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The great balancing act

The great balancing act

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Long-time Maddocks lawyer Bronwyn Weir tells Kellie Harpley how the firm's flexible work practices, recognised last week with an award from the Victorian Government, assisted her career._x000D_

Bronwyn Weir has worked with Maddocks since she completed her articles with the firm 13 years ago. She tells Kellie Harpley how the firm’s flexible work practices, recognised last week with an award from the Victorian Government, have assisted her career.As a partner in Maddocks’ construction and major projects group, Bronwyn Weir has not noticed any drop in her workload as a result of the economic downturn.The group’s mix of government and private clients has buffered the effects somewhat, and Weir’s specialisation in building industry regulation law means her skills are still in demand.However, her skills are also in demand at home – very much so, in fact, with three children aged between seven and two all vying for her attention.Since she started at the firm, Weir has taken three stints of maternity leave and for the past seven years has worked no more than three days a week. Her loyalty to the firm is somewhat of a rarity these days, when most professionals are all too willing to go where the pay is higher and the work is better, but Weir says Maddocks’ willingness to accommodate alternative working arrangements has played a large role in her staying put.“Within a couple of years of finishing my articles I asked if I could do a nine-day fortnight,” she said. “That discussion wasn’t about having children, it was about other things, including helping my husband with his business.“The partner I worked for, Greg Campbell, was terrific and didn’t stop me progressing to senior associate as a result of the arrangement.“A couple of years after that I had my first lot of maternity leave. Since then I haven’t worked more than three days a week, but there have been times when I only worked two days.“After my third period of maternity leave I worked from home for six months and did between 10 and 20 hours a week, so it was very flexible.”Up until 12 months ago Weir still did the bookwork for her husband’s business, but with the prospect of partnership on the horizon she rearranged her commitments and is now focused on family and Maddocks.“I choose to work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday which is when the majority of client meetings are held. Usually I don’t need to go in on the other days, but I am open to doing that if it is necessary,” Weir said.“Otherwise I am available on the Blackberry and the mobile phone. The days out of the office I try to dedicate to the children but there are days when there are distractions that need to be accommodated. That’s the nature of the profession.“The clients that I do a lot of work for, I impress upon them that I am available and they are good at judging whether or not they need to call me on those days. They can work around that and I don’t get any sense that they aren’t happy with the arrangement.”Weir says the flexibility of her working week has not had a negative impact on the progress of her career. Taking into account the time she has had off for maternity leave, she says the time taken to  progress to partner has occurred at the same rate as someone who had worked full time at the firm.“I don’t feel like there has been any tokenism, I feel like I’ve earned it. And at the same time there has been a level of trust. The firm has trusted me to be able to advance my career and be able to service clients in the way required.“I’ve dealt with that trust the best way I can and I’m more than happy with the way things have turned out.”
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