A different approach

Emma Price (EP) and Katie Hart (KH) have worked at Allen & Overy (A&O) for fifteen and seven years respectively, but a move across the country for Emma and the birth of twins for Katie led them and the business to thinking about how they could work more flexibly. Re-imagining Emma’s role as a job-share has proved to be the perfect solution. 

How did you go about organising a job share?

KH: It was actually our manager at the time, Mike Beswick, the Global Head of Corporate Business Development, who suggested the idea of a job share and set about convincing the senior management team, as well as the partners and us that this was something that could work.

EP: In years gone by flexible working had a slight stigma attached to it, but now there are far more flexible working arrangements across the business, from lawyers through to support functions. It is something that A&O is actively embracing and encouraging.

Opportunities and challenge

 

How did you go about making it work?

EP: I originally held the role full-time so we spent a lot of time thinking about how a job share would work in practice. Katie starts the week, there is a cross-over day as we both work on a Wednesday, and I finish the week.

KH: The split of the role comes quite naturally, as it falls into our distinct skill sets. We had to be very honest with ourselves as to our strengths and weaknesses. Emma loves spreadsheets and processes, whereas I am more creative.

What are the challenges of this arrangement?

KH: We had to work out the balance between managing expectations of ourselves, others and the business. It is not really a 9-5 environment – so we talked about how it would work on our days off, how we would keep on top of on-going projects, and our availability on our days off. We had to get our heads around us individually delivering “less” as we are now working three days each. 

EP: However, collectively we are delivering more as a team in the role – this was a shift in mindset.

Do you assess each other’s performance?

EP: On a daily basis, it’s part and parcel of performing well collectively, we learn from one another – and the expression that ‘two heads are better than one’ really is true. There have been a number of times where it has been invaluable to have someone to share thoughts with and get another perspective from.

Does job sharing have any negative impact on your ability to progress your career?

EP: There is absolutely no reason why it should. We are just as capable whether we are working 3/4/5 days a week.  Everyone should be assessed on the performance they bring to a role irrespective of whether it is a job share, whether they are male or female etc.

Making it work

 

What tips would you give someone considering this type of working arrangement?

EP: The right partnership is really important for a successful job share. 

KH: Being committed to one another and to the job itself, helping each other and not trying to stitch the other one up or leaving work for the other. We also like each other, which helps – even though we are very different. You don’t have to be the same, you can have very different skills but complement one another – which we do!

Flexible working used to be almost unheard of in law. But, as Emma and Katie demonstrate, it is changing and law firms are fast embracing the concept. And it isn’t just because flexible roles meet employee needs. Done well, they can also deliver to firms more of the skills and capabilities they need to thrive. A win-win solution for employees and employers alike.

Click here to see the piece as it appeared in Legal Abacus.

To see the full, filmed interview with Katie Hart and Emma Price, go to https://www.youtube.com/user/totumpartners, where you can see this as well as other interviews providing thoughts and advice on business services in law.

 

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