How are law firms are adapting to flexible working?

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 the case. In the past, law firms have taken the traditional approach of working long hours and being chained to a desk, but now (thankfully) this isn’t the case and they are adapting to flexible working.

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 the Partner level, only 39%. Could this change with flexible working becoming more common?

Flexible working can mean different things to 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 all genders.

Over the last few years, I’ve 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 have adapted to 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, fewer 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.

*Flexible working at PWC

Hayley Rose is a Director in the Legal division at Harvey John.

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