The legal sector has a reputation for having a long-hours culture, where it can be particularly difficult to forge a career whilst working part time or flexibly. Over the last five years or so, that has begun to change, with new start-ups offering regular but flexible work to lawyers, via short term supply contracts. But it remains challenging to find a permanent flexible role advertised by a traditional law firm.
However, Simmons & Simmons is breaking the mould. The firm has a long-standing and supportive flexible working culture, and in the last year has developed this further by opening up to flexible working at the point of hire.
A POSITIVE APPROACH TO FLEXIBLE WORKING
The management team at Simmons & Simmons believes that in order to be an employer of choice for lawyers and business services professionals, it’s vital to respond to their needs and their desire to work more flexibly.
The firm wants to empower its people to choose a working pattern that’s flexible to their needs and supports them in managing their work-life balance. Long ago it removed any requirement for a specific reason to work flexibly and any qualifying period of employment for flexible working.
…AND NOW, FLEXIBLE HIRING TOO
In the last year, Simmons & Simmons has taken the ‘obvious next step’. The firm is now open to discussing flexible working at the recruitment stage, and advertises its commitment to flexible working in all job descriptions. Flexibility can be a key factor for candidates when deciding to move between organisations, so Simmons & Simmons hopes to remove barriers by allowing candidates to feel they can openly discuss their needs from the outset.
Simmons & Simmons’ Managing Partner, Jeremy Hoyland, states: “People working in other organisations sometimes feel that their flexibility arrangements inhibit moving to other firms. This will not be the case at Simmons and we are very keen for candidates, partners and employees, to be aware of our willingness and support to discuss flexible working arrangements at the start of the recruitment process. We are committed to recruiting the best talent and I believe this approach will enable us to increase further the talent we attract to our firm.”
The firm’s HR team has actively engaged with the recruitment agencies they partner with, to clarify why flexible working is important to the firm and why it is necessary that this message reaches prospective candidates who are interested in joining them.
THE FIRST FLEXIBLE RECRUITS
Over the past year, Simmons & Simmons has had a number of senior fee-earners and business services employees join them on a flexible working arrangement. These individuals enjoyed working flexibly in their previous organisations and, after open discussions with the hiring partners and HR, their requests have been happily accommodated at the firm. Their different flexible arrangements include part time hours, working from home one day a week, and other arrangements such as fixed hours.
Senior Partner, Colin Passmore, states: “As Senior Partner, I am pleased that we have seen a significant increase in the number of people across the firm who have taken up flexible working. Greater flexibility of our working practices complements the firm’s many diversity and inclusion initiatives and we want to reiterate that this option is available to candidates who are looking to join our firm.”