Ever since the Gen Y and Millenniums entered the legal work force the term “work life balance” started popping up in law firm hallways.

For the most part, the term has been met with snickers, skepticism, and rejection. You could almost hear the snarky tone of the senior partners when they sputtered out the term “work life balance.” For the most part, “work life balance” seemed to be code for “”lazy,” “good for nothing,” “unwilling to put in their dues” associates.

Yet, with the current economic conditions, whole practices lacking in business, firms and partners on the brink of failure, law firm layoffs, deferrals, salary reductions, etc. “flexible schedules” are now being introduced:

Addleshaw Goddard has rolled out a flexible working scheme after 95% of fee earners voted in favour of the plans.

The scheme, which started on 1 July, will run for a 12 month period and will see the firm putting some fee earners onto a four day week in return for 85% of pay. It is understood that the majority of fee earners in Addleshaws’ real estate group are already working four day weeks.

Other flexible working initiatives include sabbaticals and buying additional holiday. Fee earners can take additional leave in blocks of four, eight, 12 and 26 weeks at 30% of salary during the time off.


Addleshaws’ HR director, Judith Hardy said: “These decisions were not straightforward, but they were a necessary and appropriate response to the continuing market conditions.” (emphasis added).

She added: “The fee earner support for the flexible working changes we think are essential to the short-term management of our costs has been overwhelming and gives us a really positive mandate to manage capacity better in areas where we are not busy. Their co-operation has been fantastic and their buy-in will help us to keep our talent together and respond positively to the current downturn.”

As more firms try to manage the downturn, keep their talent in-house, and prepare for when the economy turns about, I wonder how many of these fee-earners will begin to appreciate a certain amount of “work-life balance?” How many of these fee-earners will learn to welcome that extra day off, or a vacation where they are really on vacation? How many kids will see their parents more? We know that the legal profession is hard on marriages. How many relationships will be rekindled??

One of Jordan Furlong’s predictions is that the big partner salaries of the late 90s and early 2000s will not return with an up tick in the economy.

Can it be that many of these partners will come to appreciate what those young associates have been telling us all along? A work-life balance and personal life are key to individual fulfillment?