Categories:Corporate

Freshfields trials flexi-working in corporate team

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  • This scheme isn't as innovative as it sounds - I worked for over 10 years as a senior associate in corporate, outside London. It requires some give and take on both sides but benefited firm and employee.

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  • FF should be commended for this initiative. Now if only other MC firms would follow suit. Well done!

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  • All in all an interesting proposal, provided it's not a cost reduction exercise in disguise (which it doesn't seem to be). I assume the maternity flexibility will be assumed to new fathers too?

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  • This is a brave move, particularly if it involves transactional work. At CareerBalance we are seeing more clients wanting to leave City law firms because of the excessive hours and poor work-life balance. If this works it may convince some lawyers to reconsider.

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  • This appears to be a sensible approach. My only concern would be that the move of female staff (pregnant or for 6 months after mat leave) to 'less time critical operations' should not become an indirect way of denying them access to career enhancing experience/work. That would be discriminatory. There is already sufficient difficulties with challenging the perception that you are not fit for the hard edged world of commercial/corporate law the minute you decide to have a family. I haven't heard a suggestion that male employees who may be shattered by the disruption of a new born are also removed from such important projects. Something to think about.

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  • "My only concern would be that the move of female staff (pregnant or for 6 months after mat leave) to 'less time critical operations' should not become an indirect way of denying them access to career enhancing experience/work. That would be discriminatory. "
    You really can't have it both ways. I applaud the firm for its efforts in accommodating its people's needs and in order to give a pregnant associate the fixed hours, it isn't unfair to ask her to take up a non-client facing role, which is of course the most career enhancing role

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  • If we think about it, yes, it might be unfair - as well as unnecessary - to ask a pregnant woman to take a non-client facing role. The client facing role need not be the one with the longer hours - or the more unpredictable ones. In fact a fresher more alert person is often better placed to deal with a client, and talk down unrealistic demands, with a backroom team of non-pregnant people on hand to take on the task of delivering the work product. It's not about having it all - the fear is about not having any of it. If you're booted into anonymity the minute you're up the duff, your career instantly suffers. By being pregnant and in an "invisible" role, you are in fact lining yourself up for disposal. I bear in mind that pregnancy is temporary, and that men should share all subsequent familial restrictions as much as women should. And often do, these days. Women are still so far behind men in law even today (still so few women equity partners) so there is a need for action, rather than wheeling out possibly tired old arguments about not being able to "have it all".

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  • So you are suggesting that non-pregnant workers hide in the backrooms working day and night to deliver client projects, while the pregnant employee swoops in to face the client and claim the glory. That's an interesting approach, I wonder how it will go down within the team...

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  • Yes, it would be potentially unfair to ask a pregnant associate to move to non-client facing roles. However the articles actually talks about allowing pregnant associates to *opt* for fixed/consistent hours - there is no suggestion of pregnant associates being automatically put onto non-client facing work. If you opt for fixed hours in a transactional dept (ie you don't want the midnight conf calls to finalise documents or whatever), it makes sense that you cease to be a key client-facing contact for the time that you are on consistent hours.

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  • "Pregnant employee swoops in to take the glory" "That's an interesting approach, I wonder how it will go down with the team" Replace "pregnant employee" with "partner" - and you have something ressembling day to day reality for many. So why not consider putting pregnant people squarely in the spotlight, or "glory role"? As one Anonymous said, pregnancy is temporary.

    At the risk of repetition, I agree that a client facing role is capable of offering more consistent hours - even transactional work. The flavour from comments is that it is somehow wrong for a pregnant person to be at the forefront. And that is because, I suspect, legal culture still expects women who are pregnant to be on the way out. The comments appear to ignore the fact that the longer and more unpredictable hours are not the meetings as such - but lie in the work that flows from them.

    We need to think about doing things differently if women are to stay in law longer and progress up the ladder. And only the most stubborn would contend that this isn't an issue which needs addressing now, proactively, imaginatively.

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