Life as a corporate counsel has “always been a popular choice for women”, an impression that is borne out in real life, argues one former general counsel.
Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, independent legal counsel and founder of the First 100 Years NSW campaign Rachel Scanlon said that in-house life has generally been seen as having a better work/life balance and ability to be more flexible, and she believes this to be true.
“The nature of the billable hours set-up within private practice makes it very hard when one has other commitments, for men and women. So, the move after having done a number of years in private practice and earned your stripes, into corporate life, is very, very popular, and I think with good reason,” she said.
“My experience of the in-house world in Australia is that there are a lot of very enlightened places which do have good flexible working arrangements. Obviously, the rise of the internet and wi-fi has made it much easier for everybody, but that’s an enormous help in women thinking that they can return to work after having children, or even managing whatever other responsibilities. Of course, I would love to see increasingly that more men, more fathers, just more men generally take that up as well.”
She noted, however, that it is fundamental for employers to ensure that women feel empowered to take up such arrangements.
“It’s incumbent on the employee who’s got the flexible working arrangements to make sure that they are honoring that, and not using the time to do non-work things. But, on the whole, I think the way we have moved has been an enormous boon to working women, and one of the important things is that women – when they take a break for some reason, or if men they take a break for some reason – that they see that there are role models of other people making it work,” she said.
“That’s where in-house actually really excels.”
On the subject of men and flexible working arrangements, the in-house space has more work to do in better encouraging the utilisation of such arrangements by males, argues Ms Scanlon.
“Men are, for all sorts of often valid reasons, reluctant to either take parental leave or to work flexibly for fear of how that might be seen. There’s probably a societal issue there, that it is actually a bit more culturally acceptable for the women to be seen to be leaving early, working from home, taking longer breaks, whereas I believe many men feel that their careers will be compromised if that happens,” she mused.
To listen to Jerome's full conversation with Rachel Scanlon, click below: