Britain’s Linklaters offers German lawyers fixed-hour career path

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Lawyers working for Linklaters in Germany will be able to work fewer hours for lower pay from next month, breaking the profession’s mould of punishing workloads.

“YourLink”, a career path which offers pre-agreed, regular hours, will be on offer to Linklaters lawyers below partner level in Germany from May 1.

Linklaters, one of Britain’s leading law firms, says the initiative is born partly from a long and onerous legal qualification period in Germany, which reduces the pool of qualified lawyers, and competition from public service agencies and companies seeking in-house legal advisers.

These roles have long been considered easier than working at law firms, where a work-life balance is seen as hard to achieve.

“We recognise that alternative, flexible options are increasingly in demand,” Thomas Schmidt, head of human resources at Linklaters, said.

Recently-qualified lawyers choosing “YourLink” would be paid 80,000 euros ($86,000) in their first year, compared to 120,000 euros for their classic-track colleagues. Promotions and salary increases would be driven by performance and seniority.

Those choosing “YourLink” would still be able to work on top mandates in an international environment and could switch to a classic career track if they wished, Linklaters said.

Almost 65 percent of junior lawyers in England and Wales blamed a high workload for stress at work in a recent survey by the Junior Lawyers Division, an arm of the UK Law Society. The JLD said in February it had flagged the wellbeing of its members as one of its key concerns for 2017.

Linklaters, which is not expecting a huge initial take-up of the initiative, said it believed it was the first major law firm to implement such a career model. It will monitor the plan’s success before deciding whether to extend it to other countries.

Other part-time initiatives already in place at Linklaters, which include lawyers taking a “post-deal break”, are not affected by the move, the firm’s German office said.

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; editing by Alexander Smith)