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Solicitor Rich Bates has an innovative approach to flexible working, including an unusual work place and a dog for a colleague. But ultimately it’s about being dad.
Rich Bates quit the nine to five to strike out on his own over a year ago.
Now he’s a self employed solicitor and working dad he’s still doing the nine to five. But it’s different.
“The big difference is that I can depart from normal hours if I want to. For example just the other day my daughter missed the school bus. I was able to take her in the car and it wasn’t a big stress. In fact it was nice to have that time with her. It makes the mundane stuff a lot easier.
“I can catch up by taking a Skype call before breakfast or making up the hours later in the evening. But that doesn’t bother me because it’s my decision. It doesn’t mean I get less family time.”
In an innovative touch Rich’s working week is different because he spends part of it working in residential homes for older people.
His specialism is helping people in old age. That might mean dealing with the legal aspects of mental incapacity. It might mean looking at financial issues around tax and care costs. “A big bit of my work is in protecting older people,” he explains. “Sometimes it’s about protecting their wealth, sometimes it’s protecting them from abuse. 70% of my job is social work really.” So it makes a lot of sense to work out of a residential home where residents or their families or staff can access him when they need him, or ideally before they really need him.
“I just need wi-fi to work,” he points out. It means he gets out of the house and enjoys being part of a workplace two days a week. “I even enjoy the commute,” he laughs. “I can put on an audiobook and appreciate an hour of peace.”
As well as all his specialist legal knowledge Rich brings something else to those residential homes – his dog.
Of course the dog is a hit. But it’s also an interesting part of his flexible working story. He was only able to get a dog because he works from home so he’s available to take it for walks. Or he can take it to the workplace with him, not something that can be said of most solicitors offices.
And in a house containing two teenage daughters the dog brings benefits for all. “Everyone enjoys a cuddle with the dog,” laughs Rich. “And it’s nice to be able to walk through the door and be met by someone who wants to play even when I’ve had to deal with some ugly stuff during the day. The dog is really helpful for switching off, for me and the kids.”
Rich admits that turning his back on a more traditional law job was “flipping scary”. But he’s no regrets. There’s satisfaction in choosing who he works for and deciding how he works. “I’ve had to work hard to bring in the work. But on balance I’m significantly happier than I ever have been.”
The firm is keen to flag that dads can combine a career in law with family life.
With teenagers in the house family life is not as hands on as when parents are dealing with young children. But it’s no less important to be around. “It’s really nice to be able to be at home when my daughter comes home from school. She might not want to talk to me. But if she does I’m there.
“And of course like all teenagers sometimes she does need support. If she phones, I can answer. I don’t have to speak in a whisper or give her the feeling that I don’t have time to speak to her like I would if I was still in an office environment.
“I can just be a dad.”