Readers of the management pages will have noticed that City lawyers seem to be turning into gymnasts.
Being ‘flexible’ is old hat: we’re all ‘agile’ now. Magic circle firm Freshfields, for example, announced the other week that it would henceforth allow fee-earners to work ‘on an agile basis for up to 20% of their time’. Likewise global giant Dentons is letting its partners, associates and legal executives be agile for up to one day a week on an ad hoc basis.
Obiter’s dictionary defines agile as ‘mentally quick or acute’. We would hope that Freshfields or Dentons lawyers are mentally quick or acute for more than 20% of their time. But what we’re really talking about of course is giving them a choice about where they carry out their daily grind.
The legal sector has been surprisingly slow to get the idea that a great deal of reading, writing and consulting with colleagues can just as well be carried out
at home as in the office.
Clearly, however, it is here to stay (though perhaps not in France, where a new employment law will require businesses employing more than 50 people to grant employees a ‘right to disconnect’).
But to help the trend along, we need a better terminology than the pretence that not chaining a lawyer to their desk 12 hours a day is somehow ‘agile’. Obiter proposes a hierarchy of terms to define a firm’s culture, perhaps ranging from stiff-collared 1960s-style separation of work to: ‘What office? We live, work and play in the coffee shop and it’s cool to have the kids running round too.’
Any suggestions? Email ideas to email@example.com – a modest prize for the wittiest.