As part of our recent research into flexible working practices, we've created a flexible working report on the legal sector looking at the thoughts of both private practice and in-house lawyers, as well as the organisational perspective surrounding flexible working.
What did we find?
The overriding message is a positive one: lawyers want to be able to work more flexibly and increasingly more firms are certainly heeding the message.
If you purely look at the statistics, then clearly the legal profession has a lot of catching up to do. It scores lower than the UK industry average in the flexible working league tables when it comes to the standard practices offered by organisations, such as remote working and flexible start and finish times. This probably won’t come as a big surprise given its more traditional approach.
Debunking some myths
What was particularly revealing was that while 89% of firms feel that their staff would be comfortable asking about flexible working, the reality was far removed: over a third of lawyers (35%) do not want to raise the subject for fear of being seen as less committed to the cause. So, there is still a clear cultural barrier that’s preventing lawyers from broaching the subject.
Another interesting contradiction is that although more women work part-time – 90% of male lawyers work five day weeks compared to 66% of females – more men have earlier start-finish times and work fewer contracted hours. So, although women are often seen to be working more flexibly, that isn't necessarily the case!
Flexible working model
A lack of flexible working seems to be more of an issue for those working in private practice rather than in-house, yet despite the challenges, over two-thirds (67%) of lawyers would gladly sacrifice a 5% pay rise for flexible working and 44% have even turned down a job because of it. On that note, organisations beware – over a third (34%) of candidates weren't aware of flexible working options during the selection process.
Although there’s work to be done, and let’s face it, no sector is perfect, what’s encouraging from the report and our case studies from Baker & McKenzie, Ignition Law and Simmons & Simmons, is that legal organisations are embracing flexible working. They've realised that it is the right model to adopt as many of their global clients are also working flexibly, so it makes business sense. Quality of service isn't being affected and HR isn't being bombarded with requests (as many fear they will be!).Posted about 4 years ago