Law firm moves staff to four-day week

Durlak: Mutual trust at the heart of the move

A law firm with nearly 50 people specialising in family and commercial work has seen fee income rise after introducing a four-day week.

Marcin Durlak, managing partner of IMD Solicitors, said lawyers had to take different days of the week off to ensure a continuous service for clients, but this did not apply to back-office staff.

They are paid 100% of their salaries and their financial targets have not changed.

IMD’s family law department introduced a four-day week 18 months ago, and in the first 10 months, despite working 80% of their previous hours, lawyers boosted fee income by 22%.

The four-day week was extended to the corporate and commercial team, and then all other lawyers and most of its support staff earlier this year. This left only some junior administrative staff outside the scheme, and they would be included over the next two months.

Since the four-day week was extended, Mr Durlak said productivity “has not dropped and in some cases it has increased”. The current financial year was on course to be “the best year we ever had”.

Mr Durlak founded the law firm, headquartered in Manchester, with his wife Iwona, the senior partner, in 2015. They both qualified as solicitors in England after growing up in Poland.

They are the two equity partners in IMD, alongside three salaried partners and around 40 staff. The firm has other offices in Birmingham and London.

Initially many of the firm’s clients had international backgrounds, and though the firm “had its roots in the central and Eastern European market”, it also has a strong presence in Italy and had attracted clients from Spain, the US and India. But Mr Durlak said it was increasingly developing a domestic client base too.

Most of its lawyers work remotely; a trainee solicitor recently relocated to Warsaw and a solicitor to Romania.

Mr Durlak said “all credit” should go to Mrs Durlak, a family lawyer, for introducing the concept.

He said that she recognised the impact on her of trying to “stretch herself across the roles of mother, solicitor and senior partner”, particularly as family work was “very highly charged, with difficult cases”.

The approach adopted by IMD was the “pure four-day week”, working four normal days and “not trying to cram 40 hours into four days”.

Its “absolute foundations” were “mutual trust and having the right people and culture”.

It was not about having strict policies but relying on “self-regulation”. If staff need to do some work on their day off, they can decide for themselves; the firm measures client satisfaction and it is up to the lawyers to manage client expectations.

Mr Durlak said staff had told him the four-day week meant they were better rested and this made them more productive.

However, it was also “really important” for them to have an “efficiency mindset”.

“There will be work that can be standardised or where can you use technology and AI [artificial Intelligence] to boost productivity.” Mr Durlak said staff were paid a bonus to find tech tools which increased efficiency.

He added: “I believe the four-day week will be the future for everyone, whether it happens in 10 or 20 years. The two-day weekend has only been with us for about 100 years, and exactly the same concerns were raised when that came in.”

It remains very unusual for UK law firms to allow staff to work four days a week. Portcullis Legals, an unregulated wills and probate firm in Plymouth made headlines around the world in 2019, when it introduced a four-day week, increased salaries and reduced working hours.

JMK Solicitors, a large personal injury firm in Northern Ireland, introduced a four-day week in 2020, followed by two family law firms in England last year – Collective Law Solicitors in Birmingham and Southgate Solicitors in North London, and a Scottish firm earlier this year.

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