Firm in knots over flexible working

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May 12, 2017
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How the Travers Smith office may look from now on

Gideon Mendel/Getty Images

“An option to work agilely is now open to all lawyers and staff at Travers Smith,” the City of London law firm has announced with some fanfare, raising the immediate question of just how many part-time gymnasts and trapeze artists the practice employs.

Flexible working is very much part of the legal profession zeitgeist, with large commercial law firms desperate to prove that they are not the 24-7 sweatshops that their reputations suggest. But defining exactly what agility and flexibility means can be tricky.

Travers Smith has a pop, but not an entirely successful one. “Working agilely means working whenever and wherever is most appropriate,” says the firm, “if an individual’s role, personal development requirements and business needs permit.” Frankly, that could mean almost anything.

However one defines agile working, the firm’s managing partner, David Patient, attempts to describe its benefits. “In fostering an environment in which agile working is valued and considered as normal practice,” he says, “we hope that our people will have more control and autonomy over where and when they work, and that this will further increase the responsiveness and effectiveness of the firm.”

Who will be the first brave Travers Smith junior associate to phone the departmental partner on a warm July day to say “I feel it is most appropriate for me to be working from the seaside today”?

Posh dinner at the Bar

A few weeks ago we highlighted a social media debate over just how posh one had to be to feel at home at the Bar of England and Wales. Hackles were raised and subsided.

But now a reader has contacted us clearly with the aim of getting those hackles up again. The reader, who has worked in chambers, relates a story about a barrister who was charged with organising the chambers’ Christmas lunch.

The lawyer naturally opted for a very up market venue and menu. When some of the non-qualified staff expressed discomfort the message back from the barristers was succinct: “We're inviting them to our world, they ought to be grateful.”

Another barrister who was relocating from the provinces to London told our reader that he was “buying an artisan’s dwelling in Hampstead” – for £4 million.

The Brief awaits feedback in the never too posh to be called to the Bar debate.

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