UK: Nine out of 10 lawyers shun full-time office return

The Law Gazette reports……Fewer than one in 10 lawyers want to return to working regular hours in the office, with members of the profession preferring to spend over two days a week at home.

According to research by Thomson Reuters, 63% of lawyers are requesting flexible working arrangements in the wake of Covid-19, compared with 22% before the pandemic hit. On average, lawyers would like to spend 2.1 days a week working remotely, the study found.

Meanwhile, four in 10 would like to impose boundaries on client contact, with almost a fifth of UK lawyers wishing to avoid client contact at weekends. Just under a quarter now object to being contacted before 7am and after 11pm on weekdays.

With restrictions now largely lifted and the ‘work from home’ instruction gone, firms face difficult decisions in the coming weeks and months about how to accommodate workers whose priorities and demands have changed during lockdown. Many offices have operated with reduced numbers during July and August, but there is likely to be a shift in the autumn when more people are expected to return.

A host of firms have now introduced flexible working schemes allowing staff to work from home for part of the week. Among the most lenient policies are those introduced by Irwin Mitchell, Mishcon de Reya and Womble Bond Dickinson, which do not impose a minimum number of days staff must attend the office each week.

Despite the shift to home working, however, firms are still investing in City real estate. Earlier this month, Travers Smith signed a lease agreement for Stonecutter Court, a 13-storey redevelopment in the City, from 2025. This will increase the firm’s City footprint from 115,000 square feet to 158,000 square feet.

Meanwhile, national firm Shoosmiths has moved to a City office almost five times as big as its old London premises.