Firms in the UK are starting to drop the hybrid working model, reverting to full-time office attendance.

The Lawyer understands that Winn Solicitors has mandated that its employees be in the office five days per week, which was the policy before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Based in Newcastle, Winn Solicitors brought everyone back into the office full-time as soon as the restrictions were lifted. CEO Chris Birkett said the move has been a “major success” and has contributed to the wider Winn Group’s record financial year.

He told The Lawyer: “The group turned over around £50m the year before Covid and then it dropped in the Covid year. It then rocketed to £90m the year after Covid and now we’re at £235m. I absolutely believe that being back in the office full-time has helped achieve that – it’s no coincidence.”

Winn Solicitors specialises in claims and compensation following road traffic, workplace or public space accidents, and it contributed £16.8m to the wider group’s turnover last year. The firm currently employs 511 staff, including 202 fee-earners, of which 32 are qualified lawyers. Birkett said it is a young team and it employs many graduates, which was one of the reasons to get everyone back in the office.

He added: “Having listened to a lot of our youngsters, they actually love the fact that we are all in the office. And the thing is, a lot of these people were not fully-equipped to be able to work from home – not everyone had even a kitchen worktop to work from and some were working at the end of their bed. In the early days of working from home, productivity was down 20 per cent.”

Not everyone liked the decision to head back into the office, however. Indeed, Birkett said the firm lost a few senior lawyers because of this as the majority of other law firms in the North East do offer hybrid working.

He said: “I won’t hide it; we did lose a few people who wanted to carry on working from home. But we decided that we’re not entertaining it – everyone across the board had to be in again so that we could get back to doing what we do best.”

Elsewhere, listed law firm Knights and boutique litigation firm Signature Litigation are also encouraging staff back in the office five days per week, although flexible options still exist for employees who need it.

Based on Fetter Lane – with offices also in Gibraltar and Paris, and a total lawyer headcount of 63 – the move back to full-time working for Signature also coincides with double-digit revenue growth. Between 2020/21 and 2021/22, Signature’s top line only grew 1 per cent from £27.4m to £27.8m. But last year this grew to £32.6m – up 17.2 per cent.

As for Knights, when The Lawyer quizzed CEO David Beech about the rumour back in May, he said: “We do not prescribe rules about set times and instead trust our people to be together in our offices enough – especially for our less experienced colleagues who need our partners to be present so they can learn through the osmosis of working closely with each other. Working in offices also helps creativity and understanding to give our clients an excellent experience.

“We have the additional benefit of a lot of people working closely to where they live without large commute times so they can easily be together in offices. We trust our people to be where they need to be and based on the feedback we’ve had recently, that’s spending sufficient time working together in our offices.”

While it is looking highly likely that very few firms will join Winn Solicitors in mandating full-time office attendance any time soon, other firms are also encouraging staff to increase the amount of time they spend in the workplace.

The Lawyer understands that Morgan Lewis, Jones Day and Latham & Watkins are among firms that would prefer for staff to be in four days per week, while Herbert Smith Freehills, Covington & Burling, Walker Morris and Fieldfisher think the sweet spot is three days.

Other sources say firms such as White & Case, Linklaters and Slaughter and May encourage junior and senior lawyers to be in the office more than they are not, so that junior lawyers can better learn from their peers. The same goes for new joiners, no matter their level of experience.

Partners across the industry say Covid-19 and working from home has caused a gap in basic telephone and interpersonal skills among junior lawyers, which has led legal education providers to question how they can help improve the situation.