The concept of working from the office five days a week, seems unimaginable to most newcomers into the workforce. But for those of us that remember, this was the daily reality of combining a hectic work schedule and a commute with a general social and family life.
Within the legal industry, this rigidity often meant there was a clamour from lawyers, to join law firms who either, offered flexibility, or more likely reduced hours. In the past, typically, the firms offering this, would be west end based or smaller boutiques. They had fewer target hours, combined with access to often market leading work. However, the pay off was often a reduced salary, which for many, was worth the sacrifice, in order to ‘have a life outside of work’.
In the post Covid era, the legal industry has seen a shift towards a more formalised hybrid working environment, where lawyers are now afforded the flexibility they once craved. Several (if not all firms) offer a flexile working policy, which consist of two or three days in the office, whilst working from home for the rest of the time. So, a reasonable question asked is:
‘Why would I move to a firm, for less money when I have the flexibility of working from home already?’
Well the simple answer is, the flexibility of working from home, doesn’t present a clear separation of the amount of time you spend doing your job compared with the amount of time you spend with your family and doing things you enjoy. For this reason, there are still a number, key reasons why a truer work life balance can still be found at these boutique firms.
Less billable/target hours – the true work life balance: Whilst flexibility now exists in the traditionally larger practices, boutique and west end firms, still offer the lowest target hours on the market. Typically, this ranges from 1300/1400 target hours, whilst some firms have no billable target hours at all! Simply put, you won’t need to pull an all-nighters and non-existent lunch breaks.
Expectations: Despite the flexibility offered, more and more Associates complain they are in fact, now working longer hours than when they were expected to be in the office five days a week. This is because, lawyers homes are now their offices and expectations have therefore increased. More accessibility is seen as more availability. These expectations are significantly lower in the west end and boutique firms, as a result of the reduced target hours.
Can you still get a work life balance in the age of hybrid working? Yes!… but only when this is matched by the firm’s ethos, expectations and environment provided for associates. Alongside the reduced hours, the environment that these historically work life balance firms provide, allows you to take control of your career, maintaining a clear separation between work and your personal life.