A global firm with a NZ practice has been acknowledged as among the world’s best firms for women. NZLawyer talks to one of the firm’s lawyers who juggles motherhood with working in the corporate team.
And DLA Piper New Zealand lawyer Erin Vercoe would have to agree.
Speaking to NZLawyer from home with one sick child – and pregnant with her third – Vercoe explained how flexible the firm has been.
When she first started at DLA Piper New Zealand four years ago, she was already a mum, and was working regular sorts of hours, between 8am and 6pm, or thereabouts.
“When I had my second child, the firm agreed to extended parental leave – my husband and I and our family went to Australia for a year-and-a-half and lived in the desert.”
When she came back, she considered the time she spent in traffic and wondered how she could get the time back.
“From working in the mining town, where almost no one works regular hours, I thought ‘perhaps I can start early and finish early, and my husband can start late and finish late’ – and that’s what we do.”
Vercoe starts at 6.30am and finishes at 4pm, and her husband drops their children to school and day-care, and then works later.
And it hasn’t been a hindrance to her career progression. In July, she was promoted to senior associate.
“Work has been really good and given me remote access to all the systems we have from my home PC.”
She is also equipped with a smart phone “which is pretty standard”.
“There are very few occasions where there have been meetings I’ve had to be in, and if I need to stay late I can often arrange it with my husband – his work is really flexible as well.”
She believes flexible-working arrangements like this could be the way forward in terms of getting more women in more senior roles in law.
“I think it is and I think it is the way a lot of the firms are working towards. Not even just for women – for all parents, or top-level sportspeople, or people with other things they have to do. Especially with DLA Piper being such a global business, a lot of our clients are based overseas. So really, the New Zealand standard working hours are irrelevant to them.
“Quite frequently, people have got emails on their mobiles, so you quite often find that there’s no longer the hard line between personal life and work life, which I actually think is fine, because if you have to use a few moments of work time to get to your child’s Christmas concert, it’s not a big deal.
“As long as the work is being done, I have found work to support me if I need it.”
Prior to DLA Piper New Zealand, Vercoe worked in-house in London for several years. DLA Piper is the most flexible workplace that she’s encountered.
“We have other senior lawyers that are doing part-time hours. Laura Scampion, one of our employment partners, was up until very recently working four days a week.”
The announcement of DLA Piper’s global ranking also coincided with the firm receiving Gold Standard Certification by the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) for the fourth consecutive year.
The certification requires firms to satisfy at least four of six specific criteria, of which DLA Piper met five - women represent more than 25 percent of the firm's partners promoted in the last year, at least 10 percent of its chairs and managing partners, at least 20 percent of its governing Executive and Compensation committees, and more than ten percent of the top half of the most highly compensated partners.