Lawyers Tick: Mischon follows Branson

Posted on October 4th, 2014 by Chrissie Lightfoot

Yesterday The Lawyer rag (online) reported on Mishcon de Reya’s three-day week revolution.

“Managing partner Kevin Gold has approved three-day weeks and has told lawyers to take unlimited holidays as part of a new agile working programme. Gold has bet on brainpower rather than round the clock working, allowing lawyers unlimited flexibility as long as it doesn’t affect their clients. The programme is aimed at improving gender balance, and the stats show that this seems to be working.”

My immediate thoughts were both positive and negative.

On the plus side, I’m all for innovating (and re-inventing even) when things need improving. Many of you who know my work understand that it focuses on ROAR (Reach Out And Relate) and places the client and extraordinary customer service at the heart of everything.

Accordingly, it seems to me that a new initiative/programme which could in principle benefit clients and lady lawyers, in particular, who yearn to balance their commitments by taking personal control over managing their work (clients), family, leisure and holiday time (ergo requiring flexible working), could potentially mitigate the legal brain drain and effect an increase in productivity, ‘love my job’ feeling and client service excellence.

‘Presenteeism’ sucks, it always has by the way, and it’s about time law firms realise that lawyers (at every level) are grown-ups and are quite capable of working away from the ivory tower desk in this Digital Age and liaising with their clients remotely and/or virtually. An anonymous commentator on The Lawyer‘s report states:

Clients don’t give a damn where you are sitting when you work, what you are wearing, whether you have music on or not blah blah. They pay you for your brain and talent, or not, as the case may be.

In this ‘me,me,me’, client-demanding, client-centric, global commerce, non-stop 24/7/365, ‘must have immediately’, mobile world where we’re all expected to be constantly ‘on’ and available (via telephone, emails and social streams on multiple digital devices anywhere in the world at any time of day or night, weekday or weekend), the work / holiday-leisure divide has been sliced and diced through with a samurai sword for many years.

The concept / initiative / programme (or whatever you want to label it) of unlimited holiday leave is an example of the law needing to catch up with the real world lifestyle change that has already occurred; in business, in law law land, and in life.

IMHO, employment law per se (in the UK or any other jurisdiction for that matter) has not caught up, yet, with how our clients kick and lawyers tick.

On the down side, it could be argued that some partners in law firms have been operating on (and delivering) the equivalent of a three day week for years i.e. underperforming (in real terms), not even justifying their existence on a five day week, let alone three.

I know of some firms (and I am sure you do too – lawyers and entrepreneurs) where they continually ‘carry’ underperforming partners, some of whom also may not be particularly good with client care and/or service, but for a variety of reasons the firm is reluctant to ‘move them on’.

I’m pretty sure that where this exists the morale of the lawyers who are pulling their puddings out is severely affected. No doubt the firm will eventually suffer as these stalwarts inevitably kick-on in a vote of no confidence with their feet, at some point in the near future taking key clients with them.

Call me cynical but perhaps Mishcon is guilty m’ Lord of the Branson effect, that is, a PR coup to simply piggy-back on Virgin’s successful media hype and glean loads of law law land media fuzz and buzz.

For example, is it a ruse, perhaps, for going on a gender bender rampage so that Mishcon can be perceived as the Go To law firm for lady lawyers and at the same time tick the gender diversity box to please their clients and City panels?

Or, maybe, in this over-lawyered (too many lawyers, too many law firms) era of the Entrepreneurial Lawyer, it’s simply The Next Big Idea, to purge the ivory tower of slackers?

For therein lies the nub and rub:

“as long as it doesn’t affect their clients.”

Encouraging their lawyers to take unlimited holiday leave may in fact be the perfect programme for the firms and/or clients to agilely kick the slackers into the long grass to enjoy a permanent holiday with their shiny desk lamps?

Of course, the jury is still out as to whether any number of Branson’s employees and Mishcon’s lawyers press the pilot eject button by seriously taking the mickey. For most conscientious employees and lawyers will be sensible and discerning about their new found freedom of choice with the client rope their pioneering employers have tossed in their direction.

I reckon the message is rather clear:

“Your career and your life, literally, is now in your hands.”

One thing’s for sure, I’m going to lurk in the background in anticipation of reading the first legal dispute case to come to light on this hot PR topic.

Let’s just see how long it takes before other law firms and businesses follow suit, shall we?

Chrissie Lightfoot

The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.

Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!

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This entry was posted on Saturday, October 4th, 2014 at 1:45 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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