Implementing and maintaining flexible work arrangements is set to be made easier by the release of a guide showing law firms how to make them work.
Titled Do you Manage?, the guide is produced by Victorian Women Lawyers (VWL) and will be launched today (October 25) at the Law Institute of Victoria by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.
"It is very clear that flexible work practices are of significant importance within the legal workplace," said VWL convener Astrid Haban-Beer.
"This guide will provide assistance in implementing arrangements that work for all those involved: the lawyer, the partner and the firm. I encourage all partners to embrace the assistance provided in this guide."
In assembling the guide, VWL consulted 10 major law firms, at a series of workshops to identify the issues it needed to address.
It found law firms were willing to provide flexible work options but that there were many challenges which arose largely from a failure to anticipate and provide for the day-to-day detail of these arrangements.
Primary challenges identified were the management of days, hours or work type; work overflow; the impact on the team; and reward and career aspirations, while critical factors for a successful flexible work arrangement included clarity of terms of arrangement; appreciation of the value of the arrangement; support and involvement of the team; and issues being openly and promptly discussed.
"It was clear the more successful arrangements were based on a clear understanding of the arrangement and detailed discussions, involving the whole team, of the day to day issues," said Haban-Beer.
VWL has also produced two practical tools - the Flexible Work Proposal/Business Case and the Individual Work Plan - to assist partners in any practice or firm, large or small, with planning, discussing and working out the details of a flexible work arrangement.
"The success of these arrangements will depend on proper consideration of the issues and good communication between the partner and the lawyer, said Haban-Beer.
"This needs to start when the arrangement is first considered and continue throughout the life of that arrangement. These tools will help facilitate the conversations that are an important part of that communication."