Love is in the air

New research by Iberian Lawyer shows that a quarter of lawyers in Spain and Portugal have had a relationship with an office colleague – while such relationships can make those involved more happy and motivated, things can turn sour and some law firms are developing policies to minimise the damage that can be caused


It wasn’t your intention that this should happen. But your eyes met across a meeting room as you finalised an M&A deal at 3 o´clock in the morning. One thing led to another and, before you knew it, you were in a passionate relationship with another of the lawyers at your law firm. Given the long hours many lawyers work, and indeed the large amount of time they spend in each other’s company, it’s unsurprising that the above scenario is quite common. And there is new data to back this up. New research conducted by Iberian Lawyer shows that one in four lawyers at firms in Spain and Portugal have had a relationship with a colleague who works in their office.

On the one hand, relationships between lawyers at the same firm could be viewed as a good thing. It certainly means that the colleagues involved get along well and like to be in each other’s company, they may be even more keen to get to work and stay there for long hours in order to spend as much time as possible with the object of their affections and desire. However, there are also significant downsides to relationships between work colleagues and law firms are well aware of this – so much so in fact, that some firms have policies and rules in place that seek to govern affairs of the heart.

24% Proportion of respondents who said they have had a relationship with a colleague from their office.
73% Proportion of respondents who believe that personal relationships between colleagues in the office can cause problems.
83% Proportion of respondents who say their firm does not have specific rules regarding personal relationships.


Some firms did not want to talk openly about their approach, or policies, on personal relationships within their organisation, but market sources told Iberian Lawyer that, in some cases, firms will insist, upon discovery of such relationships, that one of those involved will have to leave the firm. Harsh. We can only imaging the heartbreak this could cause as the two lovers are forced to go their separate ways. However, some firms are more open about their position on this issue. Linklaters and Deloitte, for example, establish in their codes of conduct that their employees must notify management if a personal relationship with a colleague develops. However, in the case of Linklaters, the firm stresses that the policy is not about forbidding relationships between colleagues, but about ensuring transparency in the event that one half of the couple in question is in a position to decide on the career progression of, or what work will be assigned to, their partner. Linklaters points out that this policy, which seeks to avoid any abuse of power, is “not about meddling in personal lives, but acting as a responsible business supporting our people”.


The vast majority (62 per cent) of respondents to the survey – in which 92 lawyers from Spain and Portugal participated – said that it was good that firms are made aware of such relationships, though 38 per cent thought it was not good. Some respondents said that, as long as work performance remains unaffected and there are no behavioural issues, the relationship should remain a private issue. However, respondents also said that those in the relationship had a duty to be responsible and alert the firm of any potential conflicts of interest or any problems that may be caused by the relationship breaking down. However, despite the fact that some firms have rules on personal relationships between colleagues, and the fact that the majority of lawyers believe it is good that firm managers are made aware of such relationships, it seems very few firms have policies on this issue. A total of 83 per cent of survey participants said their firm did not have policies on personal relationships. However, other respondents said their firms had “clear policies on nonfraternization”.

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Juan fernandez