Think a legal career and parenthood don’t mix? How one firm is proving it can
Are you frustrated at the lack of flexible working opportunities in your industry? Tired of being told remote working doesn’t work? Read how one legal firm is determined to prove it CAN.
Laura Jennings is a constant solicitor for legal firm Merali Beedle LLP. She describes, after years of having to make compromises between her career and family, she’s finally found a firm that values, and enables her to enjoy, both.
Hopefully her experience will help to inspire other employers to look for ways to make their industry more family-friendly too. After all, if it can work in law…
Merali Beedle LLP was established with a clear, flexible vision
Having practised in the legal sector for more years than would be complimentary to detail, the opportunity to pursue the seemingly mythical work-life balance finally presented itself in the shape of Merali Beedle LLP.
Merali Beedle LLP was set up by two innovative lawyers who strongly felt that there was more to life than the relentless hamster wheel of large legal practices. So they sought a different approach.
They wanted to create a firm that offered a better balance and the opportunity to provide excellent, quality legal service, without compromising every other area of life.
The two partners, Adam Merali and Nico Beedle had a vision of offering a focused, tailor-made service to select clients. Engaging consultants in different areas of law and building a firm structure with like-minded individuals who also wanted a better balance, and the opportunity to provide excellent legal service without compromising everything else to achieve it.
Many of the firm’s consultants are mums like me
Opportunity is often not without risk. And in pursuing this legal unicorn, I needed to exchange a secure salary with remuneration based on work done.
However, working full time and long hours, with three children under 10 and living with a daily concern of not being able to give 100% to any one thing, I decided the pursuit would be worth it.
Many of the consultants are perhaps, not unexpectedly, in similar situations to myself. They’re predominantly mums who love their profession and take pride in the service they provide and want to continue to do so, without always (as it felt in my case) being absent from the school gates.
They’ve made remote access work
Adam and Nico have put in place an accessible and sophisticated IT system which allows for remote access – working from anywhere is possible. This ensures that the consultants can access their files from wherever they are and at whatever time they choose, or a client requires.
Skype, clever IT and uber-smart phones means there is no reason that the same high level of service cannot be given to a client as would be given in a more traditional office environment but the consultant can so, if they wish from the comfort of their own homes.
Sian Owen, Employment Law consultant for the firm sums up the situation for her and the benefits that she has found:
“Culturally, the encouragement by Nico and Adam to fit in work around child-care or other caring commitments generates a strong working culture and a real can-do approach from the lawyers.
The fact that work can run alongside child care makes us feel we can achieve both and encourages us to make this new model work, which in turn makes us work harder during the time we have to give to our clients.”
Similarly Samantha Blakey, a Property Consultant and Feride Gildir, Wills and Probate Consultant, felt that the benefits to them in balancing their working lives with home, were not matched in the more traditional law firm settings.
Both have echoed that Nico and Adam had been supportive and understanding of their external commitments, which in both cases includes childcare.
They don’t just offer the model – they believe in it
The firm has been featured in the Financial Times as one of the Innovative Law Firms of 2016. The model is such that it is particularly appealing to working mums but not exclusively so.
Anyone who wants more control over their time, an ability to get back what they put in and is conscious that a profession does not or should not define your whole life, would find this model appealing.
I have found it refreshing that not only does the firm offer this model, but it believes in it. The ethos is genuinely that the service delivered is important and, like every business, client satisfaction is imperative.
There is an understanding within the structure that more often than not, this is achieved by a satisfied, focused work force.
A law career isn’t usually compatible with a family
Law firms are not always recognised for being anything other than traditional, with cultures that perhaps are not as conducive as they should be to working parents.
A model such as this allows for career and family to be potentially equalised, whereas in my experience it was more often a case of which one would be marginalised.
Lawyers are often looking at new solutions for clients and it is a breath of fresh air to work with those that extend the same to their team. As a lawyer and a mum, any working model that provides the opportunity for you to do what you love but still spend time with those you love, has got to be the way forward. Pursue the unicorn!