Law firm turns four-day week pilot into permanent fixture

Billy Smith and Emma King

One of the very few UK law firms to trial a four-day week has now formally adopted it after a successful pilot that proved a “massive attraction” to potential recruits.

Emma King, co-founder and director of Complete Clarity Solicitors, said “clear communication” to staff and clients has been essential to the success of the pilot in the first half of this year.

Following a consultation with around 30 staff on the issue in December last year, around two-thirds opted for a four-day week.

The model chosen by Complete Clarity, based in Glasgow, is a ‘condensed’ four-day week, with staff choosing either to work from Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday and working slightly longer hours on those days.

Ms King said the days staff worked could depend on the teams they were in. For example, if there were only two members in a team, one would have to work on Monday, while the other worked on Friday.

She and fellow co-founder and director Billy Smith made it clear from the start that bringing in a four-day week “was not a question of everyone taking off any day they wanted”.

Ms King said that the end of the pilot, the proportion of staff working a four-day week was “likely to remain the same” at two-thirds.

“People opt to work Monday to Friday because it suits them from a family or a work perspective. The Monday to Thursday routine can be very intensive – it does not suit everybody.”

Ms King said it was important to roll out a four-day week right across the firm and then stick to it.

“I had a concern about how clients would feel, but I have not had any negative feedback. If they phone on Friday and the person dealing with the case is not there, there is always someone else who can get on with it.”

Ms King said “careful implementation” involved explaining to clients that you were available for longer hours Monday to Thursday, but on Friday another team member could help.

“It’s about setting expectations of ourselves and sticking to them, and explaining them to clients. This has been fundamental to our success.”

Ms King said turnover at Complete Clarity had increased to £1.9m for the financial year ending on 31 May, up from £1.7m the previous year. The final quarter was the best the firm has ever had.

On recruitment, Ms King said the four-day week had been “a massive attraction” to job seekers. “We’ve been having a lot more conversations with people who want to talk to us just because of that.”

She said extended opening hours introduced during the pilot, with the law firm opening from 8am to 6pm from Tuesday to Thursday and 9am to 5pm on Monday and Friday, would continue.

In terms of the personal impact of working a four-day week, Ms King said: “I love it. Very early on I thought ‘this is it for me – I’m not working five days again’. It fits in with my values and what I do.”

She could “count on the fingers of one hand” the number of times she had needed to log on during her three-day weekends because something had “spilled over”.

However, it was “important to have some flexibility”, for example where she needed to cover for a member of the senior management team who was not working on Friday.

Complete Clarity operates on a dual branding basis with Simplicity Legal – both have the same staff and are trading names of the same company.

Mr Smith, who works from Tuesday to Friday while Ms King works from Monday to Thursday, said the four-day week “boosted both our productivity and team spirit”, so they decided to make it permanent.

“I’m not sure how many legal practices operate on the same four-day week basis as we do, but since we have also found it a tremendous aid to the recruitment of quality staff, I’d suggest they may be missing out.”

Among the small band of UK law firms working a four-day week are IMD Solicitors, based in Manchester, JMK Solicitors, a large personal injury firm in Northern Ireland, and two family law firms in England – Collective Law Solicitors in Birmingham and Southgate Solicitors in North London.

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.

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