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Making the Business Case: Flexible Work Arrangements

By Shayana Boyd Davis

In today's market, harsh economic realities are paramount in decision makers'; minds. By confronting this issue head-on and coming up with a proactive model, you will develop a plan that ensures mutual success for you and your employer.


The idea of flexible work arrangements is not a novel one in non-legal settings. For some time, employers have offered different hourly schedules, comp time, and telecommuting as just a few options of flexible work arrangements. Most traditional legal employers, e.g., law firms, have been slow to warm to these ideas. Before determining how best to approach your employer, you should first decide whether such an arrangement will work for you, what arrangement will work best, and how best to approach your employer with such a proposal. The following are some tips to help you in this process.


Research your employer's mission statement and/or long-range strategic plans. Whatever work arrangements you would like to pursue must squarely meet these objectives. Your employer places a great deal of focused attention on developing these ideals. Thus, if you keep them in the forefront of your vision, you will ensure that client needs are a top priority.


Tip: Compile a list of key statistics related to employee satisfaction and the direct relationship to client satisfaction. In other words, if the employee feels more value by receiving an added perk from the employer, this value will tie in directly to the type and level of service provided to clients.


Troubleshoot potential stigmas and concerns upfront. Develop a list of cons that will undoubtedly be a part of your dialogue with your bosses—e.g., availability for clients, in-office time, ability to manage workload—and determine how your proposal will alleviate these concerns.


Tip: Explain that you have contemplated that situations will arise that inevitably veer from your proposed schedule. If this were to occur, you will take appropriate steps to make sure that the situation is handled properly.


Speak to others in your organization to see how best to present your proposal. In doing so, you may be able to generate additional support for your plans.


Tip: Make a cheat sheet of several key points that you wish to cover with different people at your company. Tailor the talking points to areas of interest for your intended listener. Your organization’s human resources contact may be more interested in the statistics about retention whereas the managing partner may be more interested in profitability statistics.


Develop a formal plan. This step may seem like a no-brainer, but surprisingly, some people think that an informal discussion with your boss is sufficient. A formal plan allows both you and your employer to clearly see what the expectations will be for you in your new role. This plan should include as much specificity as possible, including information about proposed days and times you will work and any salary considerations that need to be addressed.


Tip: Don't reinvent the wheel. Determine if you can find others in your type of practice who have drafted successful similar proposals before. Highlight in your plan the noted impact of flexible work arrangements to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.


Consider and discuss your proposed plan's impact on others in your organization, including other attorneys and support personnel. If there are circumstances that arise when you are not available, who is going to handle the problem? How will that person or persons deal with any increased responsibility as a result of your absence?


Tip: Emphasize the shared responsibility involved in your proposal, even during times when you may not be physically in the office.


Create a timetable and mechanism for measuring your performance objectives and your employer's satisfaction with your success. This step is perhaps the most crucial because it again takes into account your thoughtfulness about the business concerns at play.


Tip: Perhaps a quarterly, semi-annual, and annual review would be helpful. Draft your own measurement scale, including a mechanism for objective feedback from those with whom you most closely work. Down the line, you may want to include feedback from clients to determine any impact— positive or negative—of your new arrangement.


In sum, flexible work arrangements can be successfully managed while still providing a benefit to your organization. Legal employers have begun to realize this and, as a result, have become more receptive to alternative work proposals. In taking careful steps to research and prepare for your suggested arrangement, you will have an optimal chance of success with your employer.


Keywords: flexible work arrangements, telecommuting, hourly schedule


Shayana Boyd Davis is with Johnston Barton Proctor & Rose LLP in Birmingham, Alabama.


This article appears in the Winter 2010 issue of Minority Trial Lawyer from the Minority Trial Lawyer Committee.


 

1. It would be a great idea to have some self-represented individuals speak and acitvely participate, whether they are attorneys or not. It would be great if they were heard, allowed to share their experience(s) and to offer some very valuable solutions. It is unfortunate that pro se's are simply viewed as less than able individuals and/or competition for the bars. Just some thoughts.


 

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