A&O ignites associate row

Magic circle firm faces stiff opposition as associates round on plans to increase recordable hours

Allen & Overy (A&O) is facing a battle to win its associates over to a new time recording regime that will push lawyers to record a minimum of 2,200 ‘office’ hours.
In an initiative to be rolled out across the firm, all associates and partners will be set personal hourly plans for the first time.
A&O’s associate chargeable hour targets – between 1,600 and 1,700 hours – are not the highest in the City, but A&O has fuelled disquiet among its associates by setting new targets of a further 500-600 recorded hours, predominantly on activities of
“high value to the business”.
One July memo states: “For most individuals the minimum hours are equivalent to approximately 10 hours per day, but it is unlikely you will spend this many hours in the office each day. For example, a lot of the reading needed to keep on top of know-how can be done on your journey to/from work or at home.” It accepts that “this is higher than the actual achieved last financial year”, but the memo says the firm believes that time has been under-recorded. The aim is to emphasise the value the firm places on non-billable hours.
Associates in employment, pensions and incentives (EPI), where 13 lawyers have resigned in the past year, are already understood to have raised opposition. “All associates in EPI are very unhappy [about] being asked to record 2,200 hours and still have a work-life balance which the firm advocates. Employment partners do not do anywhere near the hours associates are being asked to do,” one associate told The Lawyer.
Head of EPI Derek Sloan disputed both points and said the department had already tried to address some of the concerns.
“We hope to resolve any remaining issues,” said Sloan. “Partner hours will be higher than those for associates… They reflect what partners already do.” Partners in the group will be set a target of 2,355 recorded hours.