Two young mothers and senior associates in the Sydney office of Clayton Utz are job sharing. Rachel Daniel and Rachelle Wilson explain how it’s done.
As senior associates in Clayton Utz’s Sydney environment and planning practice, Rachel Daniel and Rachelle Wilson have developed a partnership in which Rachel works for clients three days a week and Rachelle over two days.
Both in their early 30s, the two women keep each other abreast of the other’s work.
Rachel, who has worked at the firm for seven years, has a three year old son and a one year old daughter. She worked part-time after the birth of her son.
Rachelle started at Clayton Utz as a summer clerk in 2003, and has an 18 month old son.
Rachel said: "Rachelle and I started to discuss the possibility of job sharing when our pregnancies coincided. We had worked together for many years and got along well, we were both at about the same level of seniority, so job sharing just seemed logical.
"When we proposed the idea to our four partners in the environment group, they were all immediately supportive, and continue to be... Although this arrangement has only been in place for five months, it seems to be a comprehensive success... The arrangement allows us to be totally present for our kids when we are at home.
"It also allows us to continue to progress our careers, as we fully engage with our role. Clients have the benefit of always having someone at our desk. We will happily answer to each other's names, which are so similar they were often confused anyway. Plus, two heads are better than one," she said.
"We believe that job sharing is preferable to just working part-time. Many matters require full-time attention. This often leads part-time lawyers to be overlooked or overworked and constantly juggling their Blackberries with their kids. This is not to say that a lawyer can't successfully work part-time, but it does require sacrifices to be made and a very supportive workplace."
Brendan Bateman, a partner in the firm’s environment and planning group, said communication is key to making the arrangement work. "I trust that if I instruct Rachel or Rachelle, I am instructing them both. Although some matters are more suitable for one or the other to concentrate on, I know that either of them is ready to pick up the ball and run with it if needed."
Rachelle said: "We copy each other in on our emails, schedule regular handover conversations, brainstorm over issues that arise in our cases and maintain a working document where incoming instructions, and tasks completed, are recorded. When we arrive at our desk, we know exactly what needs to be done.
"This is an arrangement that provides an ideal work/life balance and can be used as a model for the legal profession and other sectors. We feel that we are trailblazing a very important precedent. While job-sharing isn't a new concept, it's rare at our level. We hope that others might benefit from what we are developing."