Wal-Mart is big business for law firms and that means they can ask practically whatever they want of their attorneys.
And they are known for being sticklers about watching costs and demanding diversity among the firms that make up their outside counsel.
On the cost-effectiveness side, we once heard that in the olden days of fax machines counsel were required to re-feed paper so as not to waste a clean side and that attorneys had to share hotel rooms on visits to the mothership in Bentonville, Arkansas.
But while they are still concerned about cost-effectiveness, they’ve also required for years now that their outside firms meet certain diversity requirements and carefully review which firm lawyers comprise their legal teams.
Wal-Mart is now planning to include flex-time policies in its list of law firm measures.
National Law Journal: [Associate general counsel Joseph] West said Wal-Mart plans to require firms to have flextime policies, which are generally defined as alternative working arrangements or hours, and require that “the policies themselves be flexible.” Law firms and legal departments have typically implemented flextime policies to attract and retain working mothers.
“We’ve found that even those firms that have flextime policies, they haven’t communicated to attorneys in the firm that it’s OK to use them without fear or shame,” West said.
Flex-time, of course, has been trendy for a while now. Just this week Sullivan & Cromwell’s Rodge Cohen cited their flex-time policies as a potential explanation for why four out of five of their new partners are women.
But just as we wondered if any of the new S&C parnters take advantage of flex-time, we are also curious if clients making the demands that firms have and utilise flex-time practices will mind accepting the fact that their attorneys will not always be there to pick up the phone.
In the always-available world of Blackberries and mobile-everything, flex-time, by design, often means you are scheduled to be unavaible — in other words, flex-time lawyers usually have scheduled off-time in a field when you are never supposed to be off.
So as companies with big sticks like Wal-Mart begin demanding not just flex-time (which, we feel comfortable saying, most firms Wal-Mart employs already have some form of), but that firms actually encourage it, gauging clients reaction to their attorneys being unavailable 24/7 will be an interesting part of the game.
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