Flexibility and virtual options are a key demand for job seekers in a hot labour market
After close to two decades working in private practice and in-house, primarily in the energy sector, Tricia Chrzanowski decided with her husband that they wanted to set a good example for their children, so they quit their jobs.
Chrzanowski was associate general counsel at Kinder Morgan (now Trans Mountain), and while she enjoyed the work, which included Indigenous relations, regulatory operations, and “massive construction contracts,” the culture was not the right fit. Wanting to demonstrate that it is not necessary to accept suboptimal professional circumstances and that choosing change is possible, Chrzanowski and her husband “sold everything,” moved to Kelowna and opened three kickboxing gyms. In addition to managing them, Chrzanowski was also the head trainer.
“… and COVID hits,” says Chrzanowski.
Temporarily shut down by public health measures, and with “nothing but time on [her] hands,” she began a part-time role at Simplex, which quickly evolved into full-time, and she is now associate managing partner. Simplex is an alternative legal services provider which offers in-house counsel on-demand and on a flexible basis.
Chrzanowski initially went in-house to be more engaged in the business and become more of a strategic partner and part of the decision-making process. The majority of her Simplex colleagues have a similar mix of private-practice and in-house experience, and she says she is able to provide the business-oriented, practical skillset on which she had wanted to focus in past roles.
She was also drawn to the flexibility afforded by in-house work.
“As a leader, health and wellness of our teams are really of the utmost important importance, and the unpredictability of hours and lack of control of your time in practicing has always been a challenge for lawyers,” says Chrzanowski.
Legal recruiters say flexibility is currently a primary demand for job seekers.
“Every single lawyer that I'm currently working with, their first question is, Is there flexibility? Is there a hybrid work option?” says Orit Sinai, a partner with ZSA Legal Recruitment in Toronto. “The clients that I'm working with that are not offering a hybrid remote option, they're not going to be able to canvass great candidates, and the clients that are a lot more flexible, will be able to score really great top talent.”
“I think it's really important for everyone to be offering flexibility.”
According to a recent survey from Robert Half Talent Solutions, in the current competitive market for legal talent, 36% of legal professionals polled said they planned to look for a new job that offers remote work if their current workplace requires them to return to the office.
A recent poll of the Greater Vancouver Area by Impact Recruitment found that 24% job seekers said that, aside from money, flexibility and remote work options are the most important employment benefit.
“For simplex, the common theme that I'm seeing in conversations with candidates is that desire for flexibility, more control over hours and their time and how they spend it, and their location,” says Chrzanowski. “To be totally frank, they're not necessarily wanting to be mandated into a hybrid model or dictated the office days or hours that they're required to work, but rather have the opportunity to work fully remote.”
Since its founding ten years ago, Simplex has operated virtually. Chrzanowski says team members have sought out the firm to have that flexibility. They have had clients, pre-pandemic, who wanted the lawyers on site, but she says she is starting to see that requirement declining in frequency.
“One, lawyers are more adamant that they want to, as much as they can, keep the remote nature of their work. And two, clients are more willing to be adaptable, and they understand the value of a hybrid or flexible working arrangement, without taking that hard line with team members to be on site to provide that quality, timely legal support that they've come to expect.”