November 16 2022
How to navigate hybrid working as a junior lawyer
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge catalyst for change. After decades of traditional working practices across the UK, the subsequent lockdown proved that remote working can, and does, work. Two years later and hybrid working has become an established part of the ‘new normal’, even for the legal industry.
In our latest virtual lunch event, we explored how junior lawyers can best navigate this new way of working; with valuable insights from two key speakers, Adele Falconer, EMEA General Counsel at Christie’s, and Emma Humphrey, General Counsel and Company Secretary at TimeOut Group PLC.
Here are our top takeaways from the day…
What does ‘good’ look like when it comes to hybrid working?As a junior lawyer, it can be difficult to understand which hybrid working practices are best to adopt. So what does ‘good’ look like in our new world of work?
Agree a working pattern
A great place to start is to agree on a working pattern with your supervisor, ideally when other juniors will also be in the office. This will help you to develop strong collaboration with your team, as well as ensuring that your supervisor can try to come in at the same time as you. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time can be really valuable when it comes to asking questions or taking on new tasks. Likewise, if you’re working on a task that requires a lot of focus, remote working can prove to be very effective.
Although it goes against our previous point somewhat, flexibility is key. If required, it’s important that you are willing to change office working days if there is a critical meeting or workshop that would be valuable for you to attend in person.
Keep your calendar up-to-date
This will help your supervisor to see when you’re available, and gives the wider team visibility on what you are working on. A simple, yet effective, way of improving your team’s organisation whilst working from home.
Join video calls on time and with your camera on
This one may seem obvious to many of you, but punctuality is as important when you’re at home as when you’re working in the office. As well as being punctual, we’d recommend to always have your camera on for video calls. This will help you to develop stronger relationships with your team and also shows that you're engaged with the meeting.
Update your supervisor on your capacity regularly
It’s really important to establish a process when it comes to updating your supervisor on your capacity and workload. Without this, they won’t know how much additional work you’re able to take on, and could either overload you, or leave you hungry for more tasks.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the wider deal context. Most people will be more than happy to share their experiences. This is also a great way to demonstrate your willingness to learn, which in turn will help to build your relationships, contextualise the work you are doing, and help to build your ‘brand’ at work.
How can you help your supervisor to support you remotely?Talk to them
The relationship with your supervisor works both ways, and they can’t support you fully unless you share any issues and concerns with them openly. It can be really hard to have these kind of difficult conversations, but if you don’t talk it out, then there’s nothing your supervisor can do to help you. It’s also really useful to suggest having more informal, ten minute checkpoints either at the start or the end of the day so that you can ask them any questions, on top of your formal weekly 121 sessions.
Keep a list of non-urgent questions for your 121 sessions
If you have a regular 121 chat with your supervisor, it’s a great idea to save any general, non-urgent questions and issues for these chats. This will help you to avoid sending multiple messages to your supervisor throughout the week, and will give them the chance to provide you with full, comprehensive answers.
Keep a diary on your current work
Even if you're in an environment where you are not time recording, a great way to focus your mind during 121 sessions can be to keep a brief diary of the work you’re currently completing. This is particularly useful if you need support with prioritising tasks that have been given to you by a variety of different people.
Have an open discussion about expectations
Flexible working should mean being treated with trust and respect through focussing on your output, rather than promoting a culture of ‘presenteeism’. However, supervisors are learning to adapt to the new world at the same time as you, so it can be really useful to have an open discussion about their expectations. For example, are there set core hours that you need to be available to jump on a call or a meeting? Every workplace is different, and communication is key when it comes to hybrid working.
Explore creative ways of collaborating
There are plenty of innovative ways to collaborate in the virtual world. One option is having ‘talk and tap’ sessions in which you open a Teams channel, turn the camera off and crack on with work; whilst using the audio to discuss any questions that are on your mind (replicating a real-world work environment). Alternatively, if you have presented your supervisor with some work, you may want to ask if they can screen share and talk you through their amendments so that you can really understand the thinking behind their changes.
How can you build your network in a hybrid world?Focus on real world relationships
LinkedIn groups can be a really useful forum for building contacts, but nothing beats real world connections. We’d recommend placing your focus on building a group of peers with whom you can develop meaningful relationships with. These people will become more senior as you do, often proving to be the most valuable contacts of your career.
Take advantage of organisational schemes/programmes
For many junior lawyers, you may not have to look outside of your company for support networks. Most law firms and larger corporations offer mentoring programmes, as well as specific networking groups focussed on different cohorts, and a wide array of training, which give you the opportunity to meet peers both internally and externally.
Be brave and curious
If there is an area of law you want to gain a stronger understanding of, or have a particular interest in, then make sure to reach out to see if there are any opportunities for you to learn more by shadowing or by carrying out a mini-secondment. As mentioned above, if you don’t ask then you’ll never know!
Diversify your interests
Network with people with a common interest, not just a common job title. Have a think about what your USP’s are, and work to find other professionals with similar interests. This is the best way to create authentic, lasting connections across your career.
Keep coming to our Junior Lawyer Lunches
We’re really proud of the junior lawyer community we’ve built at Flex Legal, and as well as having the opportunity to hear from incredible guest speakers, we hope these sessions give you a great platform to network with your peers.
How do our junior lawyers feel about the new hybrid working world?For the second part of the session, we gave our juniors the opportunity to share their thoughts on the hybrid working model. Here’s what we found…
Hybrid working creates an improved work/life balance
The majority of the junior lawyers stated that they have a much better work/life balance now that hybrid working is the norm. As well as also feeling more engaged and happy at work.
Hybrid working attracts a wider pool of talent
Without the need to commute into the office five days a week, hybrid roles give people the opportunity to explore new locations. This is great for the candidates, but also for the recruiters/organisations who can tap into a much wider talent pool, particularly when it comes to niche positions.
Working from home can make you feel robotic
Many of our junior lawyers find that when you’re continuously working from home, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you can actually grab a coffee or have five minutes to yourself like you do in the office. A lot of our attendees also find that they work a lot later past their working hours when working remotely.
Full-time remote or in-office working has many drawbacks
As a junior lawyer, a big part of your growth and development comes from learning from your seniors within the office. Although there are many tools which have been designed to make remote working more effective, it’s still difficult to fully replicate face-to-face learning and training.
One half of our junior lawyers also stated that they find remote working can sometimes be full of personal distractions, with the office offering a motivating environment. However, the other find that they are much more productive when working from home. This is where the flexibility of hybrid working is at its most valuable - a model to suit everyone’s lifestyles and preferences.
Hybrid working is here to stay
Despite our juniors having varying opinions on the new model, one thing is clear… it’s here to stay.
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