Finding a new job after maternity leave

Shobana Richmond

As a recruiter, I often give advice to female lawyers returning from maternity leave. Motherhood does not put the brakes on ambition and many female lawyers want to critically evaluate their position when they are planning to return to work. They may want to know where they are best able to progress their careers without simply returning to a role at their current firm.

The reality is that unless women are willing to take on a full-time role with a new employer, opportunities can be limited. Law firms have come a long way in implementing flexible and part-time working arrangements for existing staff. However, it is still relatively rare for a firm to advertise a part-time fee earning role for lateral employees.

Firms do hire part-time lawyers on occasion, but usually if they are unable to hire a full-time lawyer. While research suggests that part-time employees prioritise their time more efficiently than their full-time counterparts, law firms appear reluctant to take on un-tried lawyers part-time, often citing their clients’ demands as a reason for seeking a fulltime employee.

I always ask my clients to consider a good part-time lawyer for their roles. I also suggest to candidates who may be seeking part-time arrangements that they work four days per week (at least until they have proven themselves to a new firm) and show flexibility to take work home if needed.

This is in no way ground breaking advice, but it is reflective of prevailing industry attitudes. Law firms invest considerable resources into developing and refining their firm’s equal opportunity and diversity policies. A greater willingness to hiring new part-time fee-earners is something law firms should look to consider – particularly in a market short of candidates.

I am very happy to chat to lawyers looking to return to work after maternity leave about how best to market themselves. For a confidential discussion, please call or email me.