Lloyds Banking Group’s two most senior lawyers have moved into a job-sharing arrangement, in a high-profile example of changing attitudes towards flexible working in the legal profession.
Group general counsel Andrew Whittaker (pictured) and his deputy Kate Cheetham have agreed a flexible working plan following Whittaker’s move to the bank in May from the Financial Services Authority, where he was also GC.
Though Cheetham works full time, she effectively shares the leadership of the legal team with Whittaker, who is contracted to a 0.6 full-time equivalent post. The duo said Whittaker’s regulatory experience complements former Linklaters lawyer Cheetham’s background in corporate law.
“The professional relationship between us is very strong, and we work very flexibly day to day in a way that combines our various skill-sets,” he said.
Whittaker did, however, acknowledge that the oversight of Lloyds’ legal affairs, alongside the management of a 370-strong in-house team, means he can be called on at any time.
“Jobs at this level of seniority require you to be available whenever you are needed,” said Whittaker, who retains ultimate responsibility for the bank’s legal division.
About 20% of Lloyds’ legal team works flexibly, including several practice heads, as part of a bank-wide initiative, backed by group chairman Sir Winfried Bischoff, which dates back to 2011.
Last month, Lloyds – together with several law firms including Eversheds and Addleshaw Goddard – launched the Agile Future Forum, a non-Government body that has identified greater “workplace agility” as a source of potential growth to the UK economy.
Whittaker said flexible working was a key step “to attract and retain a high level of talent on a permanent basis”.
“You end up with a better legal service, and colleagues who can have a bit more fun in their life,” Cheetham added. “Otherwise, it’s not sustainable.”
Cheetham also said that while certain roles – such as transactional or management-intensive positions – made such initiatives harder to achieve, her arrangement with Whittaker showed it was possible.
Cheetham also expressed a belief that law firms were falling behind when it came to similar approaches: “They put their struggle down to client demand – I think it’s their business model. They need to flex their teams to make sure one or two people don’t end up working 24/7.
“We do talk to law firms about diversity issues, and we do share views and best practice in a number of industry discussion forums. It’s also a topic in a number of industry bodies to help promote diversity and flexible working.”
The news comes as a report into flexible working published this month by the RSA and Vodafone suggests flexible working policies increase employee and organisational productivity, cost savings and wellbeing levels.
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