The Law Society is to launch a campaign aimed at moving flexible working – for both women and men – “into the mainstream of employment practice in law practices”, Legal Futures can report.
The society has identified “buy-in” at senior partner level as the key challenge to achieving this goal, and said it is important that flexible working “is not seen as a women’s issue”.
Its equality and diversity committee recently approved a package of actions “which has all the component parts to deliver an effective programme of change, drive measurable and sustainable progress and move flexible working into the mainstream of employment practice at law firms”.
Among the measures to communicate the benefits of flexible working and help firms implement it, the society is to suggest to the Solicitors Regulation Authority that it include flexible working practices as an indicative behaviour under principle 9 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct. This requires solicitors to run their business or carry out their role in the business “in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity”.
Other ideas include a ‘work-life balance week’, which it hopes to establish in the legal calendar like pro bono week, and incorporating flexible working into the equality and diversity requirements of the society’s Lexcel practice management standards.
The committee was told: “The availability of flexible working is vital if we are to attract and retain a diverse range of talent in the profession. Whilst it is paramount for those with caring responsibilities, the majority of whom are women, it has a broader reach and it is important that flexible working practice is not seen as a women’s issue.
“The acceptance of the legitimacy of flexible working practices and the effective introduction of them into the sector has the potential to change the culture of the workplace.”
The flexible working programme is part of a broader careers barrier action plan being put together by Chancery Lane in the wake of research last year. It will also be promoted via a new flexible working protocol being added to the society’s diversity and inclusion charter.