Work Life Balance in Australian Legal Firms

By McGraw, Peter; Heidtman, Danielle | International Journal of Employment Studies, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Work Life Balance in Australian Legal Firms


McGraw, Peter, Heidtman, Danielle, International Journal of Employment Studies


Introduction and Background

Work /life balance (WLB) is an area of human resource (HR) management that has achieved increased attention in the last decade as employers seek to attract and retain skilled employees in competitive labour markets (Barnett & Hall, 2001; Nord, Fox, Phoenix & Viano, 2002; De Cieri, Holmes, Abbott & Pettit 2005; Pocock 2005). WLB strategies are aimed at assisting employees to balance work and non-work aspects of their lives and providing increased autonomy. There are claims that WLB benefits the organisation through greater employee productivity, lower levels of turnover and burnout and increased attractiveness of the organisation as a place to work (Felstead, Jewson, Phizaclea, & Walters, 2002). More specifically, WLB refers to the goal of finding the right balance between working hours and personal time to minimise work/life role conflict (Clark, 2000). A key component of WLB is control by employees of when, where and how they work (Pocock, 2005). Creating WLB opportunities has become an increasingly important element of HR management as more employees seek to achieve a better balance between work and non-work activities, and employers seek to recruit and retain the best talent (Papalexandris & Kramar, 1997; De Cieri et al, 2005).

The issue of WLB is particularly relevant to the effective management of professional service firms in areas such as consulting, accounting and law where organisational cultures which celebrate long hours of work and the importance of 'face time' are common (Lambert & Haley-Lock, 2004; Bardoel, 2005; Pocock, 2005). Such cultures are often reinforced by a strong positive association between the number of hours worked and a successful rise up the seniority ladder for career track professionals thereby making these organisations, axiomatically, workplaces where WLB is unlikely to flourish. In the legal profession, the industry setting for this research, resolving the WLB issue is critical since the industry has high level of turnover and burnout and has reached the mature phase of the industry cycle whereby it must seek improvements in work practices to achieve potential gains in productivity (The Law Institute of Victoria, 2006:3).

This paper explores WLB in NSW legal firms and is organised around four research questions which arise from existing studies that are discussed in detail in the next section. The four questions concern whether a greater range of WLB options offered by a firm leads to a higher take up rate by employees; how important top management support for WLB is in influencing employee uptake; if top management support for equal reward and promotion of employees using WLB options is correlated with take-up rates; and whether the levels of support in the personal lives of employees affect their perception of the value of WLB options.

For many professionals extended work hours often become the rule, rather than the exception, leading to a semi-permanent or even permanent state of overemployment (Pocock, 2005). However, these approaches are being challenged through the increased focus that employees are placing on WLB. A recent survey of legal professionals has indicated a strong demand for WLB with 95% of respondents saying that their personal lives are as important, if not more important, than their jobs (IOMA, May 2006). This survey also found that men want many of the same WLB options available to them as women. Similarly, Sturges and Guest's (2004) longitudinal study of graduates in the professional workforce revealed that whilst graduates were prepared to put in the long hours and face time at the start of their careers in the hope that it would lead to recognition and reward, a longer-term lack of WLB led to low levels of commitment to their firms. Finally, a Catalyst study of Canadian law firms (IOMA, Feb 2006) found that female partners experienced more problems when attempting to balance work and personal time than their male counterparts, and that 70% of female lawyers believed they must put their job before family life to be considered for promotion. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Work Life Balance in Australian Legal Firms
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.