Marcin Durlak, managing partner of Manchester firm IMD Solicitors, said the change initiated at the end of last year has been a success based on the first six months’ results.
Speaking at the Lawshare annual conference in Manchester yesterday, Durlak said the move to a four-day week – with staff still paid a full salary – has increased productivity and improved wellbeing, as well as acting as an important draw in recently recruiting a solicitor from a City firm in London.
Durlak said: ‘It is not about cramming 47 hours into four days, it is about the way we work. In the day [previously] there will be 20% of time that produces no benefit. On top of that you can use AI tools to save time and achieve the same or more in less time.’
Durlak, joint founder of the 35-strong business, compared the current debate to the same discussions in the 19th century around introducing a two-day weekend.
‘For firms making this step now they will be ahead of the competition,’ he added. ‘It is really down to the people and having the right culture.
‘If people need to stay a bit later or do something on their day off they will, but we try to protect it.’
Earlier this year, IMD co-founder Iwona Durlak said clients had not noticed the change and that the level of service had remained consistent. She explained that all staff chose which day they would like to not work, and the firm made sure these do not overlap. If an urgent court date came up, the partner involved will switch their non-working day if there is a clash.
But the idea continues to be viewed sceptically by some in the legal profession. At the same Lawshare conference, Bobby Ahmed, employment law solicitor and the managing partner of London firm Neathouse Partners, said the four-day week may be possible for litigation firms but suggested that in his sector – where clients might require an adviser at any time day or night – it could not be applied.
‘The problem with our service would be we offer lawyers readily available in cases of emergency,’ he said. ‘If there is a serious issue people need to contact their lawyer.
‘We used to shut down during Christmas but that is not happening anymore. The data [on four day week] does support enhanced employee satisfaction and reduced attrition rate [but] it is just getting the balance right.’
James Maxey, chief executive of personal injury firm Express Solicitors, was doubtful about the likelihood that productivity would increase, arguing that lawyers are already filling their existing days.
‘If I do four days a week then 20% of the work would not happen,’ he added.
A Sheffield firm which took on thousands of cases from the collapsed Pure Group has itself filed for administration. According to court records, SSB Group Ltd gave notice of its intention to appoint an administrator on Monday. It is understood the business is in talks over a pre-pack sale as it seeks to avoid an intervention by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
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