A family law firm in North London is giving its solicitors a day off every Wednesday as part of a pilot of the four-day working week, its managing director has revealed.
Hasan Hadi, founder of Southgate Solicitors, said that when pilot ends at the beginning of next year, he hoped to extend the four-day week to everyone at the firm, including himself.
It is extremely rare for UK law firms to work a four-day week. JMK Solicitors, a personal injury firm in Northern Ireland, introduced it in 2020, while earlier this year Sana Siddique, founder of the new family law firm Collective Law Solicitors, said she worked a four-day week and would be recruiting staff to do the same.
Plymouth wills and probate business Portcullis Legals, an unregulated legal services provider based in Plymouth, adopted a four-day working week in 2019.
Mr Hadi, who is aged 36, qualified in 2013 and set up his own firm in 2017. He employs six solicitors, five of whom are working a four-day week, with the other recruited too recently to take part in the pilot scheme.
Southgate Solicitors covers the whole range of family law, including care proceedings, private law and legal aid.
Mr Hadi said that from early 2018, when the law firm recruited its first solicitor, it had offered flexible working, allowing them to work from anywhere with their laptop. This put the firm in a good position when the pandemic struck.
“We tried to trust everyone from the get-go. Solicitors are highly regulated and work to high standards. They get on with their work.”
Mr Hadi said that, from 2021, solicitors wanted to work more in the office, rather than at home in bedrooms or at small dining tables, and they now voluntarily worked in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
With most law firms adopting similar hybrid working approaches post-Covid, Mr Hasan said one of the reasons he introduced the four-day week pilot in February this year was “to do something a bit different from everybody else”.
Not working on Wednesdays “splits up the week” and made solicitors more productive.
“Family law is non-stop. Clients’ demands are non-stop, as are the requirements of the courts. This creates a lot of stress and results in family lawyers burning out. Managing the stress is very important – there is so much that is out of their control.”
He explained that having everyone take off the same day was easiest to manage when it came to the paralegals and support staff checking emails and calls, rather than having to always be alert to who was off when.
Staggering the day off, with solicitors having cover others’ work, would “just add to the stress and defeat the purpose of the four-day week”.
But Mr Hadi stressed that the day off was “a privilege and not a guarantee” as clients took priority.
“So if people have had to do urgent work that cannot be avoided, such as a court hearing, they would usually do that piece of work and then take the rest of the day off – or, if it’s in the afternoon, take the morning off and then do the urgent piece of work.”
Mr Hadi said the pilot scheme has so far been successful enough for him to extend the end date from next month to the end of January next year.
At that point, when he can see the figures at the end of the firm’s financial year, he will make a decision as to whether to extend it to all staff.
If that happens, paralegals, trainee solicitors and legal assistants will be able to take a day off every week, as long as it is not Wednesday.
Mr Hadi said a poll of his solicitors earlier this year showed that they “enjoyed taking a break in the middle of the week”, and being able to run errands, go to the gym or meet family members.
One of the downsides was that on Tuesdays they had to “work very hard to get everything out of the door” before they signed off, but this was “cancelled” by having Wednesday off.
Mr Hadi said there had been no complaints from clients about solicitors working a four-day week, and no court deadlines had been missed.
He added that the reason he worked a five-day week was because someone needed to supervise work coming in and decide whether solicitors should be disturbed on Wednesdays.
The first “actual holiday” he had with his family after founding the firm in 2017 was in the summer of 2021.
The solicitor said that “maybe one day” he could join the others on a four-day week. “We’ll have to wait and see.”