A prominent London-based firm has embraced the concept of ‘agile’ working, telling its lawyers that they will not be expected to work in the office for more than two days a week.
Four years since media and privacy specialist Schillings introduced a home-working initiative, the firm's agile working programme ‘has gone completely to the other extreme’, Schillings chief operating officer and partner Christopher Mills (pictured) told the Gazette.
'Work is an activity, it’s not a place – it's how we have defined agile working,’ Mills said.
A new guideline states how much lawyers are expected to be in the Bedford Square office and at home. 'You should not expect to be at work, in the office, for more than two days,’ Mills said, noting that this would change depending on meetings.
The firm will no longer have ‘fixed’ desks. A desk-booking system enables lawyers to identify desks they want to work at for a particular day or week. 'It allows us to have a better utilisation of desks,’ Mills said.
A new coffee shop, accommodating around 25 people, has been built as part of a major office refurbishment. It is hoped the new area, called 'the hub', will encourage staff to 'create accidental interactions'. The firm has also changed its IT infrastructure.
Highlighting agile working in practice, Mills said: ‘Yesterday, most of my day was [spent] in meetings. I perched in the coffee shop area with my laptop for the hour that I needed desk space rather than take up a desk for a whole day.’
It is hoped the new scheme will improve collaboration between the firm’s various teams, which include cyber and intelligence as well as legal.
Recruitment and retention is another driver behind the move. ‘We have modernised to the way the millennial generation wants to work,’ Mills said. By the end of next year, half of the firm’s fee-earning staff will be non-lawyers, he added.
Paralegals and those with office-based roles, such as reception and legal secretaries, will not be able to take up agile working.