29 April 2021

Clifford Chance allows 50-50 UK split between office and remote working

Clifford Chance's headquarters

Clifford Chance's London headquarters

Magic Circle firm is latest UK practice to recognise permanent impact of Covid-19 on working life

Clifford Chance has become the latest firm to finalise its long-term UK agile working policy, with lawyers and staff expected to evenly split their hours between the firm’s offices and working remotely, providing the role allows for it.  

Under the new policy, which is expected to go into effect once the last of the UK’s government restrictions are lifted on June 21, the firm’s UK workforce will be expected to spend a minimum of 50% of their working hours in the office. 

The policy looks to provide a ‘sustainable’ return to the office for the firm’s UK staff as the pandemic winds down. It currently has two UK locations with its London headquarters and a smaller outpost in Newcastle. 

The firm had initially sent lawyers back into its Canary Wharf headquarters with an office rotation system that stemmed from a policy allowing people into the firm’s premises for tasks deemed critical to business. However, due to low uptake and critical feedback from staff, the policy was scrapped in October 2020, according to a report by The Lawyer.

Regional managing partner Michael Bates said: "In listening to feedback from our people, and considering how to support high performance productivity and well-being, we believe we should work in a more agile and flexible way than we have historically.

"We are therefore looking for an approach that will balance flexibility with the collaboration, teamwork, creativity, training, development and other benefits we gain from spending time in our office environment.”

Other firms to pursue similar agile working policies include Linklaters, which set a 20-50% remote working baseline last August. The magic circle firm’s policy was discretionary, meaning there was no automatic entitlement for employees to work from home for that period of time; it must be agreed on a team-by-team basis and subject to operational requirements being met.  

Squire Patton Boggs introduced a similar programme in September that saw the firm abolish core hours and shift to open-plan working for the US firm’s UK staff. 

Magic circle rival Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer also opted to phase in a 50% work-from-home policy in March. Meanwhile, Allen & Overy said it would require its lawyers and staff to spend 60% of their time in the firm’s UK offices once restrictions are lifted.

Further reading

Permanent shift to home working will boost productivity but may impact mental health, poll finds

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