Proctor : May 2018
49 PROCTOR | May 2018 Develop your knowledge and practical skills in family law. This two-day introductory course is ideal for junior legal staff − offering an overview of family law and practical guidance on the most common processes and tasks associated with handling family law matters. 6-7 June | Law Society House Register online qls.com.au/introtofamilylaw Introduction to family law Are you flexible, or chaotic? A practice idea that might make a big difference Work flexibility seems here to stay. Indeed, it enables micro practices to exist. But let’s talk about more conventional practices... There is obviously a continuum between highly structured (prescriptive) and very unstructured (self-managed) working arrangements. Some of the examples are: • job sharing – organised, structured flexibility • working from home (including log-in from home) – a two-way bargain built around trust and accountability • early start/late finish/working in with (say) M1 traffic conditions, and • totally self-managed – just give me the output and I don’t really care about the rest. When agreeing to flexible work conditions, there are a few principles you need to take on board. Firstly, your staff are employed to do a job – but not all jobs are the same. The working arrangements should not create unhelpful demands on co-workers. Similarly, with clients and matters, if the nature of the clients and/or matters is of an intensity that requires continuity and a consistent ‘touch’ in style and communication, then job sharing can be a problem. With working remotely, the keys are always clear expectations on style and output (how, how much, and how reliably) and regular monitoring and feedback. Don’t just provide negative feedback when the productivity slips – tell the staff member when they are doing well, so they can use that to develop good habits. Working remotely can be really challenging... the distractions are ever present. If you don’t provide feedback early and regularly, staff can quickly adopt a view of I know I’m expected to get 5.5 hours from home, but nobody seems to really care so far, so I might just cruise for a bit until someone says something. It is important to understand that usually if remote working doesn’t go to plan, it is more likely to be your fault (poorly managed expectations and follow-up) than the staff’s fault. If some of that sounds a bit negative, don’t be put off. Usually it’s a matter of finding what works. And it makes sense to explore flexible arrangements if they are the alternative to losing a very productive person. Finally, cherry picking favourites for special conditions in the workplace is the kiss of death. If you support certain types of flexibility (subject to client, matter, and support issues) then you have to have a whole-of-firm policy on how it works in your firm. So while the environment is slightly changed, the same old story applies – clarity in expectations and honesty in evaluation will take you a long way towards success – ‘this is what we agreed would happen/this is what actually happened’. Dr Peter Lynch email@example.com Keep it simple There is a clear shift to flexible working arrangements – both in and out of the office – but as with most things, it can be done well or poorly.