The time for talk is over. Instead, it is time for the legal profession to act on flexibility, writes Tracey Mylecharane.
For many years now, the legal profession has spoken about a move to flexible work. Discussion is one thing. Implementation is another.
It seems that the topic of flexible work follows the disruption of many outdated legal models, including billing practices, technology resistance and even Fair Work Act amendments that increase employee rights to request flexible work arrangements.
In my view, the legal profession should be leading the way with flexible work, because the nature of the work largely lends itself to flexible work arrangements.
Despite the ongoing discussion, and disruption of outdated practices, too many law firms are digging in their heels and maintaining work environments that are far from flexible.
When I started my firm, I was driven by a desire to build a truly flexible workplace that accommodates people to juggle work and home life in a way that works for them. To support and nurture aspirations for both personal lives and professional careers.
This means creating an outcomes-focussed culture that doesn’t rely on “9-to-5” (or rather, 7am-to-10pm). It means be open-minded, and accept that people want more, and deserve more, than being required to “show up” in an office and “be seen” for a certain number of hours every day (often more than five days a week). It means accepting that accessibility for clients and delivering client outcomes can be achieved in many ways.
My team is encouraged to identify what works for them, and that extends to the best work times and work style that fit in with their lifestyles, allowing them to meet the demands of their job and life, and ultimately thriving in a mutually rewarding working environment.
What this means for me, in practical terms, is that I am able to support my junior solicitor balance a music career and law career, guilt-free.
It also means hiring an amazing assistant while she is pregnant and allowing flexibility and support throughout this amazing time in her life.
It isn’t always easy to create flexible work environments; I will be honest about that. Particularly when you’re a business owner and you can feel the pressure of working both “on” and “in” the business. But I am immovably convinced that being committed is half the battle – I know it is worth it, and I am satisfied I am on the right path with this.
As law practice owners and leaders; we owe it to ourselves, and to our teams to take action and lead by example, and with integrity. My view is the legal profession ought to be leading the way for providing flexible working environments, because frankly, there is no good reason why we shouldn’t, and it is possible to see practices thrive whilst accommodating a balance between law and life.
The time for talk is over. It is time to act. This includes having the conversations; setting clear expectations; fostering a values-led culture; and listening to our teams.
Flexible work in the legal profession can succeed if leaders are willing to focus on their people and let go of outdated models. And I can tell you that when we do let go of the outdated models and we realise the importance of creating flexible workplaces, we reap the many rewards that come from fulfilled and engaged staff, and satisfied clients – ultimately delivering a higher level of client engagement, a greater commitment to outcomes and a better work-life balance for ourselves.
This is the future of work, and the legal profession ought to embrace it now.
Tracey Mylecharane is the founder of Tracey Mylecharane – Solicitor.