A new work-life balance code from elite law firm Slaughter and May will offer respite to beleaguered lawyers, but with conditions.
From next week, lawyers will no longer be required to check their emails between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. “unless you are working on a case(s) where you feel it is necessary”. Even then, “for this to work, you must be reachable by phone,” the code says.
The 37-point document, seen by the Financial Times, acknowledges that “our working environment, while challenging and rewarding, can lead to a lack of balance and a sense of always being ‘active'”.
In a concession to cloudy-eyed lawyers, participants in video calls will be allowed to turn off their cameras between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Email should not be checked more than once on Friday evening and more than twice on Saturday and Sunday, unless work requires it.
Lawyers at the firm welcomed efforts to improve working conditions, but doubted the scope for meaningful change.
“At the end of the day, the customer comes first,” said an associate. “We are a bit like a five-star hotel. We are very expensive. . .[clients know]that if you call room service at 2am for a sundae, you’ll get one.
A partner said: ‘During the pandemic there was no demarcation at the time of people, the younger ones just didn’t know when to stop. . . Sometimes we have to empower people to behave like normal human beings and have their own expectations in life.
However, he added that there were limits. “The world we work in is competitive enough that if you don’t give people what they want, other people will.”
Slaughter and May’s new rules are part of a wider overhaul of wages and working conditions as the firm tries to emphasize a point of difference in a fiercely competitive hiring market, triggered by the growth of law firms. deep-pocketed American lawyers in the city.
Slaughter and May has raised the pay of its newly qualified solicitors to £115,000, from £107,500 in May, but remains far behind the sums offered to London-based partners at US firms.