Working in law and working flexible hours to suit you don’t seem to go hand-in-hand and, historically, you’d be right in thinking this is definitely the case. In the past, law firm have taken the traditional approach of working long hours and being chained to a desk, but now (thankfully) this isn’t the case.
In the City, the practice of flexible working has been a recent ‘hot topic’ amongst Law firms one-by-one announcing their approach toward flexibility, often having to do so to ‘keep up’ with their competition.
Some call it ‘flexible working, others are calling it ‘agile working’ but in essence it is all about giving their employees a flexible approach to their working week. Regional firms are now following suit and promoting it as a benefit when attracting potential employees with the main goal seeming to be in attracting and retaining female employees, especially at Partner level.
According to the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority), statistics show that female lawyers in the South East stand at 53% but, at Partner level, only 39%. Could this change with flexible working becoming more common?
Flexible working can mean different things for different people. In the past, you would be right in thinking this only applies to women needing to work part-time due to childcare but now we are seeing a massive shift towards working from home or remote working, for both men and women.
Over the last few years, I’ve definitely seen a change in the way lawyers are working and, from speaking to candidates, I am finding that they’re already working flexibly (in some shape or form) and want to continue this in their next role. Firms such as Irwin Mitchell and DMH both offer flexible working as a benefit and my feeling is that more regional firms will start to promote this in the same way.
Still, even with this shift in the way lawyers are working, there is the stigma attached to working from home and whether it is seen as a ‘day off,’ especially with inexperienced employees. However, with the improved cloud based IT systems that many firms are now investing in, working from home is easy and just as productive (if not more!). Same work, less distractions! Law firms, too, are seeing the benefits, the main one being staff retention and increased staff morale.
If you are seeking a new role and currently work flexibly, maybe you presume that you wouldn't be able to get the same working pattern. Please do get in touch to discuss this further.
Louise Alce is a Principal Consultant in the Legal Division at Harvey John.
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