The changing face of law

Fletcher's Solicitors has developed a five-point plan to retain talent which includes flexible working and changes to how senior law roles are performed.

Sue Taylor started working in law at the tender age of 18 when she joined her local authority as a trainee lawyer. She left for six months before returning to law, where she has worked for around 40 years. However, it's been all change in the last year as she has moved from a law firm that involved long, intensive hours – notorious in the legal profession – to a firm which has changed its policies in order to retain and attract the very best staff.

Fletcher’s Solicitors has developed a five-point plan to show its commitment to offering top lawyers a healthier work/life balance. This includes flexible and remote working. To support the latter, the company offers a phone and a computer with full access to its case management system, video conferencing and IT support.

Sue worked for a Manchester law firm for seven years prior to Fletcher's. Last year, she decided to look for something else due to the culture of working long hours. “The work I was doing was very intense and high pressure. I was acting for clients on medical negligence cases. It was very satisfying but very demanding,” she says. “Lunch breaks are not the norm. And the hours are long. If you have a case coming up for trial you tend to focus on that totally and then you have to catch up on your other work when that is over. There is a relentlessness to the work that a lot of people find difficult.”

She said the pace was so fast and if you do it for a long time it “rubs off on you”. “You feel you always have to do things at 10,000 mph. I needed to try to achieve a better balance, but I didn’t want to take a drop in salary.”

A mutual acquaintance told her about Fletcher’s Solicitors and what they were setting out to do.

”I was interested straight away,” says Sue, who joined the firm as a senior risk assessment lawyer last year. A key aspect that appealed to her is that it is a senior role, but that she only has to be involved in cases at ‘touchpoint’ moments when big decisions are required. “The conventional way is to handle a case from start to finish and to deal with everything associated with it. Fletcher Solicitor’s is different. Senior lawyers only get involved when there are touchpoints, when they can give advice and where they can steer the more junior member in the right direction,” says Sue.

She adds that it’s like a mentoring role, but that it carries a lot of responsibility.

Work routine

She works three days per week – Monday, Tuesday and Friday – in the office in Southport and two days at home. She thought the train journey, which is longer than her Manchester commute, would be difficult, but in fact it has turned out to be a bit of a boon as she has time to read or catch up on work and she always gets a seat.

Working three days in the office means she can tie up any loose ends before the weekend and start afresh on Monday. Then she has Wednesdays and Thursdays at home to focus more deeply on her cases. She used to work in the evenings and at weekends, but no longer needs to do that regularly.

Sue has two children – twins – who are now 24 and grown up. She recalls working long hours when they were little. Instead of staying late she would get up very early, but that made for a very long day. “I didn’t feel I was doing either my job in law or my job as a parent especially well,” she says. Pick-ups and drop-offs were “a military operation” which she shared with her husband.

She loves the flexibility that working from home gives her now. She can lie in a little and still be at her computer at 7.30am. She can then build her day around whatever she has coming up and she doesn’t have to waste a lot of time on looking presentable. “There’s not much I can think of that’s negative,” she says.

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