Australia: Young mothers at forefront of job sharing at Clayton Utz
Last Updated: 14 June 2012

Young mothers at forefront of job sharing at Clayton Utz

Sydney, 13 June 2012: Two young mothers and senior associates in the Sydney office of leading Australian law firm Clayton Utz are pioneering the firm's flexible work practices with an innovative job sharing arrangement.

The senior associates in Clayton Utz's Sydney environment and planning practice, Rachel Daniel and Rachelle Wilson, have developed a unique partnership in which Rachel works for clients three days a week and Rachelle over two days.

Both in their early 30s, the two women keep each other abreast of the other's work through open communication to create a seamless service for their clients.

Rachel, who has worked at the firm for the last seven years, has a three year old son and a one year old daughter.

She worked part-time after the birth of her son. Rachelle started at Clayton Utz as a summer clerk in 2003, and has an eighteen month old son.

Rachel said: "Rachelle and I started to discuss the possibility of job sharing when our pregnancies coincided. We had worked together for many years and got along well, we were both at about the same level of seniority, so job sharing just seemed logical.

"When we proposed the idea to our four partners in the environment group, they were all immediately supportive, and continue to be, as do our clients. Although this arrangement has only been in place for five months, it seems to be a comprehensive success, with benefits for all. The arrangement allows us to be totally present for our kids when we are at home.

"It also allows us to continue to progress our careers, as we fully engage with our role. Clients have the benefit of always having someone at our desk. We will happily answer to each other's names, which are so similar they were often confused anyway. Plus, two heads are better than one," added Rachel.

Brendan Bateman, a partner in the Environment and Planning group, said: "Communication is the key to providing a seamless transition between the two. I trust that if I instruct Rachel or Rachelle, I am instructing them both. Although some matters are more suitable for one or the other to concentrate on, I know that either of them is ready to pick up the ball and run with it if needed."

Rachelle said: "We copy each other in on our emails, schedule regular handover conversations, brainstorm over issues that arise in our cases and maintain a working document where incoming instructions, and tasks completed, are recorded. When we arrive at our desk, we know exactly what needs to be done.

"This is an arrangement that provides an ideal work/life balance and can be used as a model for the legal profession and other sectors. We feel that we are trailblazing a very important precedent. While job-sharing isn't a new concept, it's rare at our level. We hope that others might benefit from what we are developing."

Added Rachel: "Clayton Utz has been very supportive of our arrangement, and the firm's culture allows young mothers and fathers to participate in the workforce in a meaningful way."

Andrew Plaskett, National Director, Business Development & People and Development at Clayton Utz, said: "We are delighted that Rachel and Rachelle have been able to develop a great partnership and it is just one part of the firm's development of flexible work arrangements and promotion of women.

"More than 50 per cent of our lawyers are women and nine of 17 lawyers promoted to partnership over the last 18 months were women. We have recently extended our parental paid leave to 36 weeks, while also putting in place a formal 'buddy' program to ease the transition back to work for those returning from parental leave," he added.

Rachel said: "We believe that job sharing is preferable to just working part-time. Many matters require full-time attention. This often leads part-time lawyers to be overlooked or overworked and constantly juggling their Blackberries with their kids. This is not to say that a lawyer can't successfully work part-time, but it does require sacrifices to be made and a very supportive workplace."

Over the last 12 months, Clayton Utz has invested in a number of initiatives to support its people in achieving their full potential:

  • In 2011 the firm launched a new training and development program Learning@CU, which provides a range of personal and professional opportunities for our lawyers and support staff in areas including career planning, delegation skills, resilient leadership, diversity awareness, and managing time and maintaining balance;
  • The Partner Excellence Program is another unique initiative that has been exceptionally well received, providing new and more established partners with a forum to come together and learn from each other.
  • The firm recently launched a program for employees to share their views and perspectives on its culture and what it stands for as an organisation.

Clayton Utz received a 2012 EOWA Employer of Choice citation in recognition of its initiatives and programs in support of women, including:

  • enhancement of its paid parental leave offering to 36 weeks;
  • a 'buddy' program to ease the transition back to work for employees returning from parental leave;
  • gender pay equity as part of the firm's remuneration strategy to ensure men and women who perform similar work and contribute at the same performance level, are paid the same;
  • a national women lawyer's network, MOMENTUM, to support women at Clayton Utz to build successful careers by providing professional and personal development opportunities;
  • flexible work practice policies and toolkits to help partners/managers and employees openly discuss flexible work options.

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