I once heard a partner in a large City law firm explain that she was returning to work immediately after having her child because to take a career break was tantamount to career suicide. Thankfully, things have moved on a bit since then and there has been a lot of interest recently in how to encourage people – women and men alike – who have taken a break from the law to return and reinvigorate their careers.
All this interest has piqued my attention because at Rix & Kay Solicitors LLP we have been well ahead of the field for a while now. I’m a case in point: after starting my legal career at two large firms in the City, I decided when I was ready to raise a family that I wanted to spend time with my children rather than going back to work after a period of maternity leave. When I was ready to think about coming back to the law, I approached Rix & Kay on a speculative basis. I was (figuratively speaking) embraced with open arms!
I started in the corporate team coming up to four years ago as a solicitor, graduating to the role of an associate, and am now proud to call myself a partner of the firm. Nusrat Qureishi, an associate, has also joined the corporate team after having taken a break to raise a family. In both of our cases, the telling factor about our decision to join Rix & Kay was the clear and evident ability and desire on the part of the firm to embrace career paths and life decisions that did not necessarily ‘fit the mould’. Rix & Kay has never looked to fit round pegs into square holes (or indeed to ram square pegs into round holes) but instead has ditched the holes completely and has had a welcoming and common-sense approach to recruiting the best possible resources in a way that suits both the firm and the individual concerned. If I had been told four years ago that my only option of returning to work was to be doing full-time, five days a week, from the outset, I probably would not be here now. As it was, the firm and I continued to talk throughout my first few months at work and beyond to develop a strategy and a structure that worked for both of us. Critically, lines of communication have always been kept open. I made it clear what was important to me, the firm made it clear what was important to it and we spoke and found a balance.
The upshot for me personally is that I have could return to a career I love (having had the wonderful opportunity to raise a family) in a thriving, forward-thinking firm – for me, it’s having my cake and eating it! The industry is at grave risk of losing talent because of an apparent inability (refusal?) to adapt and embrace different working styles and different desires for work-life balances and what that might mean to individuals. At Rix & Kay we pride ourselves on breaking the mould; we listen, we talk, we adapt and we make it work. We understand that there is an enormous pool of talent out there that might be anxious about returning to work after a break (“what if I’ve forgotten everything I ever knew?”) but that a little understanding, patience and an ability to recruit based on potential could well pay dividends to both parties.
If you have had a career break but know that you still have a lot to offer, do come and have a chat with us. At Rix & Kay we recognise that a career break does not need to represent the end of a career. For further information, do feel free to contact Kathryn Paisley