Two lawyers from Western Australia have demonstrated that working part-time while managing a practice is not only achievable but a feasible way to ensure career success. Briana Everett reports
Winners of the Law Society of Western Australia 2011 Lawyer of the Year Award, Amanda Goodier, left, and Shayla Strapps.
Last month the pair was jointly awarded the Law Society of Western Australia 2011 Lawyer of the Year Award, demonstrating that part-time and work-from-home arrangements are not an impediment to career success and recognition.
"That's what we like so much about the community legal sector," says Strapps. "There's so much acceptance about part-time workers, about working from home, about working mothers."
Strapps and Goodier share the role as principal solicitor at CASE for Refugees, working approximately two and half days each, including some days from home.
"It can be a struggle as a lawyer to find fulfilling work part-time, but by sharing the role with Amanda at CASE for Refugees, I've had the opportunity to help refugees and the poor," says Strapps. "I'm juggling raising a young family with working, so job sharing gives me the flexibility to work when I can."
Strapps maintains that effectively sharing the management of the practice along with Goodier, which includes nine other staff, is possible but requires efficiency, organisation, communication and flexibility - from both the employer and employee. While part-time employees need to be organised, firms and organisations also need to review expectations and ensure that work targets are realistic.
"It's important for the staff to understand who it is that they need to approach on different matters and for there to be a reasonably clear delineation about who answers what questions," she explains.
And avoiding the "time-consuming talking stuff" within an office environment, according to Strapps, is essential for those working only a few days per week.
"It's very easy to be working supposedly two days a week and instead be working four days a week because there's this pressure to get the work done," she says. "Again, that comes back to really good communication between the employer and the employee."