Clifford Chance eyes £1m of savings with trial of open-plan working

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  • They trialled open plan working for lawyers within my firm - it literally lasted months before everyone complained so much about the noise that they moved everyone back to offices and shunted business services into the space instead.

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  • Another nail in the coffin of the idea of corporate lawyers still being members of a profession rather than glorifed call centre workers

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  • Hard luck guys.
    From bitter personal experience, open plan is a complete disaster when it comes to productivity and quality of environment to work in....

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  • Save £1m in business rates, but lose ten times that in productivity and quality of work. Initially clients will pay a little more as each piece of work takes longer to achieve and they get billed for the extra hours, then CC will suffer as clients realize the quality isn't there any more. A staggeringly short-sighted move.

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  • I love the comments that come from the legal profession when discussing open plan. With the right planning and building design to help support lawyers, it can and does work.
    It's not the answer to everything. There are pros and cons to having an office or being open plan. Go with whatever works for the business.
    But if people are going to snobbily equate losing an office to working in a call centre, then they need to grow up.

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  • Open plan at a "city" law firm is currently making me consider leaving the profession. I'm in a "pod" of 6 people that is smaller than my old office for two, and Jeremy Bentham would be proud of the feeling you get.

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  • What happens when you need to have information barriers in an auction? I doubt they will be able to satisfy with the SRA’s requirements with an open plan office.

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  • Codswallop to all four of you! My firm (City, 500+ lawyers but not as high-falutin as yours no doubt) has been totally open plan for the past three years - and guess what, the sky hasn't fallen in.

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  • Ha ha ha! That'll last 5 weeks. One shouty partner on a day long conference call and they will all be back to separate offices. And who will ask the secretaries to keep quiet?

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  • Dino, I work in an open plan office too. It sucks.

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  • Open plan is fine for a lot of the time (and can be more fun) but if you're used to an office it can be very hard to concentrate. The best solution is to make sure all staff use un-dockable laptops and have quiet areas they can go to when their neighbours get noisy (although I still miss my office and it's been 18 months..)

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  • We have worked in open plan for over four years now - that includes partners. Generally, it works pretty well - it's easy to have informal discussions with colleagues and has facilitated team building. Yes, it can be noisy sometimes, but on other occasions (like right now) it's really quiet - the occasional low conversation. We have quiet rooms (with PCs) as well as meeting rooms for in-house meetings as well as the client meeting suite. So, if you have a telephone conference you book a meeting room; if you have something particularly complex to work on you go to a break out room. Provided people have consideration for their colleagues - and as professionals we should do - then it works pretty well.

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  • If all City firms go open plan where will the partners stash their Vodka bottles? And how will partners be able to spend hours reading the Daily Mail online while looking as if they are doing something very serious?

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  • office hanky-panky will now be completely in the open - no more having to rely on gossip

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  • As a former(recent) commercial litigator in a top 10 City firm, I now work in M&A , specializing in the profession services sector for a so called top ten global investment Bank. Open plan works in most law firms , who have chosen to adopt it, and now I am 3 years into working in Investment Banking, where everyone works in open plan, including senior managing directors. The very idea that Corporate Lawyers or any other Lawyer, can/t work in open plan is utter nonsense.
    Accountants do it, Surveyors do it, Lawyers do it, M&A Bankers do it. It works and is cost effective, and enhances contact with colleagues!
    We all from time to time do "academically" stretching work, and when one requires quiet they simply book a private office.
    Lawyers get over yourself, it works for every other profession , and it will work for you! Welcome the Legal Service Act, those who don't will be working in McDonald's! Enjoy!?

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  • What is it with this constant juxtaposition of law and fast food.
    Is the alternative to a career in law really limited to working in a fast food joint?
    A while back there was thread to the effect that persons made redundant at Trowers & Hamlins were working at Burger King. Now we have a suggestion that if you can't hack open plan then off you go to McDs.
    Is there no middle ground?

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  • Anon @ 11:18am: I believe the middle ground is called Leon.

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  • I worked in open plan at a City (500+) lawyer law firm. It was the most productive working environment I have worked in and I would recommend everyone give it a try. As for "shouty partners on a day long conference call" (or any shouty individual, for that matter) - that is sorted out with closed-door conference rooms. The only problems we experienced were when partners with over-inflated egos insisted that they needed to have their own corner offices, because (obviously) their work was so much more important and confidential than that of the rest of the team.

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  • "..another nail in the coffin of the idea of corporate lawyers still being members of a profession rather than glorified call centre workers."
    I've checked the dictionary definition and nowhere does it suggest that a profession is defined by the square metre count of a private office space.
    Some other 'professions' seem to the handle the idea of shared work space really well without it affecting their productivity or needing to spend all of their time alone in order to think. Barristers appear to think fairly well on their feet despite the activity going on around them in Court. Consultant Neurosurgeons appear to be able to conduct ward rounds with other patients and medical staff present and even operate on brains with other people in close proximity. I've even heard of Teachers who work in spaces shared by up to say 30 other people some of whom may be talking at the same time without it affecting their productivity and ability to deliver results.
    Adapt and overcome. Open plan is not the end of the world. That comes with hot-desking and oh, maybe losing your job because the business hasn't taken the opportunity to consider its spend on overheads or whether uber spacious offices and an amazing view of the London skyline is necessary to deliver excellence in legal services.

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  • It is ludicrous for a law firm to pretend that an open plan working environment is conducive to anything other than cost savings. UK firms have historically stuffed several lawyers into offices and argued that it fosters teamwork and learning, when in reality it is like asking you to share a bed with a stranger, and yet continue to do your day job. I defy any lawyer who has worked in a shared office to say that they preferred it over their own office. When did you last visit your open plan doctor's surgery? And to think the law was once a profession - fortunately it is for some firms.

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  • So, people, having spent all this time navel-gazing have we discovered anything other than some superfluous belly-button fluff?

    Thought not.

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  • I think complex drafting requires silence, or something close enough. I know senior associates who struggle to draft even when their doors are closed because the secretaries outside are loud. Comparisons to other professions is unfair. Work in investment banking is far more collaborative than law, which is often quite solitary. I accept this will vary to some extent from department to department.

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  • Since when was investment banking a profession?

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  • Open plan working is prevalent across many professional services firms. For every egotistical antagonist to vetoes OP working, I can show you a moduso operandi of the benefits and efficiencies gained to workflow. RE sector, Accountancy, strategy houses and funds clients are all engaged in OP working. Noise get used to it, its a way of working and remember OP + efficiency = increased PPP

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  • No longer are law firms hugely profitable, cash-rich organisations. Of course open plan does have a cost-saving element to it, but one born of necessity for the growing majority of firms these days. Better to be open plan than to have your own corner office and no cash to pay drawings. Law firms are just businesses and are (finally) having to operate with the same level of economic discipline as every other business sector on the planet as competition increases, clients get more sophisticated and cash availability is reducing. So long as open space is properly planned and done to the right quality, it isn't anything like a call centre - it's just more flexible space with more income generated per square foot. Nothing to worry about - it's just sensible business management.

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  • Unbelievable comments on thread - what makes lawyer's work as so special that they are unable to work in an OP space?!

    I have worked open plan for sometime at a large city firm, I actually prefer it, encourages people to be tidier. There are quiet rooms if you need it or headphones for those who need to drown out noise. Yes some people moan but in my experience many people moan about any change.

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  • I moved a team doing professional indemnity litigation, some of it substantial and document heavy, to open plan. Some of it was very intensive, document heavy work. I expected a backlash, but having looked at the office to which we were moving I considered that traditional rabbit hutches would be a disaster. I took the flak but after people had moved in, the only complaint I received was that it was too quiet! The whispering was distracting. So I made a point of not whispering. However, it does not save a lot of space. I think it is a better way to work, particularly for supervision, but it does not mean you can double thee number of people in a given space.
    So far as the comment about information barriers is concerned, if you are too close in open plan, you are probably too close anyway. It may work for client-imposed barriers but would not satisfy Chapter 4 of the Code.

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  • "Hello

    We're experiencing a high volume of contested bids right now. You call is important to us. Please leave a number and a membewr of our highly trained, uniformed, staff will call you back within 48 hours."

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