At Totum, we work closely with law firms on strategies to attract and retain great business services talent – across traditional functions like BD and marketing, HR, finance and IT, but also across new business services roles and functions too, in areas like innovation, technology and operational management. With law firms calling for many new business skills and capabilities, the demand for good candidates far outstrips the supply of candidates from within the sector. Thinking creatively about talent management and development is, therefore, a critical part of what we do.

As part of this, flexible working options have become an ever-more important part of the package that law firms offer to attract new talent as well as to hold onto employees who might otherwise leave if they cannot acquire some flexibility after, say, having children.

Law firms that are competing for business talent with other industry sectors are also understanding that getting ahead on flexible working could reap enormous benefits in terms of differentiating them as employers of choice. Additional findings from the 2019 Index, for example, showed that many employers are still failing to meet changing employee needs. The Index, which polled 2,750 working parents of carers of children aged 13 or younger, found that:

  • Two out of five parents say that flexible working isn’t compatible with their jobs (even through there are increasing numbers of flexible working success stories across most sectors, including retail and manufacturing).
  • Over a third (37%) say flexible working isn’t available where they work, despite all employees having the Right to Request flexible working
  • Nearly a tenth said their manager wouldn’t support flexible working.

What law firms are doing

 

For law firms, this is a genuine opportunity to lead the way in giving employees real workplace choice. More are seizing the moment too – offering flexible working right from the candidate stage. Working from home for a day a week has become relatively common at all levels of seniority, but flexi-hours, condensed days and part-time working are all fast becoming part of the normal conversation in the legal profession – reflected in the fact that more firms now highlight that they are open to discussing flexibility alongside their job adverts.

Flexible working is getting to more senior levels in the legal sector too. The recent Timewise Power 50, published in the Daily Telegraph, showcased 50 business leaders who manage to achieve their duties while working part-time. Near the top of the list was Chris Bryant who works three days a week as a partner at an international law firm, while spending the rest of his time balancing his duties as a father with writing musical theatre. This is proof, if proof is still needed, that flexible working is indeed compatible with a good career in law. 

As a side note, we are particularly delighted that another one of those who made the list was Totum’s Deborah Gray, who balances her leadership responsibilities as a director with working four days a week. Never say we don’t practice what we preach!

Flexible and part-time working in the legal sector has come on a huge way in a relatively short period of time. There is of course still a journey to be made. Firms need to further extend their flexible working policies, ensuring that flexible working can deliver long-term career opportunities on a par with full-time employees. And they need to get their message out there to say that law can work differently.

Now is a great opportunity for law firms to break down any final barriers to flexible working and to lead the way in showcasing the business performance advantages that come from having a more agile mindset. 

If you would like to know more about business services roles in the legal profession – including options for flexibility – contact [email protected]

 

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