Given the unique challenges of each individual business, the implementation and utilisation of flexible working arrangements by the legal team requires trust and an easing of personal parameters, argues one general counsel.
Speaking on a Lawyers Weekly webcast discussing flexible working, Canon Oceania group general counsel David Field said trust is “absolutely critical” if legal counsel are to be able to effectively work flexibly.
“For a business, for a manager, particularly in the sorts of businesses that we work in, understanding that actually you’re trusting people with much bigger decisions than basically how they spend this hour or that hour. I think that trust aspect is fundamental,” he posited.
Mr Field has been “particularly blessed” to have been a manager for the majority of his legal career, he reflected, and one of the most important lessons he’s learned is ensuring that legal staff feel confident in their abilities and thus can work flexibly if they so need.
“So much of the management role is not actually about getting them to perform. So much of the management role is often about protecting them from themselves.
And, I guess in my experience, so many lawyers are always looking for that reassurance, concerned that perhaps they’re not good enough or not getting high enough marks and on top of the class, whatever it may be, they need the reassurance,” he explained.
“There happens to be a lot of baggage and guilt that comes with that, and particularly in today’s society, where we’re all under so much pressure to be dragged in so many different directions and be a fantastic father, fantastic husband, fantastic wife, fantastic lawyer and member of the P & C committee, whatever. And just people are spread so thin and feeling so guilty about not being able to live up to what they want to be in relation to all those areas.”
As such, with a “bit of a perspective and maturity”, being able to reassure legal staff, ingrain that confidence and trust become paramount, he surmised.
“Stop beating yourself up about it, this is what it looks like. You're giving me the hours and the commitment that I’ve purchased from you, you’re doing a good job. Stop beating yourself up about it.”
Moreover, he added, legal counsel can be pleasantly surprised at how well-received a conversation about flexible working can be, if one takes the time to speak to colleagues or clients about it.
“Having the courage to actually have the conversation, [you’ll] be surprised by how much understanding and how much flexibility can be there.”
To view the full webcast on flexible working, click here.