Slaughter and May Limits Attorneys to 4 Emails on the Weekend

In response to the blurred lines between work and home that only became fuzzier as a result of the pandemic, a Magic Circle law firm is finally attempting to create some semblance of balance for its attorneys. Slaughter and May has reportedly issued a “Working Practices Code” designed to provide responsiveness standards and improve work-life balance for its associates.

The firm called the nature of the pandemic “disempowering,” saying it resulted in an expectation that lawyers were always on and always around, whether personally or virtually.

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However, the Financial Times reports that the firm has released a 37-point document to help provide some relief to lawyers from the demanding hours caused by demanding clients and billing requirements, which were exacerbated in part by the pandemic.

The document stipulates that it is not necessary for the firm’s lawyers, when on video calls between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., to have their cameras on. In addition, associates will only be expected to check their email once each Friday night and twice per day on Saturdays and Sundays – and not at all between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Of course, Slaughter and May did put forth one caveat to these guidelines: “unless you are working on a matter/s where you consider that to be necessary.”

The firm’s code also states explicitly, “for this to work, you need to be reachable by phone.”

One partner at the firm, in response to the Work Practices Code, said that while the firm needs “to empower people to behave like normal human beings and have their own expectations of a life, . . . ultimately, the client comes first. We’re a bit like a five-star hotel. We’re very expensive . . . [Clients know] that if you call room service at 2 a.m. for a sundae, you’ll get one.”

While the new standards will not help Slaughter and May directly compete financially with its fellow members of the Magic Circle, or with Big Law firms in the U.S., the better environment for staff that the standards create may provide the firm with a crucial edge in its recruitment of talent looking for a relief from the burnout suffered at other firms.