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How firm flexibility breeds retention

A personal injury lawyer has detailed how offering flexible working arrangements to his team has resulted in retention and loyalty.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 06 October 2023 Big Law
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Sach Fernando, founder and principal lawyer at Maxiom Injury Lawyers, said he recognised the necessity of offering flexible working arrangements, particularly because his team consists mostly of women who want to balance their careers with parenting responsibilities.

Mr Fernando said he has given two of his female staff members in the accounts department “full autonomy” to dictate their working schedule.

“The accounts department has some flexibility and can accommodate their requirements,” he told Lawyers Weekly ahead of the Women in Law Forum 2023.


“They will typically work four to five days a week, 9am to 1pm on most days. This can easily be afforded as long as they’re clear on which matters have been resolved and they’re present to prepare to transfer funds with clients and correspond with them.

“It also works because these two staff members communicate well with me and each other. Even though it’s limited hours, we’ll always make time to have discussions so that they’re clear on their responsibilities and I know that clients’ funds are being transferred on time.”

His team has rewarded this flexibility with retention and loyalty, Mr Fernando said. He underscored that it is vital for employers to understand their employees’ needs and offer flexibility to retain talent.

“I recently asked some team members what it would take for them to leave our firm,” Mr Fernando said.

“Their answer was if there was a big cultural change. Financial needs and major purchasing plans (like property) [were] a consideration. Parenting and caring needs were other considerations, along with flexibility due to limitations from an injury.”

Parental leave policies have also been in the spotlight, with several law firms implementing policies in the recent past.

For example, while Ashurst revealed in 2021 that it would give staff access to 26 weeks of fully paid parental leave (regardless of gender) several other law firms have also recently introduced paid parental leave of between 18 and 26 weeks (see list here).

Alongside providing flexible parental leave options, Mr Fernando urged employers to communicate with employees during their parental leave period about their overall health and wellbeing and when they would like to return to the office as their parental leave period ends.

“I think a lot of people want to be valued and reassured that they’re not forgotten while they’re on parental leave,” Mr Fernando said.

Simultaneously, it is the employer’s responsibility to communicate to their employee that their role will remain unchanged after they return from parental leave, he emphasised.

“Employers must have a conversation with their employees about what their requirements are and show a clear path to progression,” he said.

“Employers need to have a clear career pathway for team members accompanied by achievable key performance indicators that take into account any reduction of work arrangements after their employee returns to work.”

Mr Fernando’s comments preceded the Women in Law Forum 2023, where he and a panel of speakers will unpack how lawyers could balance their career and familial responsibilities and what flexible working and parental leave policies employers could implement to ensure lawyers achieve this balance.

Mr Fernando said he reserves his weekends to spend time with his family and highlighted the importance of setting boundaries with employers and clients.

“I recently had a relatively new client call me on a weekend. It was important for me to establish a relationship with him,” he said.

“But when he called, I told him that I was at an event with my children and could not talk to him at length. I said I’d be able to speak with him first thing on Monday morning.”

“A few years ago, I would’ve hesitated to make any reference to my parental responsibilities because of the stigma. I would’ve thought it would be unprofessional to say I’ve made commitments to my children, albeit on a weekend. But I felt confident to say this to him.”

While the workload is immense in law as lawyers prepare for court cases, Mr Fernando pushed lawyers to establish clear boundaries and communicate them with employers and clients.

“There should be no guilt in communicating that because employers and clients need to understand that you’re human,” he concluded.

To hear more from Sach Fernando about how employers could support lawyers striving to balance their careers with family responsibilities, come along to the Women in Law Forum 2023.

It will be held on Thursday, 23 November, at Crown Melbourne.

Click here to book your tickets and don’t miss out!

For more information, including agenda and speakers, click here.