Any lawyers work flexibly or reduced days?

(16 Posts)
fia101 Sun 03-Sep-17 21:07:02


Curious to know whether any lawyers work flexibly or reduced hours/days.

Women who started at my firm pre 2012 generally have some sort of flexible working either compressed hours with a day off or finishing at 3pm.

However I was told not to bother submitting my application to work 4 days (not compressed hours) as it would be refused. Told it is no longer possible for any part time working to take place at the firm. Whether this is legal or not they're getting away with it because no working mother has the time or inclination to take them to tribunal. Generally women leave. I think the firm recognise that the vast majority of new lawyers are young women and they're trying to nip flexi working in the bud and ensure no precedent is set.

I was told not to bother submitting the application because being a lawyer means being available 24/7 for clients and part time working is not conducive to that. They said if your contract says you work 4 days they obviously can't contractually oblige you to attend a meeting/complete a deal on that 5th day.

I don't do corporate law. The vast majority of my clients are public sector. When I have been on annual leave and a contract has needed completed I have of course worked from wherever I am to get the matter completed. Same at weekends.

I understand my firm's point of view but I don't work magic circle and I find it hard to believe that there are no women lawyers who do any sort of part time/flexible work.

It I was on a fantastic wage I might argue that is the trade off. But I work full time, long commute, 2 small kids and low pay (for a lawyer)

OP’s posts: |
halesie Sun 03-Sep-17 21:38:04

Hi, yes I'm one and I know lots of others (including some partners at big firms) who do too.

Lots of city firms now have a WFH policy for all lawyers to WFH once a week/fortnight - once they realise the men want some flexibility too the choice is pretty stark. I think most firms are finding it works well though - people are keen to show they're pulling their weight and having a bit of flexibility is genuinely motivating.

Obviously it's harder for some than others to work flexibly and roles / manager support varies enormously from dept to dept and firm to firm. Working PT (and WFH) works well for me but I accept I'll have to do some work on my days off. I don't generally have the DC all to myself on days off anyway (school) so I have some flexibility there. And if I need to switch the days around I just take a different day off.

In terms of PT working, compressed hours are a bit of a thing of the past IME. 9 day fortnights are becoming more common (much smaller pay cut from FT too). I know quite a few people who work 4 day weeks and most say the best way to do it is to change firm as expectations are then set from the start.

It's tricky to be at a firm which doesn't seem to buy into the business case for diversity. If they don't and you really want to change your hours it's a business decision for you to follow the others out of the door. Hopefully they will come to see that they need to change though.

There are also a lot of new boutique firms coming up which use home workers who work flexibly - may be worth investigating if you can work independently.

fia101 Sun 03-Sep-17 22:02:46

Many thanks Halesie. Really interesting to know. I would've left a while ago but not many firms in the region I live in full stop and not many which do the type I law I do so I'm limited.

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minipie Sun 03-Sep-17 22:12:48

I worked 4 days a week at a "silver circle" firm until recently. p/t not compressed. It didn't work perfectly but not too badly. However I don't think it would have been possible if I had been more junior, for various reasons (I was about 8pqe when I switched to 4 days)

namechangedtoday15 Sun 03-Sep-17 22:22:27

I don't think there is a general rule in the firms I've worked for, it really does depend on your particular firm, how well you're thought of and the head of department. I'm one of a number of lawyers in my extended family - ranging from senior Magic Circle transactional lawyer (who negotiated a 3 day week), partners in large regional firms (husband and wife, both partners, both do 9 day fortnights) and high street (full time but flexible).

I've always done Comm Lit in large regional firms and initially persuaded my firm who'd never allowed a 3 day week to trial it over a 3 month period. Promised I would commit to more days if it didn't work. It did involve taking calls / checking emails and occasionally doing telephone Court hearings from home, or switching my days but it did work. I've worked for 4 different firms now and have done 3 / 4 / 4.5 day weeks. I've never done WFH or compressed hrs though - in my experience WFH is still difficult to arrange (out of sight out of mind perhaps), as are compressed hours (I think most lawyers work way over their contracted hours anyway so law firms don't gain anything from compressed hours - it's akin to paying you for the "overtime" you'd ordinarily do anyway if that makes sense) but part time is worth pushing for.

Make the application, they've got to properly justify their reasons if they refuse.

Arcadia Sun 03-Sep-17 22:33:04

I am a family lawyer in a small city. I was full time as a trainee then had my daughter the month I qualified. Since I qualified I have worked at 3 different firms of varying sizes and they have all allowed me to do PT. 3 days initially then over time up to 3.5 days now going up to 4 days (my choice).

I have not had many PT colleagues. You have to be particularly well organised for it not to create more stress than it saves and for it not to impact on your colleagues and clients. I find I am fresher and less tired than colleagues due to my long weekend.

fia101 Mon 04-Sep-17 06:00:07

Thanks. I had asked either for 4 days or an earlier finish such as 9 until 3 or even 4 but was told no. I don't get home til past 7 which means I never get to eat dinner with kids young kids during the week. Last week I saw them 10 mins in morning and wasn't home until they were in bed. If I could eat dinner with them or take them to an activity after school just once a week I'd feel the quality of my life and theirs was much better. Sometimes I just think 'what's the point' of me working when they never see me and it's not like I am a great role model due to my rubbish wage (my firm isn't well paid in general despite being a commercial firm).

OP’s posts: |
halesie Mon 04-Sep-17 09:27:09

If you just need that little bit of flexibility WFH may help a lot. Still FT so no pay cut and they can see easily if your chargeable hours drop. Just forward your office phone to your mobile and log on remotely (which it sounds like you do already on holidays and weekends anyway). You can dip out for a while to pick the DC up, have dinner together and do bedtime then log on again if need be.

I only went PT recently - WFH was the only flex I had while the children were small and it made a huge difference to me and how I felt about my job smile

halesie Mon 04-Sep-17 09:28:51

(Obv your hours won't drop. And you can go armed with info about the big firms that have WFH policies. If the magic circle can do it, any firm can.)

namechangedtoday15 Mon 04-Sep-17 09:49:27

Another possibility if you're only looking to finish at 4pm one day is to request a different work pattern. If you have a longish commute, it may be in your favour anyway to avoid traffic. When I first went back 3 days on one of the days I did officially 8-4.30 instead of 9-5.30. Could you perhaps ask to do 7.30-4?

minipie Mon 04-Sep-17 10:42:45

Are there any other lawyers in your dept in the same position? If so, perhaps you could propose a semi job share - ie you would cover for her on her day off and she would cover for you on your day off?

I think 4 days a week is far easier than trying to leave the office at 3 or 4 regularly. I found it hard enough to leave at 6pm 3 times a week...

dameofdilemma Mon 04-Sep-17 10:51:38

Its entirely dependant on your field, how desperate they are to keep you and how buoyant the job market is.
For many firms it has nothing to do with whether the job can be performed just as well if you wfh once a week or do a 9 day fortnight.

If your firm is reluctant look at moving, There's a lot to be gained from working for an empathetic manager who understands you might sometimes need flexibility but trusts you to get the job done as they are/have been in a similar position.

I certainly know senior associates working part time in private practice. I also know plenty of female lawyers working part time in house. All in London though.

bluemarble Mon 04-Sep-17 10:59:45

I'm at a city firm but a small one and I work flexibly, I leave around 4.30 on my days in the office but then the agreement is I do a couple more hours in the evening, I also WFH one day a week. It's not ideal and means that I have no time to myself and am often on client calls until late at night but it does mean I can pick the children up from after school club, have tea with them, put them to bed etc.

Have you suggested that you could do the extra hours in the evening? So you leave at 4 a couple of days a week but on those days work from home say 7.30pm-9.30pm.

Knottyash5 Mon 04-Sep-17 11:45:37

I worked at a city-type firm outside London a few years ago. I wanted compressed hours but they would not allow that because they said lots of people worked over their hours and it would not be fair for me to work over my hours and then get hours back, so to speak. But they did let me work 4.5 days, finishing early on a Wednesday so that I could collect ds from school.

However, I had a set-to with a corporate partner when he came in to ask me to do something on a Wednesday at around 12.45 (I was due to leave just after 1). I said I would be leaving soon and he gave me a look. So I said they couldn't have it both ways. I was taking the pay cut so I could do a half day. He left the room, but he wasn't happy. I left about 3 months later. This was back in 2007/2008 though and I am sure there are law firms operating much better systems these days. That firm also had home working capability but said it was for catching up at home, people had to be in the office full time to be available to colleagues.

If you cannot find a law firm with decent flexi practices it might be worth looking into a PSL role with PLC or Lexis, they both have lots of flexible/part-time/home-workers.

I had a colleague who worked every day, but her hours were until 4pm. She said it did work because everyone knew she worked "part-time" so there were no eyebrows raised when she left at that time. I would have thought amended hours would work - you're still around for clients, and you're still there every day. I work 4 days a week spread over 5, so I am working every day, but if I need to go off and do things in the afternoons, I can.

fia101 Mon 04-Sep-17 12:24:30

Thanks everyone - your input is much appreciated. I was curious as to whether other lawyers worked flexible hours and you've answered my question.

My firm employs about 100 solicitors - mainly women. The new regime is that no flexible working is allowed end of. If you started pre 2012 and work flexibly it'll be in the contract and there's nothing they can do about that.

I would've thought lawyers working in the bigger cities wouldn't have been allowed flex working but it seems the opposite!

Unfortunately very small market where I live so I just have to accept the terms and conditions.

OP’s posts: |
Allthebestnamesareused Mon 04-Sep-17 19:40:31

The main issue is that the employer has to give business reasons as to why they are refusing. The more people who want to work flexibly the harder it is to accommodate and whereas initially firms were doing what they could to accommodate requests it becomes harder for reasons already stated. The rquests can be from male or female employees and would have to be treated the same. It is more expensive to employ people to job share. As mentioned above most firms will expect you to be available to clients even out of office.

Obviously there are now more women in the profession too who generally request flexible working when returning from maternity leave. As the percentage of women grows it becomes harder to meet all of the requests so many firms are stating that they cannot accommodate such requests from the outset.

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