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Darren Stone is a consultant solicitor with Cognitive Law. Switching to a more flexible schedule has made family life easier.
Flexible working isn’t just for parents of young kids. Solicitor Darren Stone has three teenage children. But he turned his back on the 9 to 5 for a more flexible way of working. He joined Cognitive Law, an innovative firm that provides overarching back office support and back up for lawyers who set up on their own.
Darren specialises in insolvency work and he’s achieved recognition for his work in the legal profession.
He told us about why he pursued a different path and the benefits it’s brought.
I am married with three children, my son Robert is 19 and at the University of Kent, Emma is 16 and in her first year of A Levels and Jess is 14
I am a Consultant Solicitor and have total flexibility in terms of when and where I work
I have previously worked at solicitor’s firms where there was not always flexibility. I would sometimes work at other offices within the firm but in terms of flexibility it was not always there. Working from home might cause a raised eyebrow or a knowing look from colleagues. Flexible working used to seem to mean catching up at home or networking in my own time without any recognition.
Having sat down with a list of ‘pros and cons’ the only ‘con’ that I could not alter was the loss of a salary. The pros were obvious, control over my work, a genuine work-life balance, flexibility and importantly being able to implement my own business plan without it having to fit into a grander design that somebody else was trying to develop.
As a Consultant Solicitor (as are all the solicitors at Cognitive Law) the process is relatively easy. Legal case management systems make it easy to work remotely as do online resources and mobile phones. However, you have to be disciplined and set yourself targets and goals.
Former colleagues usually react that they wish they could work in a more flexible way!
I do not really see why with modern technology the legal sector cannot be more flexible, I anticipate over the years it will become more flexible if only to reduce overheads. I can see a situation where solicitors no longer have their own office or desk and that the space is shared
A couple of years ago Jess wanted to go to the Amex Stadium, home of Brighton and Hove Albion to get a book signed by Anthony Knockaert who was playing for them at the time It meant finishing work at 5.00pm. I am not sure I would have asked to leave early to take her had I been an employed solicitor. However I did not have to ask anyone. We went, got the book signed and she was over the moon. To me that was having a work-life balance!
I have always checked emails outside of working, I still do and have to stop myself logging on and replying from my home office simply because it is so easy to do so. When you have a paperless office the files are always to hand.
Without a doubt, and on so many levels. Knowing you can take time with your family and not have to justify it or ask for it. If my children need a lift in the evening I know I will be available and not stuck in traffic because you can’t leave before rush hour. It makes parenting a lot easier.
Ultimately it is a matter of trust, do you trust your employees to work independently away from the office? If you do then adopt flexible working. If you do not trust them then that trust needs to be built as it will benefit you both.
From a practical point of view try to have a routine – the work still need to be done. Also do not underestimate the value of interaction with colleagues, keep in touch with them