Opportunities for flexible working in law firms have been a talking point for many years. The stigma of not conforming to a strict 24/7 work lifestyle has deterred a number of job seekers from accepting a role. Today, it is becoming more acceptable for employees to be given flexible working opportunities in law firms.
This allows employees the opportunity for a better work-life balance and is ideal for those who haven’t yet finished their training. What’s more, universities are also starting to offer increased levels flexibility as more students are starting to see the benefits of distance learning. As a result, it is becoming easier for future solicitors to complete their post-graduate qualifications while getting some experience in a paralegal role, for example.
We ran a survey asking individuals in the legal industry what benefit was most important to them when looking for a new job.
40% of those surveyed said that flexible working was the most valuable benefit they could be offered.
So what are the biggest challenges for flexible working, and how can you overcome them to make flexible working a success without sacrificing a relationship with your firm?
Do you tend to procrastinate at work? It could get worse at home. Consider how likely you are to veer away from assignments for things like shopping, watching TV or staying out on longer breaks than usual.
Contrary to old-fashioned belief that a flexible worker is less committed than a full-time worker, according to Lexis Nexis, over 50% of employees feel that flexible working helps them achieve a better work-life balance. Provided that you manage your commitments and clients’ expectations, you’ ll have control of how you work.
Trusting employees to work as intensively at home as they do in the office is a common worry for employers. Your colleagues may also be skeptical towards your working arrangements. In addition, traditional clients can also become wary of using a lawyer who is not at the other end of the phone during regular working hours.
Unfortunately, the only way to combat the above is to develop that level of trust that shows how committed you are to your work, wherever you are. Take the time to build trust with your firm – help them to understand your passion for the role.
An article from Personnel Today discussed how one couple set up a firm called Halebury in 2007, as an answer for legal professionals who were looking for more flexibility and better pricing at the top of their profession. Janvi Patel described their business model, which provided employees with the foundations for flexible working. The model was built around two intrinsic values: trust and accountability. Employees fully understood what was expected of them by their firm, and in return, they were trusted to manage their own working pattern.
Lack of experience
If it’s your first time working in law firm, it’s probably not the best idea to request flexible working. Law is a people business with connections, relationships and teams built by having people working with and learning from each other. Your lack of experience means your employer will likely be concerned about your skill development – if flexible working is something you have your sights set on in future, you have to work your way up to the point of being a trusted advisor to your clients, and becoming a valuable asset to your firm.
Not being given the choice to work flexibly
It has been suggested that 55% of workers are still required by employers to work from the office within designated working hours. There are still plenty of law firms that stand by this rule, so if the lack of understanding around work-life balance is not suitable for your needs, perhaps it’s time to look for another opportunity.
Another issue for law firms is simply not having the right technology available to accommodate flexible working. Investing in the right technology, especially cloud-based technology, doesn’t have to be expensive. Small to medium sized law firms which take the time to choose the right technology will reap the benefits in future. Note though, that this could be a decision that is completely out of your control, and the lack of resources at the firm in question could mean it’s a long time before you can even consider flexible working.
Many firms have in fact moved forward with the technology they offer for their computer systems, so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. The biggest challenge is building trust with your firm and clients’ so they understand that wherever you are, you’re still managing their expectations. Everyone works better when they are allowed to work more efficiently, which is exactly why flexible working is increasingly being considered.