Mayer Brown’s UK managing partner has told partners in the law firm not to disturb associates on their holidays – apart from in emergencies.
In an internal memo seen by The Lawyer, Dominic Griffiths, the highest-ranking partner at Mayer Brown’s London office, told the law firm’s senior lawyers not to interrupt younger lawyers’ holidays, as he hinted at the effects technology has had on work-life balance.
In an email to partners, Griffiths said: “I’ve a long held belief that it is vitally important for our people to be able to take their holidays without disturbance, except in circumstances of emergency where no-one else can resolve a critical problem.”
“That was naturally the case when I was a junior (as the technology didn’t exist) and I’ve always observed that the most successful of my partners make good provision when their lawyers are out of the office,” Griffiths said.
In an email to City A.M., a spokesperson for the law firm explained that in sending out the memo, “Dom was reiterating the importance of people having a real break from work whilst on holiday, and letting the associates know that a work/life balance is one of his priorities.”
The company spokesperson added that the firm views serving its clients as its “key priority,” as they suggested the company “staffs” its matters appropriately “to ensure seamless service.”
Speaking to City A.M. Bettina Bender, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood, said the memo reflects a “generational shift” that has seen younger lawyers place greater focus on work/life balance, mental health, and “wellbeing,” compared to previous generations.
The law firm partner noted that young lawyers’ bargaining positions have also been strengthened by a “buoyant labour market,” which has seen firms across the City increasingly forced to cater to the demands of junior staff.
Bender said the memo also reflects a wider pushback against the impacts of technology on the world of work, as she explained that work has increasingly begun to “creep” into every sphere of lawyers’ lives, via laptops, smartphones, and the rise of remote work.
She noted that whilst law firms might have previously “faxed you in your hotel in Greece,” it is now much easier for them to simply send over an email while you sit by the pool.
“With the freedom that the technology brings, there’s also an intrusion,” Bender said, as she suggested the pandemic has further eroded the gap between life and work.
Matthew Getz, a partner at London law firm Pallas Partners, said the fact Mayer Brown has an official policy suggests something has gone wrong, as he said “these policies shouldn’t be necessary” in workplaces that have a “culture of respect between colleagues”.
“If you need a policy, then something has gone wrong,” Getz said. However, the law firm partner noted that lawyers should also “make sure their matters are fully covered” before deciding to go on leave.
Nonetheless, Getz argued that it should acceptable to interrupt a holiday in the case of an emergency, which, in a law firm, would usually be defined as any “real client need”.
A Law Society spokesperson said: “It’s good practice for firms and workplaces to set in place working patterns which work for their employees, especially for junior or trainee solicitors.”