Work/life balance in the legal profession
A recent surey by LexisNexis and the Law Society said that the level of commitment required to reach the very top of the legal profession makes it difficult to have a family. Around 80% blame the demands of the job for creating a poor work-life balance. With more women than men entering the profession why are less than 20% of equity partners women? Answer: pregnancy/maternity, the long hours culture and prejudice against flexible working.
As a partner at Leigh Day (and previously at Palmer Wade and Bindmans) and litigator (in employment discrimination) I have worked part-time (4 days pw) for 15 years. I have not had one complaint from a client about my lack of availability. Yes, I do check emails and take calls when 'not at work' but that is a price worth paying. And, coincidentally (or perhaps not) there are more female than male partners at Leigh Day.
I never understand why, if there is so much work that employees/partners have to work a 10/12-hour day it is not possible to appoint another lawyer - even on a temporary basis. Sometimes, of course, it is necessary to work long hours to meet a deadline but too often it is just an expectation - just 'the nature of the job' and becomes what is (I'd say) a 'bad habit'. A cynic might say it is all about making profilts for the EPs, particularly in the City. Isn't it time to break the bad habit and spread the work around in the hope that this would also lead to more equality.
And employers are missing a trick. Those who work a 4-day week often fit 5 days work into 4 days and don't complain about
the extra hours because they are grateful for the flexibility.
Of course flexible working is not just for women - a point often missed. The aim is surely for equality at work and equality in flexible working for women and men.
Any thoughts about how to break the long hours pattern and have more women at the top? Can we collect examples of good practice and use them to encourage those with bad practices? Should we be monitoring those firms who do allow and do not allow flexible working?
And finally, of course, this 'bad habit' applies to many areas, not just lawyers.
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