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Flexibility: Work in progress

Every Issue

Cite as: April 2014 88 (04) LIJ, p.100

In this special LIJ series practitioners reveal how they balance the demands of their professional and personal lives.

Name

Kim Shaw.

Firm

Maurice Blackburn.

Position

Maurice Blackburn principal and director, and co-convenor of the firm’s women’s law section.

Hours worked and where

Full time, mostly in the office but with flexibility to work around three children.

Why did you seek a flexible work arrangement?

I wanted to be able to pick up my kids from after school care a couple of days a week which means leaving the office earlier than my colleagues. I also wanted to be able to manage my work commitments as well as have time for the kids. To do this I work longer on other week days and/or come in earlier than usual. I wanted to be able to do this with the full support of my partners and colleagues and so I had those important discussions beforehand. The support was given without question and I have continued this and other flexible arrangements for many years.

How did you convince your employer?

It took very little convincing. It was generously given and gratefully received. As long as I was able to manage the workload and communicate my arrangements clearly with my immediate staff, there were no problems. I have been able to do that for many years.

What are the challenges of working flexibly?

I have found that there really are no difficulties so long as my staff know my movements and can contact me at any time. I have encouraged them to transfer calls to me even when I am with the kids. My clients have not been troubled by phone calls with the sound of kids in the background. I can still email approvals to documents and so forth and it doesn’t interrupt my staff workflow. The smart phone is the flexible working parent’s best friend.

Have flexible hours kept you practising law?

Without a doubt. I have a very supportive partner who works in a different profession and he has been able to stay at home two days a week which has helped significantly. It has not been a barrier to my career progression. I made choices that suited me and the firm. Leaving a little earlier a couple of days a week has been a blessing. It has meant I can meet the firms’ expectations of me in my senior role as well as the expectations I place on myself.

My proudest moment in the law has been . . .

There are many, not just one – including special times with colleagues, getting great outcomes for clients, balancing family and work demands as best I can, and becoming a partner at my firm when pregnant with my first child.

Do you envisage working flexibly long term?

Yes. My children are aged 13, 10 and seven. I anticipate I will continue until at least our youngest is at high school.

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