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As workforce gets younger, Khaitan takes first steps to ‘working from home’, intros semi-flexible hours, parenthood, crunch-time benefits

A young Khaitan lawyer, perhaps, working from homeA young Khaitan lawyer, perhaps, working from home

Khaitan & Co has set out a number of progressive human resources (HR) policies to facilitate flexible working, including some additional maternity (and paternity) benefits and compensatory time-off when workloads get extreme or interfere with pre-arranged holidays.

Some of the changes aim to make Khaitan a more attractive employer to an increasingly young work-force, while maternity benefits hope to eventually also increase the number of Khaitan’s female partners, who currently make up around 13% of the total partnership.

Khaitan HR director Amar Sinhji, who had joined from the Tata Group in 2015, explained that the idea with the new policies was to ensure they were not just best amongst domestic law firms, but also compared favourably to corporates and other professional services firms, where a lot of talent comes from nowadays.

“It’s a part of a larger plan. A huge chunk of our workforce is now young people - our average age is now 31, 32 [years old],” he said, noting that this was just the start of a number of new policies being rolled out in the coming months, including rolling a new HR online management system by early 2019, re-looking at overall billable hours, and revamping its appraisal system.

“We felt that we need to change with the times - not that our policies were bad, but we really want to ensure that we are ahead of the curve.”

Working from home

Amongst its new initiatives, the firm was “taking a small step towards the ‘work-from-home’ concept”, it said in its internal announcement, although in practice its aim was to reduce time wasted travelling to far-away meetings and to attend to personal matters at home.

It allows all members who’ve been with the firm for at least three years, to take advantage of “agile working”, which means that they can work from home for up to 12 days per year (as long as they work from home for no more than two consecutive days, and clock at least eight-and-a-half hours of work).

This practically works out to one day of working from home per month and while it will not be super useful for parents wishing to spend more time at home every week, it’s certainly a start (and it also compares favourably to international law firms: Shearman & Sterling is one of the firms with one of the more permissive home-working policies since 2016, allowing two days of working from home per month).

The primary idea behind it, explained Sinhji, was to allow people who may have a client meeting in a far-away part of town not to waste time to travel back to the office but could spend the rest of that day to work from home, and to deal with any issues that come up at home.

Dashing perhaps some young lawyers’ hopes, it therefore also can’t be used to remotely work a Friday for a long weekend in Goa, say: “outstation travel” is banned for agile working, according to the policy and lawyers need to be available for physical meetings and calls.

The technology back-end to allow working seamlessly from home was already pretty much in place, according to Sinhji: it was possible to log time sheets on an app, documents were already sitting in the cloud and “different platforms are coming live slowly”.

Flexi-ish time

What may be more useful day-to-day for those wanting to spend more time with family (or sleeping in, or to avoid rush-hour traffic), is the “flexitime” policy, which was announced at the same time.

Flexitime, after prior approval from HR and team leaders, allows Khaitan lawyers to come in as late as 11am, provided they log at least 9 hours into their timesheets that day (billable or otherwise, including lunch).

Alternatively, Khaitan staff could come in at 8am and leave by 5pm, for instance. Secretarial and other non-fee-earning staff can also take advantage of this, providing they ensure that “other team members are available” in normal office timings.

Of course, many Mumbai firms (most notably AZB & Partners, perhaps) already start quite late compared to Bangalore or Delhi, but leaving at 5pm can still be tough in a culture where jackets on office-chairs can often be seen to equate to hard work.

The policy also sets out normal working hours as 930am to 630pm, with 30 minutes allotted for lunch, with obligatory core hours between 11am and 5pm.

A lawyer has to register for flexitime for a minimum of five days, and is subject to “black-out periods” that can be imposed by departments in times of high demand.

Crunch leave, ruined holiday comp

Some of the other policy changes, relating to paid vacations, were announced with a raft of other “forward thinking clauses” to have “class leading people policies”, explained Khaitan HR head Amar Sinhji.

The changes were “aimed towards creating a more accommodating work environment”, according to the internal announcement, and also include:

  • Reinstatement of an equivalent days of holiday leave, when someone has taken planned leave but has worked for more than 7 hours that day.
  • Paid “recuperation leave” for members to get up to a two-day break after a period of “intense work on a continuous basis” - Sinhji explained that this was a discretionary award for “prolonged period of work on a continuous and rigorous basis”.

Recuperation leave would have to be signed off by partners or team leaders (“acting judiciously”, according to the policy) and can’t be awarded more than three times per year.

Khaitan lawyers have been getting 30 days of paid vacation per year, which remains unchanged.

Parenthood and marriage

Also spelled out in Khaitan’s new policies are several maternity, paternity and related benefits, on top of the 182 days of maternity leave:

  • after maternity leave, optional “reduced working hours for three months” for mothers of only six hours per day,
  • paternity leave of 14 days, and
  • marriage leave of 5 days.

Sinhji said that around 33% of lawyers at the firm were currently women, and the new policy would be an “advantage”. “Our policies are much more attractive for ladies to build a career here.”

He said that this would also hopefully have a positive effect on the current approximately 13% female to male partners percentage.

Sabbaticals possible after 5 years

Finally, the firm has also formalised “sabbatical leave” of three months, available to members who have completed five years at the firm.

Sinhji said: “With these and a few more changes in the pipeline, we will have world class people policies, practices and processes in place.”

The new policies will take effect from 1 November.

Photo by Shane Adams.

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Like +41 Object -7 Shaitan & Co 31 Oct 18, 15:19  interesting  top rated  controversial
All that garnishing won’t help the rotten food. To start with, they should start valuing their ever dwindling home bred resources.
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Like +20 Object -16 Good initiative 31 Oct 18, 15:19  controversial
These are really good initiate and hope other Firms follow similar path.
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Like +14 Object -3 Cammie 31 Oct 18, 15:47  interesting
Looks like this is the only way by which they can retain their pool of talent.
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Like +24 Object -3 Luthra insider 31 Oct 18, 15:56  interesting  top rated
Bhai, humare yaha increments ke lale pade hue hai. Aur yeh log 11th Floor pe baith ke ye sab kar rahe hai!

Please share the email if of HR!
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Like +4 Object -2 Incremantal 31 Oct 18, 17:53
Heard that LNL And Partners gave out good incremements to some of the beloved partners. Any cars given this year?
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Like +12 Object -4 Lol 31 Oct 18, 16:06  interesting
So much hoopla over what is essentially an eye wash of a “new policy”. The devil, as they say, is in the details and that is what kills these flexi-ish (heavy emphasis on the ish). KCO wouldn’t know that though - after all, they are not really known for attention to details. Or maybe they do and I’m not giving enough credit for this publicity stunt! More paper pushing and power play opportunities for the partners now, so finally something for them to do.
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Like +35 Object -6 Who are you kidding 31 Oct 18, 16:16  interesting  top rated  controversial
More opportunities for ladies to build a career there? If Amar Sinhji can actually say that out loud without laughing, I would tip my hat to him. So they make you work for 6 hours instead of 8.5, call it part time and screw you over come bonus / promotion. Well played, sir. I particularly enjoyed the “partners acting judiciously” bit - I suppose there’s a first time for everything. Ladies - now if you look pretty enough, in addition to Gucci bags and WhatsApp messages commenting on how hot you look, now you can get extra leave!! The que starts on the 10th floor, girls.
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Like +6 Object -8 Erm 31 Oct 18, 17:40  controversial
Do you not have a sexual harassment committee that you are putting up with such whatsapp messages??
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Like +23 Object -0 Sad reality 31 Oct 18, 19:42  interesting  top rated
You are aware of the nuances around this issue, right? Like anyone is going to risk their career reporting a pervy partner. If that were the case, half of all legal fraternity would come under the scanner
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Like +19 Object -2 Ummm 31 Oct 18, 19:52  interesting  top rated
KCO has a shitty track record of bringing errant partners to justice. They take care of their own and at most buy out the woman’s silence. It’s a [...] set up where women are eye candy until they are your juniors and then become too agressive to be managed once they are slightly senior. 33% female ratio at junior level and 8% at the top - do you think that’s a coincidence?
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Like +9 Object -1 Blue-eyed Boy 31 Oct 18, 22:11  interesting
This is giving me ideas.
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Like +8 Object -0 Steve Jobs 31 Oct 18, 22:24  interesting
Ideas, as in more than one? Impressive - you’ve beaten your own record!
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Like +25 Object -1 Urus 31 Oct 18, 16:17  interesting  top rated
'they can work from home for up to 12 days per year' - Wow that indeed is a novel initiative to allow someone to work from home once in a month.

I'm sure this must have happened unofficially several times before this policy!
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Like +16 Object -1 Escal 31 Oct 18, 16:21  interesting  top rated
“recuperation leave” for “intense work on a continuous basis” & “prolonged period of work on a continuous and rigorous basis”

Why can't Khaitan just send them to a good Spa !!!!!
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Like +5 Object -2 Guest 31 Oct 18, 17:15
Who is the number 2 at Khaitan after Haigreve Khaitan?
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Like +11 Object -2 KCO 31 Oct 18, 17:37  interesting
That’s the million dollar question, my friend. SKY is the limit for ambition here, talent no bar. And if that doesn’t work out, Apple resellers are always hiring.
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Like +1 Object -1 Insider 01 Nov 18, 13:17
everyone is.
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Like +19 Object -1 Marketing cum Law firm 31 Oct 18, 17:26  interesting  top rated
With a spate of departures across practice areas and especially in their Tier 3 practices (Litigation, Real Estate etc.)- this move was necessary for the ones who didn't have spine to leave/ know they can't do any better and would rather hide under the cover of well marketed image of 'Tier-1' firm'. Tier-1 only in few practice area like general corp, competition but litigation, Real Estate, Tax practices are incorrigible and funnily structured-1 Associate, 1 Senior Associate out of 21 people in the Team and still can't retain that 1 Associate for more than 3 months.
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Like +18 Object -2 Marketing guru 31 Oct 18, 17:45  interesting  top rated
Arre bhai, sab partner hai. At the rate KCO is going, the fresh recruits will also be partners only. Then they can market it saying they’ve beaten Cravath’s leverage ratio. What an idea, Sirji!
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Like +9 Object -7 Tier 1?? 31 Oct 18, 17:49  controversial
KCO hasn’t had a tier 1 Competition practice since Avaantika moved out. Part-time partner hires reflect the part-time nature of what is left of that practice at KCO.
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Like +4 Object -1 M 01 Nov 18, 02:44
It's the sad truth, from one of the best practices to one with almost no known faces. (Except for Manas)
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Like +1 Object -1 Curios 31 Oct 18, 17:56
How's the banking and finance team at KCO? Where are they ranked?
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Like +7 Object -1 Oh 31 Oct 18, 20:18  interesting
KCO has a banking & finance practice??
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Like +9 Object -0 Nonexistent 31 Oct 18, 22:02  interesting
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Like +0 Object -0 Are you serios 01 Nov 18, 13:16
What? Thought they're doing a lot of award winning deals?
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Like +3 Object -2 balderdash 01 Nov 18, 16:29
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Like +9 Object -2 Guest 31 Oct 18, 17:50  interesting
The policy also sets out normal working hours as 930am to 630am, with 30 minutes allotted for lunch, with obligatory core hours between 11am and 5pm
Accurate description of working hours at KCO
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Like +2 Object -0 Guest 05 Nov 18, 13:55
930am to 630 AM?? AM????
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Like +5 Object -1 NLU grad 31 Oct 18, 18:17
While Khaitan is changing policies to improve work environment, Luthra (oops L&L Partners) is still giving discriminated pay!
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Like +0 Object -1 Oh please 04 Nov 18, 20:25
To be fair, Luthra already has all these policies!
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Like +0 Object -0 Oh no please 11 Nov 18, 21:35
Haven't you seen the increments list this year. Only one law firm in Delhi who works without no policies. It works only on the blessings and favoritism of senior partners irrespective of any person.
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Like +13 Object -1 Guest 31 Oct 18, 18:30  interesting  top rated
Kco will give privileges one hand and cut bonuses for using these privileges on the other... this is just a marketing gimmick for attracting people and retaining people. It's a policy that will stay on the rule book without any associate actually using it. But will make HR happy for making one.... Hahaha
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Like +3 Object -0 Guest 31 Oct 18, 19:50
So true!
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Like +5 Object -0 mous 31 Oct 18, 18:45  interesting
Seems like a gimmick to please the ones who have not left. Need to be analysed.
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Like +28 Object -1 Nony 31 Oct 18, 18:47  interesting  top rated
KCO's HR is probably the worst amongst the tier 1 firms. They have been absolutely unsucesful in retaining fresher and reigning in people who are traumatising freshers perpetrating slavery which goes against KCO's ethos
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Like +18 Object -2 L&L 31 Oct 18, 22:03  interesting  top rated
Bhai neeche aake dekho. You'll start liking your HR.
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Like +27 Object -4 Stop! 31 Oct 18, 22:19  interesting  top rated
L&L people, please stop begging for attention here - go get your own story. Literally no one on this thread gives a damn about L&L.
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Like +1 Object -0 Jesus Lady 01 Nov 18, 12:25
KCO's ethos...bwahahah!
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Like +32 Object -2 oh please 31 Oct 18, 19:07  interesting  top rated
As if any of this on paper nonsense will ever be implemented practically. If you walk into office late, flexitiming or not, your partner is going to chew you out. And good luck leaving at 6.30. If I had a dime for every assignment handed to me at 7pm I'd be a rich man.
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Like +25 Object -1 69 31 Oct 18, 20:17  interesting  top rated
No, you won't. Even if you've been handed such assignments every day of the year, you'd have only made 3,650 'dimes' if you'd stayed there for 10 years (doubtful).
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Like +19 Object -0 96 01 Nov 18, 11:00  interesting  top rated
Bhai maths so sahi karo. It would be 3652 dimes minimum. There would be a minimum of 2 leap years in a 10 year period. #hornokplease
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Like +2 Object -0 69 01 Nov 18, 12:01
Bhai tum hinglish 'so' sahi karo. :)
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Like +0 Object -0 Assumptions 11 Nov 18, 13:56
Also, why are you assuming only 1 assignment per day?
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Like +11 Object -0 Do not Disturb 31 Oct 18, 20:34  interesting
Instead of vesting time in drafting given policy better they would have adopted do not disturb policy once a associate is on leave or left the office for the day.
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Like +8 Object -3 Bijnez 31 Oct 18, 21:17  interesting
In all fairness, if ANY firm starts doing that, they will have to shut shop very quickly. This is a dog eat dog world of ruthless business. Please leave all notions of a noble profession at the marbled entrance lobby. Why do you think law firms pay well? You’re going to pay them back 3x with your blood, sweat and tears. And then probably get lower bonus coz you used the “flexi-ish” timing policy or work from home!
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Like +17 Object -0 Goa 31 Oct 18, 21:32  interesting  top rated
if someone works more than 7 hours on a vacation then..
is this a spoof out of the onion?
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Like +10 Object -2 HeadsIWinTailsULose 31 Oct 18, 22:51  interesting
This whole BS story reminds me of how a certain Gandhi is credited with every win (which almost never happens); and the entire party is blamed for every loss.

In this case, Mr Sinhji will be blamed for the inevitable failure and laughing-stock-causing nature of this "progressive policy". In the unlikely event of success of this policy, the HR partner takes away full credit!

Well played, top management.
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Like +14 Object -7 SAMMIE 01 Nov 18, 08:00  interesting  controversial
This is really funny. I work at SAM and already have the option of working from home or a satellite office when I have meetings outside office, there’s 15 days of wedding leave, 7 days paternity, discretionary leave when I’m working on very heavy transactions, and the option to walk in whenever I want as long as I’m not skipping a meeting and my partner knows (and I bill 8 hours a day). Is this new policy seriously a change at KCo?
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Like +12 Object -0 Nope - SAM 01 Nov 18, 12:09  interesting  top rated
Not really bro. Except for the maternity/ wedding leave bit, none of it is on paper/ in policy. You must have a good and understanding partner, but what all you have written is not in any of SAM's policies (or SSS' random fatwa-type emails).
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Like +9 Object -0 What dimension? 02 Nov 18, 14:02  interesting
Which dimensions do you come from?

What satellite office? Discretionary leave during heavy transactions? Option to walk in whenever you want? This 'SAM' doesn't exist, at least in this world/ dimension/ universe.

Bro, I want: (i) to work where you are working, and/or (ii) to smoke what you are smoking. :)

-Real Sammie
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Like +3 Object -3 Not a crab 01 Nov 18, 09:06
Crabs crabs everywhere! be happy that one firm has made these policies official...let all the Indian firms do this for the betterment of every employee...
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Like +4 Object -1 Lobster 01 Nov 18, 13:50
Bro, what is there to be happy about? Have you read the fine print? Do you think other Indian law firms can't read / understand how ineffective this masterpiece of progressive policy is? If this was actually something that translated into better working conditions, then no doubt other firms would face associate pressure to follow suit. Cheap publicity gimmicks need to be called out for what they are so that the firm tom-toming them can get its act together and work towards taking real measures.
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Like +5 Object -1 Guest 01 Nov 18, 10:49
Luthra has very similar policies in place for quite some time . Trust me these are not going to help if larger issues are not addressed. Learn to reward your internal talent and not the people who are only uptown licking a****.
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Like +20 Object -3 Righto 01 Nov 18, 11:23  interesting  top rated
Luthra already has unofficial flexi time. Come in the afternoon and spend the day complaining about how much you supposedly work while really not working. Go home post midnight and come back again in the afternoon. Eat. Sleep. Fake it. Repeat.
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Like +9 Object -0 Vent 01 Nov 18, 11:28  interesting
"The policy also sets out normal working hours as 930am to 630am"

Slavery to another level!
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Like +0 Object -0 kianganz 01 Nov 18, 12:02 LI subscriber
Oops, our bad! Corrected...
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Like +16 Object -0 Darkness at AZB 01 Nov 18, 17:55  interesting  top rated
In contrast, AZB doesn't even get a holiday on Diwali!!!
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Like +2 Object -0 Yikes 01 Nov 18, 18:08
all this while when we asked them to make these changes, the HR had blatantly refused. Just is just a gimmick to retain/hire "talent".
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Like +1 Object -0 Unrelated, but 01 Nov 18, 18:24
Which practice area in SAM, Delhi has the most vacancies at the associate level?
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Like +0 Object -0 SAM Delhi 01 Nov 18, 20:10
Banking and Finance, and Corporate.
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Like +6 Object -0 Ex KCO 02 Nov 18, 11:32  interesting
Some good steps taken. This has most definitely come as a consequence of in-house talent leaving the firm. These are steps in the right direction, law firms need to move to a more viable working culture as the new generation is advocating work-life balance and does not stick around if they are not getting that balance at a workplace. KCO has lost multiple homegrown associates in the past year from all teams.

Their major challenge will be to effectively execute these policies so that associates can actually enjoy benefits of the policies and (hopefully) the right intention behind them. Kudos to KCO to take these steps but I don't think these are going to benefit many people or retain associates in the firm. Whenever there is some benefit provided, law firms have always managed to take back the relief in another form and even suck more life out of you for taking advantage of those benefits (available to you to use under policy).

I dont think these changes, at least in the current form, is going to help lawyers, at least at the junior level. How many meetings are juniors taken on anyways? And usually, the partner or senior will go home and the junior must come to office to office to do the post meeting work which has to be sent by 'that night' only! God forbid it goes at 11 am the next day.
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Like +5 Object -3 Wow 02 Nov 18, 13:14
These comments make KCO look really scary (not literally)place to work for. Also if the lawyers dont repot harassment how would they help their clients. This is not looking good. Any official statement from KCO ?
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Like +2 Object -0 AZB Intime 02 Nov 18, 14:33
You need to verify what you publish Kian - AZB has probably the harshest intime of 9:30 am with upto 10:00 am as grace from this financial year. If you reach office after 10:00 am you are automatically docked a half day of leave even if you bill 20 hours that day.
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Like +1 Object -1 Uem 02 Nov 18, 17:48
Seems like a great initiative, hope it's implemented!
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Like +10 Object -1 Senior 03 Nov 18, 12:45  interesting
None of the law firms start work at 9.30 am. Unlike companies which have a good in-time discipline, law firms broadly start between 11 and 11.30 am. Fifty percent of the population,,thereafter, takes a minimum of four or five smoke / faf / chai breaks (leave alone social media breaks). They feel very accomplished when they check out broadly around 8.30 pm - and they look down on the diligent ones who come in at 9.30 am and check out at 6.30 with nil breaks. It’s a cultural issue that trickles from the top. Law firm management is mostly oblivious to this as they themselves come in late. No amount of HR policies are going to fix this. The seniors have to lead the way in respecting the boundaries between work and life outside work.
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Like +10 Object -0 Mous 04 Nov 18, 11:55  interesting
Guagingg the comments here and recent departures by associates across practice areas,

it seems that Associates are not happy at all,

HR is failing them (associates) while PA's and senior are making merry.

Could be a turning point in the fairy-tale?

The biggest usp of the firm - (phenomenal juniors by recruiting talented juniors-mostly incase of NLU graduates and super skilled/street smart incase of glc/Bombay bred freshers) doesn't not hold true anymore ?

Guess it's a cycle ?

Crawford-Mulla-Kanga-Wadi a/F&R-AMS-KCO ?
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Like +0 Object -1 Curious George 04 Nov 18, 23:33
Is this 3 month sabbatical leave paid?!
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Like +6 Object -0 Cammie 06 Nov 18, 07:42  interesting
CAM already implements all of what KCO is now announcing. However, none of it is on paper and it depends a lot on which partner you report to.

IMHO having a policy actually limits you from (for example) allowing someone more than 12 work from homes in a year even when a genuine ground exists. I know a person who was allowed 2 months of offsite work on account of serious hospitalization of a family member (this was before CAM and SAM split). He needed to keep earning to pay hospital bills and was taking conference calls from hospital waiting rooms! Partner was fine with this and HR didnt care because he was putting in the billable hours.

The point is if all of this is put down in a policy,it will be abused. Once there is a formal policy,it becomes that much more difficult to make an exception for a genuine case.
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