Once upon a time flexibility in a big law firm meant a 5pm yoga class then back to the desk. Then came the notion of "part-time", but given, the demands of practice, flexibility is not as simple as working fewer hours.
More than ever firms are designing flexibility so that it is sustainable for both parties. Flexibility has also shifted from being predominantly a women's or parents' issue.
One might think that in a slow market, firms will return to the old model because there is less need to be accommodating. This is not the case. Attraction and retention remains critical, as does continuity of client relationships.
Thanks to the slowdown, a number of lawyers have "reclaimed their life" as firms are using strategies such as reduced hours, the option to "purchase" leave and unpaid leave of absence to reduce their cost base. It's possible these options will outlast the downturn.
- Mary Horniblow, manager, private practice and international at Mahlab Recruitment