Flexible work arrangements are hard to come by for those re-entering the legal profession or changing employers, resulting in a reluctance amongst lawyers to leave their current firm or organisation. Briana Everett reports
As more and more lawyers begin to demand a work/life balance and seek flexible work arrangements, law firms and organisations have had to demonstrate their willingness to accommodate requests for part-time or work-from-home arrangements. However, while it's now more common for firms and organisations to accommodate flexible work for existing employees, this flexibility does not always apply for lawyers seeking work with a new employer or those attempting to re-enter the legal profession after an extended period of leave.
In many cases, a 'part-time' arrangement for new employees will entail at least three to four days per week, with two-day part-time arrangements in short supply.
"I found it quite hard to find a part-time role that suited me and my experience ... some firms had a minimum four-day-per-week part-time work structure," says Aussie Home Loans corporate counsel Jennie Cadman, who recently returned to work part-time after an almost two-year absence due to family commitments.
"If I had been prepared to do four days or even full-time, I don't think it would have been as hard, even having had two years off ... One recruiter said that if I could commit to four days it would be easier for me to find somewhere."
Cadman, who eventually found her part-time role with Aussie Home Loans after failing to find a manageable role in private practice, notes that many of the 'part-time' work on offer was five days' worth of work condensed into four days.
"I think that it is easier being at a firm/company and negotiating how many days a week you will work after coming back from maternity leave, rather than trying to find a part-time job when your foot is not already in the door," she says.
Taylor Root consultants Brian Rollo and Matt Harris agree and claim it is much easier for a lawyer to obtain part-time work arrangements with their existing employer if they have been working there for some time.
"You have established a profile, reputation and credibility through your full-time work and are more likely to be accommodated by the business as a result," says Rollo. "It can be interpreted as 'earning' the right to go part-time internally but really, it's simply a case of employers wanting to keep people happy if they have demonstrated they are worth it."
Rollo adds that because of the need to accommodate existing staff, businesses do not tend to recruit part-time lawyers externally.
"The more conditions you attach to your availability for work, the more difficult it becomes for new employers to accommodate those conditions and therefore the less attractive you become as a candidate"
Brian Rollo, Taylor Root
"The more conditions you attach to your availability for work, the more difficult it becomes for new employers to accommodate those conditions and therefore the less attractive you become as a candidate," he says.
"Most lawyers realise the difficulties in moving to another part-time role with a new business and are usually content to work with the part-time arrangements they have with their current employer. The assumption seems to be that it's better the part-time devil you know."