Working flexibly is now the ‘new normal’ in law and firms who fail to implement this effectively will struggle to retain staff and attract new talent, according to the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA).
“Meeting staff demand for greater work/life balance is a leading internal driver of change impacting Australasian law firms in 2016 and this is one of the few areas where the industry has been quick to respond,” said ALPMA President and CFO of Legal Lantern Group, Mr Andrew Barnes.
“Our latest research shows that 49 percent of Australian and NZ firms have already implemented flexible working arrangements for their staff, and another 36 percent have this as a current ‘work in progress’ or in their plans for the future.”
“The few firms who do not see flexible work arrangements in their foreseeable future are going to lose the battle for employee ‘hearts and minds’. In a highly competitive market, they and will struggle to retain quality staff, let alone make themselves an attractive destination for new talent.”
“It is one thing to say you have flexible working arrangements – it is quite another to do this well,” Mr Barnes said.
He pointed to Maddocks’ innovative implementation of improved flexible working arrangements in their Employment, as leading the industry in deploying flexible working arrangements that retain staff and increase employee engagement without compromising customer service.
Maddocks was selected as the winner of the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards at the 2016 ALPMA Summit Gala Dinner on Thursday 8 September, over Award finalists Hall & Wilcox, Bytherules Conveyancing and Nexus Legal, for their implementation of flexible working arrangements for their Employment, Safety and People team.
“Innovation isn’t only about leveraging technology in a new way, it is also about innovating around long-established processes within an organisation – looking at how things can be done differently to deliver increased levels of employee engagement and productivity,” said Whit Lee, Executive Director of Strategy & Customer Insight, LexisNexis Asia Pacific and member of the Award judging panel.
“That’s what makes this year’s winning innovation stand out,” he said.
“Maddocks have demonstrated innovation, consultation and intellectual rigour in their approach to flexible working that serves as a shining example for other firms,” he said.
“If you are going to lead the way in working flexibly, it is not just enough to say ‘you can work flexibly’, you have to make flexible work visible, you have to support the people who work flexibly and you have to support the people who don’t,” Catherine Dunlop, Partner at Maddocks said.
“We think this is a really important thing for the legal profession to grapple with as we change, and working flexibly does become the new normal’,” she said.
Working flexibly brings with it real challenges as well as enormous opportunities, she said.
“We’ve taken the time to introduce a range of new procedures to ensure that people who work flexibly get exposure to excellent work and when they are not at work, we make sure we don’t hassle them unnecessarily.”
“The people who don’t work flexibly are not expected to bear the burden of work,” she said.
About half of the team of 28 are now working flexibly from home and from clients’ offices, and this figure includes both men and women. Those working flexibly include partners, special counsel, lawyers, associates and administration staff. Flexible working is no longer perceived within the team as exclusively for women returning from parental leave.
“The biggest benefit of this project has been the effect that it has had on staff. We have people working flexibly who don’t have to feel guilty about leaving at a particular time, because we’ve led from the top and they know that it is okay to leave.”
“Because we’ve talked about these things, we have this fantastic team of engaged, happy lawyers and admins who come to work each day brimming with ideas and who understand that they are not just valued for the work that they do and their availability, but for everything they bring to work and what they do outside their work life.”
“We now have fantastic retention. We haven’t lost anyone coming back from parental leave and we haven’t lost any of our lawyers to another law firm for a number of years.”
“This initiative has created a culture where people feel their skills and knowledge is valued over their availability,” she said. “Our staff are encouraged to pursue meaningful and enjoyable lives, both inside and outside work, knowing that the team will work collaboratively to deliver first rate client service, even if a client’s primary contact is out of the office.”
The Awards were judged by an industry panel including: Shelley Dunstone, Principal Legal Circles and ALPMA Life Member; Dr Peter Lynch, Managing Director, dci lycon; Shirley Hamel, Director of Operations, Cornwall Stodart and ALPMA Life Member and Whit Lee, Executive Director of Strategy & Customer Insight, LexisNexis Asia Pacific.
Previous winners include LegalVision, Hive Legal and Anderssen Lawyers.