Louisa Phillips
Louisa Phillips

Articles From the Team

Working hours: lawyers are rewriting the rules

The legal profession has long been viewed as an extended hours, desk-based culture. It’s true that in busy market conditions there’s often a price to pay: long hours can be the norm and achieving a work-life balance can be an uphill task. 

Balance is something that is notoriously difficult to achieve, particularly for lawyers juggling the demands of work with family or other personal commitments. With a young family myself, I’m constantly chasing the ultimate goal of balancing work and home life, reprioritising my goals as life unfolds.

To no surprise, the past year has seen a 29% increase in the number of lawyers rejecting the typical 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. model; choosing an alternative: where one is free to opt for flexible working hours.

Due to this demand, firms are thinking outside the box: challenging the traditional working day in an attempt to attract the best legal talent on the market; trusting their lawyers more by giving them the freedom and autonomy to have more control over their lives.

Law firms now realise they need to adapt their working patterns to be able to attract and retain the best lawyers in the market. Put simply, they can’t lose out on talented lawyers, so offering flexible working arrangements to those who need it for childcare or simply a home arrangement personal to them is a must.

Traditionally, lawyers have…

Lawyers have always had the option of moving from larger to smaller firms in an attempt to chase that elusive work-life balance while retaining good quality work, or moving in-house for a culture that can often mean more autonomy and flexibility. Now there’s less of a need as the big firms change their ways. Large national firms are more willing than ever to look at part-time working options; offer a day or more working remotely; or, the flexibility for an established lawyer to manage their own day.

What works, works

I’m aware of many teams of home-based lawyers who work full or part-time from home - meeting in the office once a month to regroup and share ideas. This works well for fee earners and means firms are able to attract lawyers from a much wider pool – a true ‘win-win’.

Platform lawyers

The ultimate flexibility goes one step further – in working as a ‘platform lawyer’ – remote working through ‘platform firms’ choosing where to work and when. One example is gunnercooke – now a national firm offering maximum flexibility while being connected to a network of lawyers across the country. As well as choosing their hours and place of work, the consultancy model means their lawyers are able to retain a greater percentage of their own billings.  For lawyers with personal clients this has an added benefit of substantially increased earnings as a higher percentage of fees generated go to the individual fee earner than firm. More money and less hours – who could argue with that?!

In summary

For some, the traditional model will always work and there’s certainly a place for that. The reality though, is that working long hours is no longer the mark of success or a badge of honour. Everyone has a home situation that’s unique to them and it’s all about striking the right balance. It’s about finding an environment for your personal circumstances. In 2019 there’s choice – we’re at long last moving in the right direction.

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