The new female director of a mostly female legal firm in Whangārei says Northland companies need to provide female staff with flexible work arrangements or risk losing them.
A senior solicitor, working in relationship property, trusts and elder law, Amanda Morgan, of Henderson Reeves, is a mother of one and the second of two female directors at the firm which employs 55 people, 50 of whom are female.
Morgan has been practising law for more than nine years, having started her career with Henderson Reeves, and was recently appointed to the position of director.
"Henderson Reeves provides opportunities for young females who are juggling families with work life, by enabling part-time and flexible work," she said.
"You retain key staff by providing them with that opportunity, because those staff would otherwise take a significant break in their career or leave to find more flexible work."
She agreed that historically the legal profession has been a bit of a boys' club.
"Particularly in the older generation of lawyers when there were fewer female lawyers ... I think this perception has been, and continues to be, watered down as the legal profession evolves.
"We now have more female law graduates than males, and more females taking up leadership roles within our courts and at our universities."
She said maintaining a positive staff culture was just one part of her role as director, as well as encouraging more women into the legal profession.
"If employers cannot offer a flexible work environment then they are at risk of losing the very people who are key to their business success and succession plan as those employees will either move to a more flexible working environment or take a significant break from their career.
"That said, taking a significant break doesn't mean you can never get back into your career," she said.
The former Whangārei Girls' High School student studied law at Otago and Auckland Universities, and decided to return to her hometown for the lifestyle and "more surprisingly, for the legal career prospects".
"In a provincial area like Northland, you have the ability to gain practical experience and responsibility early on in your career. Up here you've got immediate client contact, working with a partner or a senior lawyer on files and getting experience and really interesting work early on."
She said that many graduates seek big firm experience in Auckland or Wellington, but it wasn't unusual for graduates to return to the provinces, usually their home town, for initial work experience.
She said that young women entering the legal profession in Northland should feel like they can have a career and a family.
"You can have a family and a career. It's a juggle, but you can do it.
"Law can be a demanding career in terms of the nature of the work and the hours involved. Therefore, I think the biggest challenge is actually achieving work-life balance rather than paying it lip service."
She said the focus for the firm over the next 12 months was to increase its efficiency "in light of ever-evolving technology" and operating in a more environmentally sound way.
"For example, we have recently leased Toyota hybrid cars for our Auckland team and are working in a more paperless environment."