The reality is that juggling the requirements of young children with a full legal workload is difficult. For some firms (and for some partners) the idea of a team member not being on call 24/7 is alien territory and, although they’ll rarely say it openly, a requirement for a flexible working arrangement is unlikely to keep your CV at the top of the “must-have” pile. Unsurprisingly, only time will erode some of the more entrenched beliefs in the profession.
However, the majority of law firms are increasingly seeing diversity and their ability to embrace it as a new, ultimately positive weapon in staff retention and the war for talent. With a high proportion of female lawyers, law firms have been working in the foreground for many years to provide the technology, facility and policy to make flexible working effective. In the background, a cultural shift has taken place whereby it’s becoming the norm for some members of the team to be both fully effective and work in a way that embraces their commitments outside of the office. The benefits of flexible working also filter through an organisation, so in many cases, although childcare may have been the catalyst, an enlightened attitude towards how work is done will benefit every member of staff.
Ultimately, there can be a difference between the availability of roles offering defined part-time hours and roles offering the ability to work flexibly, and it’s a subtle distinction. The key is to be upfront about your situation as early as possible and approach it from the perspective of how your need for flexibility can be woven into the other benefits your experience brings to the team. You won’t win every battle but you might be surprised at just how many firms have lawyers (including partners) benefitting from flexible working arrangements. In some ways the facility to offer flexible solutions is the definition of work-life balance; it’s not about the expectation of an easy life, it’s about taking advantage of systems, policies and technologies that help you achieve the best of all worlds.