So Allen & Overy has become the first magic circle firm to adopt a full-time dress down policy. And while there is sure to be a rush on men’s fashion magazines around EC4 as partners who live in pinstripes suddenly need to know whether pleats or flat fronts are de rigueur this season, the rationale behind the move goes beyond just making lawyers feel more comfortable.
The firm says that the option will enable staff to be more in tune with clients in the professional service and financial sectors.
And then there’s those scruffy little dotcom folk with their anoraks and bulging wallets. Perhaps the general trend towards dressing down is a positive step, but it is really just a token gesture towards the clients’ needs.
Yet the move is cosmetic in more ways than one. What firms should be doing is moving towards truly getting in tune with those who pay the bills and start acting like other businesses.
The profession should start by reviewing billing practices. Introducing more fixed fee deals would give clients, especially new dotcoms, greater confidence in handling cash flow.
Of course there are situations where the unforeseen happens, but clients understand that and will be flexible, if law firms can be too. Firms should also make the effort to truly understand the market trends within a client’s sector.
On a more positive note, it is lovely that A&O has given its assistants the chance to wear a wider selection of their collective wardrobes – because as they know only too well, they get precious little other time to wear it.