A matter of organization

Before now it seemed unimaginable that firms would accommodate Generation Y’s desire for more freedom. The fact that a regular working time of more than 48 hours might be questionable as regards employment law was never the problem. More relevant was the fear of a two-class society: associates on the partner track, of whom extraordinary dedication is expected, and associates with regulated working hours, who work to rule. Doubtlessly counteracting the threat of trench warfare in the firm is a management challenge, but tackling this will be unavoidable. The belief that every qualified young jurist who wants to be a lawyer absolutely wants to be an entrepreneur as well – i.e. a partner – is antiquated.

The second obstacle regularly invoked in the argument against regulated working hours for young lawyers is the clients. They demand constant availability, so the firm’s competitiveness is called into question when lawyers want to go home on time. Passing the buck to clients is convenient. Although companies’ expectations are high – and the higher the demands, the higher the fee – they are familiar with the issue of overtime from their own companies, and often have experience with strong trade unionists. Generally, therefore, it should be possible to organize an instruction in a way that satisfies everybody – if the issue is discussed openly. The firm would then only have to find internal solutions for acute crises or time-critical deals.

Find out why law firms are fighting an uphill battle over salaries

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