Imagine, one fine day, the HR calls to offer you a list of 'working options'. The suggestions are: to work from office, work from your home but come to office 1-2 times a week or work from your village amid the rice fields. There is another option too, to work on contract for 2-3 months. Such flexibility might be real for employees in new-age firms, but these instances are far and few in the legal industry. Work from office and fixed working hours are still the norm.
To meet the demands of the new world of work, law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) today announced a new working model "permanent dynamic working policy" that enables employees to choose where and when they want to work. Employees will get to select from five different options.
"We would be the first professional services firm that is offering employees multiple working options. There is no other law firm globally that is going so far at this scale. Thus far we have come across only two large International firms who have announced partial work from home options, but not the other option of permanent remote working," says Cyril Shroff, Managing Partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM).
The traditional model of working from office for a specific number of hours remains. The second choice employees get is the hybrid model where they work from home, but come to the office at least one day in a week.
The other alternatives are for employees who are spread across locations. The third model allows employees to work from anywhere for a short term, say six to eight months. Here the employee can work from any city, this option is especially for people who want to spend six months in the hills or have become new parents and want to be present at home for longer durations.
The fourth model is for people who want to work remotely for long term and don't want to visit the office at all. The last model is 'flexi-lawyering' where people can work for short durations, say they work full time with the organisation for 4 or 8 months, depending on the project.
The new model will be effective from April 1, 2021 and the next five months will be used to gradually transition to the new way of working: forming new policies, implementing technology systems, training leaders for the culture change and getting feedback from employees.
The firm has formed a task force of about six partners and several senior business services leaders including head of HR, head of IT, the head of administration and the firms' general counsel to oversee the implementation of this project.
In the next few weeks, team leaders will be reaching out to their colleagues to figure out their preferences which will have to be conducive to their work profiles. For instance, lawyers involved in litigation might not be able to work from home for longer durations.
While the transition seems drastic, Shroff says, it is the result of what employees want. Over the last six months, the firm did several surveys and a whopping 80 per cent of their workforce expressed their desire for flexible work arrangements.
"I want top talent in the firm and for that I have to meet their aspirations. Secondly, the future of work is now and the faster we embrace it, the better we will evolve. Lastly, of course, is to let employees work from the environment they feel comfortable in for improved productivity," he says.
This will require an entire cultural transformation exercise for which the firm is working with an external agency for training on remote ways of working.
"We will have to move from a monitoring mindset to a trust-based mindset," says Shroff.
He adds, "We will now re-work the policies with the assumption that everybody is nice and can be trusted. We believe most of the time we will be right but there will be cases where people might misuse the trust, that risk is there even today."
This will change HR policies on performance, collaboration, accountability structures. From measuring the number of hours being clocked, people will be measured on the tasks they have accomplished - on the number of documents handled or cases managed. The third big change will be to move to a paperless environment. "Even today, as a law firm we print everything, multiple times. We want to eliminate printing, altogether, except what is absolutely necessary," says Shroff.
But, is the remote model safe? It is not that office systems are fool-proof. "What we have to evaluate is if there is any incremental risk and incorporate measures to safeguard against those exposures," adds Shroff.
"This is not easy, it is a big, bold move and we are excited," he says.
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