Canadian Lawyer

December/January 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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24 SPECIAL REPORT LEGAL WORKPLACES Sadiar Ameri, branch manager for recruiter Robert Half Legal in Canada, says the firm's surveys show a similar trend. Its study found that 29 per cent of those polled "want to pursue more meaningful or fulfulling positions" and that 43 per cent will prioritize their personal life over their job. What's also interesting, he says, especially in these days of Covid-19, is that 60 per cent who responded to the survey say they would be motivated to work for a firm that "values staff during unpredictable times." That goes beyond flexible work hours, work-life balance and the ability to work remotely, says Ameri. "It means they want to feel confident that the firm will do whatever they can to avoid downsizing during a crisis such as the current pandemic or if the business topline wasn't there." In some ways, that last point has made recruiting top talent to new firms a bit harder, Ameri says, because potential candidates now feel a commitment to their current firm "because it was there during the tough times." The three takeaways are that lawyers want their employers to "understand that work- life balance is important, that they give them interesting work to do and that they will be there to help in unpredictable times," says Ameri. And, as Haji suggests, Ameri agrees that work-life balance flexible arrangements are not necessarily about working less. "It doesn't mean being flexible means performance is lacking. On the contrary, we are seeing a lot of lawyers working more these days, because they can log on any time and make up their own hours." Sereda likes to describe the reality of what some call work-life balance as "work-life integration." It's a term acknowledging that projects still need to be done and that there may be times when a lawyer must work longer hours from home, but it also allows for flexibility in how that work gets done. Advancements in technology have also made this model easier to get the results needed. And, in these days of the pandemic, Sereda says it likely most equates to what many people, not just lawyers, have been doing as they work from home. "This model allows professionals to move in and out of work and home life more seamlessly, working from the office, working from home, working more sometimes, working fewer hours other times," she says. However, she acknowledges that good work- life integration is knowing when and how to establish boundaries as needed. "It's a very self-driven work model," she says, "and, so, to be self-driven, you have to be able to also set your own boundaries." When it comes to a workplace culture that supports teamwork and collaboration, Sereda says it is also important to ensure that the culture being promoted truly is inclusive. Even something as seemingly innocent as a firm baseball team or drinks every Thursday must be thought through carefully, she says. "If there's a segment of the firm's employees who can't join a team because they have to be home to put kids to bed or if they don't drink, that type of team building might not work," she says. "You have to develop a team culture that doesn't alienate a certain group." Sereda also cautions that if firms promise all these workplace qualities they need to be prepared to deliver. "It's not just having a strong team workplace culture or diversity or inclusion policies," she says. "It's about actually implementing these policies. If not, you'll start to lose people." Women consistently ranked their firms lower than men on: • Competitive salary • Professional development opportunities • Availability of support staff • Bonus opportunities • Diversity in partners, leadership • Case files distributed evenly DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN: Lawyers younger than 29 ranked their firms higher on: • Firm's reputation • Firm's client base • Location of office • Strong management • Competitive salary • Professional development • Office décor Those between 30 and 45 didn't rank firms higher on any qualities compared to other age groups Those between 46 and 60 ranked their firms higher on: • Ability to work from home • Strong mentorship • Flexible hours • Reasonable billable hours • Relaxed dress code • Even distribution of cases • Pro bono opportunities Lawyers 61 and over ranked their firms highly on: • Team culture • Availability of support staff • Technology • Parental leave • Bonus opportunities • Autonomy choosing clients • Work-life balance • Diversity AGE DIFFERENCES: "It's not just having a strong team workplace culture or diversity or inclusion policies. It's about actually implementing these policies." Sameera Sereda, The Counsel Network

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