Better Culture, Better Diversity, Better Business – How Flexible Working Is the Answer in Law

No longer a "nice to have", flexible working has become entrenched across many industries – and could bring a range of benefits to the legal sector.

Jessica Heagren, CEO at That Works For Me, shares her thoughts with Lawyer Monthly on how a commitment to flexible working could empower law firms and their staff.

A common theme from our discussions with law firms is that flexible working is a phase, and one that will pass, as it doesn’t work within the legal industry.  But, in my experience, this isn’t true. It’s a positive development and one that deserves the same level of commitment as any other change.

The demand for flexible working is growing, particularly after the year we have just had. It is the future, not least because it benefits firms in so many different valuable ways. The legal sector has so much to gain from offering employees flexible working opportunities: improved diversity, improved culture and in turn, improved performance.

Here’s how:

It saves money

Not only does flexible working provide flexibility for the employee, but it also provides flexibility for the employer.

A common misconception is that flexible working means no one is in the same place at the same time or that client expectations cannot be met. But at That Works For Me, we have seen every industry make flexible working work from engineering through to accountancy. A more flexible workforce enables a more flexible response to customers. Skills can be imported when they are needed driving cost efficiency and away from the commitment of a full-time salary.

Not only does flexible working provide flexibility for the employee, but it also provides flexibility for the employer.

It improves valuable diversity

Flexible working opens the legal sector up to such a wider range of people. This is critical not only for perception but for access to new clients. There is a long-standing issue in the legal sector with the loss of women after they have children. This has led to a significant gender diversity issue, particularly at partner level.

Flexible working makes continuing in law a viable career for them. Parents aren’t expected to choose a life revolving around work or home but can instead have one that encompasses both. We’ve seen it work successfully in banking and finance, so why not law?

As well as more women staying in the legal sector, law firms then don’t have to choose the candidate with the most time over the most skilled candidate to fulfil a role. Offering flexible working options such as remote working or flexible hours widens your recruitment pool massively (such as no location restrictions or restrictions on times available to work). This allows you access to the best possible talent out there and will almost certainly improve diversity over time.

It improves company culture

Flexible working leads to more satisfied and productive employees. A study carried out by Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom found that in surveying 16,000 workers at a Chinese firm over ten months, those allowed to work flexibly from home increased their productivity by 13%. This has been proven time and time again by businesses across the world.

There are countless other more tangible benefits. Employees are likely to take less sick leave as they are able to have a more equal work-life balance. Their ability to pursue other interests and hobbies outside of work does wonders for team morale and engagement. People are happier, and happier employees means more loyal employees. Flexible working reduces employee turnover massively, allowing you to keep hold of valuable people in whom you have invested.

Increased diversity is also a positive attribute to company culture and allows a wider range of opinions, perspectives and experiences to be drawn upon when it comes to problem solving and innovation.

Customers are also more likely to choose companies to work with where they can see themselves in the employees. Diversity therefore directly contributes to new business acquisition.

Demand for increased flexibility by employees is growing exponentially and the talent race already seen in many other industries will shortly be seen in law. 40% of lawyers consider flexible working to be the biggest benefit when choosing a new employer and therefore it’s vital that law firms are representative of the desires and needs of its employees.

Times have moved beyond consideration of flexible working requests as fulfilling a legal obligation. The conversation has moved towards a default position of flexible working options meaning employers need to robustly justify why a flexible working request is refused.

The employers that are winning in today’s market are those who genuinely prioritise employee wellbeing and invest in retention techniques – often by offering flexible working. It’s time to decide which camp you’re in. As an employer, you have a responsibility to your employees to provide them with flexible working opportunities, and with the list of benefits for both employer and employee ever growing, why would you choose not to?

Leave A Reply