Freshfields in diversity drive across Germany and Austria offices

Firm’s ‘Smart Balance’ scheme aims to improve staff development

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has rolled out a raft of new flexible working initiatives across its German and Austrian offices, alongside a renewed diversity push in the region.

The ‘Smart Balance’ scheme, which officially went live at the end of May this year, has been launched in a bid to address individual development, flexible working and diversity and inclusion across the firm’s seven offices in the region.

The three-pronged strategy includes the introduction of the ‘milestones’ associate development framework introduced in London this April, as Freshfields continues to move away from a rigid associate lockstep, with junior lawyers now assessed against specified ‘milestone’ criteria.

In addition, the firm is putting together a collection of flexible working options including four-week sabbaticals for senior associates and is updating its IT systems to allow people to work remotely and cut down on unnecessary time spent in the office.

Meanwhile, with women making up just 10% of Freshfields’ regional partnership, the firm is taking steps to boost the appeal of partnership for female associates, including a partner mentoring scheme and additional training for associates in areas they feel they need more support.

Freshfields regional managing partner Klaus-Stefan Hohenstatt said: “The whole idea of Smart Balance was to avoid introducing measures step by step, but rather address a number of issues in one push that would give the new initiatives more momentum.

“We realised that the challenge for the next few years, when there will be fewer students in the law schools and greater competition between law firms, is to listen to the needs of our lawyers and make sure that we are meeting them.

“Things have changed dramatically in the last decade and one of the main issues firms are facing today is being able to offer a better work/life balance to young lawyers, while maintaining the same high quality client service. We hope that through this programme we are addressing both.”