Limitless annual leave in law firms: Utopian dream or workable policy?

Limitless annual leave in law firms: Utopian dream or workable policy?

Does the idea of limitless annual leave fit into the culture of law firms?

The traditional annual leave model of a fixed number of days per year (carried over if the employer is of the generous ilk) has taken a knock of late, with large corporates and law firms alike introducing a more modern, flexible approach. Virgin’s Richard Branson, for instance, gives his 170 direct personal employees unlimited annual leave if they believe they are up to date with their work (pity the remaining 50,000 plus Virgin employees), with other big names including LinkedIn, Netflix and Groupon introducing such policies.

Similarly, Mishcon de Reya allows its employees to take annual leave when they so choose, provided it doesn’t impede on client work. In February 2016, Hogan Lovells also introduced unlimited annual leave entitlement to its US employees – with the firm’s UK counterparts enjoying no such perk for the foreseeable future.

While UK law firms are slow to introduce a level of flexibility into their annual leave policies (US firms are ahead of the game), another firm has recently entered the ring. At the end of 2015, Ashtons Legal (Ashtons KCJ as it was then) introduced a policy following a successful trial period. Edward O’Rourke, the firm’s CEO, says such policies can and are working in law firms. He says the firm is very clear about what the policy’s aim is, and is not, about: ‘It is not to allow people to start taking four to six weeks off at a time. The aim is just not to unreasonably restrict the absences over the period of a whole year based on some arbitrary number of days allocated.’

So what types of policy exist, and how are they working in practice? David Stevenson, chief executive at George Green solicitors, says the arrangements being put

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