A recent survey conducted by Beaton Research + Consulting found that mid-tier firms are the leading providers in flexible work for lawyers. The data also illustrates that women continue to represent a large majority of part-time workers in the industry.
Overall, the study found that 11. 1 per cent of partners and lawyers in Australia are working part-time. The survey also indicates that 12.2 per cent of mid-tier employees are working part-time, compared to 9 per cent of those working in top tier firms.
Swaab Attorneys ranked highest in terms of offering flexible hours, with 34.8 per cent of its workforce employed on part-time basis. Managing director Mary Digiglo says that offering more flexible conditions allows Swaab Attorneys to retain valuable staff who require more flexible conditions.
“It’s not something that is offered off the bat — it is offered in circumstances when we have talent we want to retain,” she said.
The increasing number of women entering the legal profession is cited as a leading factor in the increasing popularity of part-time work. Of the 1368 part-time workers identified in the survey, 83 per cent are female
King & Wood Mallesons had the highest number of part-time employees when compared to other top-tier firms, and among the highest proportion of female equity partners.
The firm also has above-average numbers of men working part-time. Female employees at King and Wood Mallesons account for 69 per cent of part-time workers compared to the average of 77 per cent among other top-tier firms.
Mary Digiglio says that the costs associated with offering part-time positions are outweighed by the cost of losing and replacing talented lawyers.
However, she said that firms should be selective about offering part-time work and the arrangement should be viewed as a two-way street.
“Our people who are here part-time make themselves available by phone on the days they are not here,” Ms Digiglio said.
Labour and employment law specialist Justine Turnbull says that part-time partners can successfully lead a team and be responsive to clients.
“What is needed to make part-time partnership work is the trust of your partners, good communication and, as with any other partner, hard work, talent and tenacity.”