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Flexible working helps widen talent pool at Jacksons Law

Posted on 28th November, 2023

Jacksons takes on mums on flexible working arrangements, preventing them putting careers on hold.

In the legal world, flexible working arrangements represent a very rare opportunity, as mums Emily O’Neill and Philippa Walker know only too well.

However, both believe they have found the perfect work life balance, after Jacksons Law introduced term time contracts and flexible working arrangements, which are enabling them both to progress in their careers, whilst also taking time away from the office with their children.

Philippa is in partner Erica Turner’s commercial property team. It was Erica who came up with the idea to widen the talent pool the firm could choose from by offering term time contracts and flexible working arrangements.

Erica explains: We had some positions to fill and we got together and thought ‘how can we make these positions more appealing?’ and ‘How can we think outside the box?’

“It was likely that the people we were trying to attract would have children and that was a key factor in determining what route we would go down.

“It was approaching June and July and we were thinking, ‘What would someone with children want at this time of year?’

“They might need to be off work for six weeks – and that’s where the idea of term time contracts came in.”

The plan worked, as Erica says the firm received three times the number of applications it would normally receive for a standard contract – with both male and female applicants, highlighting how the more flexible role could also suit men and Dads.

“The two new recruits at the firm are on different types of contracts – term time or flexible contracts,” Erica says.

“This shows that as a firm of solicitors, we can be flexible around childcare and term time and other things.

“We’ve managed to come up with a flexible arrangement that works for both Jacksons and the employee.

“It’s been very much about having an open conversation with the employees.”

Erica adds this is something new for Jacksons, but is probably also new to the market, as Philippa’s words to the recruiter were, ‘Is this real?’ – because it sounded like her perfect opportunity.

“When she came in for interview, she asked, ‘this is a genuine position isn’t it?’ because it’s completely unheard of,” Erica said.

“It really did widen the pool of people we could choose from, with men as well as women interested in the roles.”

Erica adds the lawyer-client relationship is a bit of a personal one, so discussions had to take place around managing client expectations and client continuity.

“The clients of these two new recruits have two points of contact so at the times when they are not working, they have got someone else to talk to about their matter who they know and trust,” Erica explains.

“We are changing with the times. More and more people want to come back to work more quickly after having children and this enables them to do so.

“I’ve a feeling other firms will want to see how we’re dealing with it and look to introduce something similar.”

Philippa said: “I was surprised to see something advertised as being a term-time contract as it’s very unique in my experience.

“I think it’s pretty much unprecedented in the legal market – it’s certainly not something I’d heard of before and very much represented a rare opportunity, so I was surprised and very interested to find out more about it.

“I’m a mum of two young children and it’s hopefully going to allow me the opportunity to find the perfect balance and excel in my career while also being a parent, as Jacksons are really looking to embrace this idea of term-time contracts and support me in the role.”

She added: “They are moving forward with the times, with people wanting more flexible working patterns for all sorts of reasons.

“I actually started my career with Jacksons as a trainee and I’m looking forward to going back where I started out.

“It’s the place where I trained, so they set me up for a legal career and took a chance on me as a young, aspiring lawyer so it’s like coming full circle.”

Helen Milburn, partner and head of private client, wills, trusts and probate, has welcomed Emily to her team.

Emily works three days per week, choosing different days in the school holidays to what she does in term time.

Helen said: “We are a very flexible and family-friendly firm and department.

“The offer of term-time contracts and flexible working arrangements is very forward-thinking. When the idea came up, people think ‘why are you doing it?’ but we would say ‘why aren’t we doing it!?’

“If it works for the business and appeals to people with families and children in school who might not have otherwise considered a role in the firm, it’s a win-win.”

Like Erica, Helen adds that as long as it fits in with the clients’ needs, it means the firm can attract people who wouldn’t have otherwise considered the role.

“If offering flexibility in these ways allows us to get the best people working for us, it’s brilliant,” she says.

Emily says: “My flexible working arrangement means I can have a good balance between my work and family life.

“It’s a really beneficial arrangement for the likes of me. Once my twin toddlers go to school, I might prefer to do term-time only working.

“It’s nice to know that Jacksons are offering that flexibility, where your hours aren’t rigid and you’re not stuck to set days.

“As long as I get my work done, they don’t mind me changing the days around – they trust that I will get my work done.

“I get the feeling that they will be flexible with things like me attending sports days and assemblies too!”

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