It is LOD’s 10th year of operation this year and what drove its conception in part was a desire for lawyers to work in a more flexible way.
That is exactly what I am doing. I have been with LOD now almost seven years, worked across many differing industries and developed new skills along the way, all whilst working flexibly. I want to share my journey because it is important to hear directly from those who are working in this way on how you too can work flexibly in a NewLaw firm and continue (or start) to enjoy a stellar career.
I started my career with a small legal practice and a year after completing my articles of clerkship, I joined Gadens in their Commercial team. After another two years I made the move in-house, working for software firm Novell, supporting the ANZ business. I really enjoyed the move in-house but as my partner and I were keen travellers as students and wished to travel more before we started a family, I left my role when her position was made redundant. We spent a year travelling in Latin America before landing in London. We lived there for another two years where my roles included in-house counsel in the commercial legal team of Barclays Bank.
The family plan brought us back to Melbourne in 2007, and I started working at Australian telco AAPT shortly after, staying with them for the next four years until my role was made redundant.
I was caught a bit flat-footed by the change in my circumstances, but from attending career counselling sessions I learned that I wanted to work in-house, and preferably part-time. I wanted to watch my new family grow, and also to return to part-time study to complete a diploma in creative writing which had been on my bucket list. Hearing this, my former manager suggested that I contact Advent Lawyers (a predecessor firm of LOD). I had tended towards restlessness after two or three years in a corporate workplace. The idea of shorter term assignments was appealing. Since joining, I haven’t really looked back. I have taken approximately 15 work assignments in that time. My shortest assignment has been two weeks; the longest 15 months. More commonly they are three to six months to start with.
The industries I have worked in have been so much more diverse compared to if I had stayed in a standard legal role. I have worked in retail business, health and general insurance, manufacturing, aviation services, tertiary education, technology, energy, employment services. I’ve worked in CBD offices and factories on the edge of town. Opportunities further afield have arisen from time to time but family circumstances make the logistical challenge of working interstate or overseas too great for me.
While I have loved the flexibility and the life balance, I have equally enjoyed the variety and quality of work assignments. Several of the positions may not have interested me if I approached them from the perspective of a career move or longer term employment, or may not have been offered to me if I was in the market for full-time employment.
I get a lot of stimulation from meeting new people and working with people from different walks of life. Of course you’re expected to bring your own skills to the role, but I feel I have also benefitted enormously from the skills, expertise and drive of people in business teams and working alongside legal colleagues in serving them. At times I’ve worked alongside other lawyers from our firm in assignments, which is equally enjoyable.
Now, let’s be realistic, there are some challenges. You have to adapt and settle in quickly to meet the present work need. That can be tricky, but you get better at it. You have to get used to some level of uncertainty. Work assignments can stop abruptly or extend much longer than originally anticipated as the circumstances and needs of the client change. Opportunities can materialise and vanish just as quickly, only to be replaced by something completely different, or occasionally by nothing at all. Certainly having a partner who also works has helped me continue in a flexible role.
But I thoroughly enjoy the experience of not always knowing what comes next, and of trusting that the work will come, and using that time to be involved more in my children’s lives and home projects and the like. I know people get involved in a firm like LOD for a variety of reasons — to supplement their existing work activities, during transitional stages in their careers, as well as the types of personal motivations I’ve mentioned. Over time though, the model itself has been an attractive and motivating force. And now it’s the job I’ve stayed at longest in my career.
It feels like the appetite of businesses for on-demand lawyers has strengthened over the time I have been working in this model. For me, it came along at a time when I might have considered getting out of the profession altogether. It has kept work interesting for me and I love the variety of work and the flexibility it offers.