In the second in our series of blogs looking at flexible working, John Grady, a partner in Shepherd and Wedderburn’s regulation and markets team, explains why, for his firm, working flexibly is about much more than childcare.
I'm a partner at Shepherd and Wedderburn in Glasgow. As well as advising a range of clients, principally in the energy sector, I sit on our firm’s Board and lead our disputes division.
Positive culture change in the legal profession
Like any lawyer in private practice, my working hours are not entirely predictable. However, as my two children Anna and George, go to the local primary school, I have worked part time for many years, with Mondays as my “non work day”. Indeed, I may have been our firm’s first part-time male partner. Now we have several.
It wasn’t like this when I started as a trainee – this is an incredibly positive culture change in the legal profession.
Mondays used to be occupied by looking after babies. Now, with the children at school, it is occupied by P6 maths homework (Microsoft Excel and calculators not permitted) and literacy homework. It is never too early to encourage a focus on the “words on the page” and looking up words in dictionaries, the reward being a trip to the park under a rainy sky.
Much as I love working at Shepherd and Wedderburn, Anna and George mean the world to me, and it’s important to me that all of our people likewise spend quality time with their families.
Clients need flexibility too
Flexible working is, of course, about much more than not working on a specified day (and sometimes working on that day). There has been a lot of positive change on this front too.
Caring for ill family members or picking up children from nursery or school are things that cannot just be allotted a slot before 9am or after 6pm. Ten or so years ago, it would cause some “consternation” if someone could not attend a call due to “pick up” duty.
Nowadays, teams place a greater emphasis on helping each other care for their families. Many of my client contacts have caring responsibilities too and, when something urgent comes up, it’s important to be flexible to help them. I am more than happy to have a call on something work-related at 8pm, so that my clients can spend quality time with their children or visit family.
It's not just about childcare
Of course, flexible working is not just about childcare. Working in a law firm is incredibly demanding and it’s critical that people have time off.
My colleagues do all sorts of things outside of their office hours. We have hill-walkers, actors, an avid potter, a professional wedding cake maker, a milliner, sportspeople and people who work with charities.
Our firm is all the better for being a place where talented colleagues can make hats, play netball and even, in one case, give out red and yellow cards on prime-time television.