Biglaw, Billable Hours, China, Ho-Love

New Punctuality Rules Give Law Firm A Totalitarian Feel

One of the nice things about being a Biglaw lawyer is that you’ve got some autonomy over your schedule. You know how much work you have to do, and you know when it’s due, and within those borders you can manage your own time. If you want to come in a little bit later and stay a little it later, so be it. If you want to come in super early… well, you’re probably still going to end up staying late because of some BS that happens at 4:30 p.m., but after you bill 100 hours in a week, you can probably take it really easy once your matter closes.

The point is, Biglaw lawyers have the expectation of being treated like adults when it comes to their own time management.

So it’s a little bit surprising that a Biglaw firm is treating associates in one office like little children who need to be present when attendance is taken….

A tipster forwarded us an email from Hogan Lovells partner Andrew McGinty. He’s the partner in charge of Ho-Love’s Shanghai office. His email is strict, he wants all the associates to be at their desks by 9:15 a.m., unless they have prior approval from a partner. It was sent over the summer, so here’s the pertinent part:

We are still experiencing major issues with staff punctuality. The Shanghai partners have decided that we will continue to operate the daily report system as before but will not circulate the report to all members of the Shanghai Office but will circulate the record to all the partners and [redacted]. [She] will note all those arriving after the required time, and will notify the responsible partners whenever anyone arrives late a certain number of times within a month (regardless of the reasons). If these absences are found to be excessive and not justifiable on reasonable grounds, those people will be spoken to and warned. If there is insufficient improvement after the warning, an internal review will be conducted and disciplinary measures may be imposed. Persistent non-justifiable lateness will henceforth be included as a factor that will be considered in relation to internal promotions, appraisals, pay reviews and renewal of contract decisions.

[Redacted] will still complete the report by 9:15am each work day morning. Please let her know before 9am if you will not be in the office by 9am and, if so where you are and when/what you expect to return to the office. If the reason for your absence is “running errands”, please specify whether it is for personal or for business purposes. In all case, an expected return time is required, otherwise it will be recorded as “no explanation”.

Do they also need to get a hall pass to go to the bathroom?

Look, you’ve got people who have work to get done, hours to bill, and probably calls with New York or London that have to be made at odd Shanghai hours. As long as all of that is being done, who cares if somebody is at work by 9:15 or not? And while we’re here, let’s also mention that we live in a world of iPads, Androids, Blackberries, and ubiquitous WiFi connectivity. Surely, making people be at their desks at a set time everyday is beyond dumb and totally inefficient.

In addition to these formal strictures, McGinty adds a little “we’re watching you” flair that is sure to make associates feel smothered:

I am usually in by 9 am every day and will be doing my own visual checks (as will other partners and [redacted]) – yesterday morning the office looked almost deserted at that time (with apologies to those who were here) which is simply not acceptable.

Oh, he’s “usually” in the office by 9 a.m. But sometimes he’s not, and because he’s allowed to operate like a grown-ass man, nobody is checking in to see how he’s managing his time.

You can read the full email on the next page. If you work at Ho-Love Shanghai, let us know how the new rules have played out….

(hidden for your protection)

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