are comfortable with doing this,’ a spokesperson said.

The survey found that 80% of all employees enjoy working from home and that productivity has not been affected. Over half of staff said, in the future, they would like to work from home some of the time and a third would like to do so most of the time.

The firm said it is currently designing a more flexible working model. ‘We recognise the importance of ensuring that people working from home enjoy the same experiences and benefits they would get from working in an office environment; that home office arrangements will need to be upgraded; and that any new arrangement must work from the perspective of our clients and our business. The current period has demonstrated that this is more than possible in practice and we will be exploring this further over the next few weeks and months,’ a spokesperson said. 

Meanwhile, magic circle firm Linklaters has converted its month-long vacation scheme to a two-week online programme, with students delivering pitches remotely and meeting for virtual coffees.

Students on the summer vacation scheme, which usually lasts for four weeks and takes place in the London office, will now work remotely because of coronavirus. They will receive three weeks pay, at £450 a week, to compensate for the reduced hours.

Linklaters said the virtual programme will cover the same content as previous years, and all attendees will be interviewed for a training contract at the end of the scheme.


*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.