Flexibility and the opportunity to work at the cutting-edge of technological innovation are up for grabs as the Home Office launches a 6-month programme for skilled organisers and communicators returning to work after a career break. With responsibility for homeland security; public safety and borders; and immigration and citizenship, the Home Office is charged with keeping the country safe. The work can be fast-paced and challenging, with the reward of knowing you’re making a difference. The Home Office Digital Data and Technology (DDaT) branch is looking for ten Delivery Managers to undertake a 6-month supported return-to-work programme. The programme follows similar initiatives in other parts of the Home Office and wider government, part of a strategy to make Civil Service jobs accessible to a wide range of talented individuals. This is a great opportunity to utilise transferable skills. “Experience or knowledge of the delivery of technology-based projects would be helpful but most importantly it’s about having great communication skills, good planning, organisation and budgeting,” says Sonia Douspis, the Resourcing Business partner for DDaT. “The people we bring on board will be based in different parts of the digital unit, across the portfolios.” These include biometrics, immigration, borders technology and police and public protection. This is an exciting opportunity to work in unique areas, contributing towards keeping this country safe. “We will provide returners with unique experiences and opportunities, building their skills so they can thrive.” Delivery Managers support teams by keeping them motivated, and ensure they have the tools and people they need to see projects through. Returners could find themselves working with the teams designing and building solutions to help people prove their identity or apply for visas; or those working on IT systems that support policing and counter terrorism. They will be ensuring that such projects, which use cutting-edge technology, run smoothly. The return-to-work programme positions are available on a flexible basis – whether that’s part-time, compressed hours, a job share or including an element of home working. “We are very aware that we are targeting returners and they may need some degree of flexibility,” says Sonia. Most roles will be based in Croydon or London, although there are options for other locations. She adds that returners will be coming into a supportive and flexible environment, something she knows first-hand. “I joined the Home Office when my son was one and was very conscious of finding an employer who would be flexible enough for me to have a reasonable work/life balance,” she says. “Little did I know the Home Office would go above and beyond my expectation in terms of flexible working. I am currently working condensed hours from 7.30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and Friday morning. This pattern not only allows me to pick my son up from nursery but also to have my Friday afternoons off to spend some quality time with him (and save on the high nursery fees) and to squeeze in a gym session or two during the week.” At the end of the 6-month programme the Home Office will run an open competition process for roles that would suit the returners. The aim of the pilot is to ensure they are prepared and motivated to join Home Office DDaT permanently. “We will appoint on merit but are confident that the returners will be armed with all the tools they need to be appointed to the permanent roles following the return-to-work programme,” says Sonia. Hannah Davies, Talent and Development Officer in DDaT’s Enterprise Services, says she can’t imagine leaving the Civil Service, simply because of how supported she feels.“I have had two periods of maternity leave since 2009. When I returned to work, I was able to work 23 hours over four days and I continued this until 2018. This allowed my partner and me to work flexibly and to equally spend time with the family, which meant minimal childcare costs.” Hannah has also been able to advance her career. “In March 2018 I was successful in a promotion and my new team have been equally supportive. Now that my girls are in full-time school, I have been able to increase my hours to 30 hours over five days which allows me to pick them up on all five days.” The return-to-work programme is now open for applications, with interviews in April/May. Successful candidates are likely to start in September. “It’s about finding the right people, supporting them coming back to work after time away and preparing them for permanent roles,” says Sonia. Apply now for a place on the programme.
Becoming a Solicitor with Cognitive Law changed Karen Blakesley's life for the better. Here she shares her reflections on two years as a Consultant Solicitor with this thoroughly modern law firm that is built on 100% flexibility. Today is my 2nd anniversary as a Consultant Solicitor! And I couldn’t be happier. Working in this way has allowed me to finally crack the work/life balance conundrum. Working for a firm in Kent for 14 years, I quickly progressed to partnership. I thrived in a busy commercial litigation department but when I started a family, things became difficult. The commute, the demands of the job, the changes in the legal sector, all meant that work took up so much of my time there was very little left for my family. There are challenges to working in this way as it differs so much from the partnership model. However you quickly become accustomed to having complete control over everything you do – and when you do it. And knowing that the more you work, the more you will earn is satisfyingly refreshing. I simply can’t ever see myself going back to the traditional legal firm model. Cognitive are friendly and supportive, with excellent back office support. Whilst you don’t have a secretary, they will help with pretty much any request, deal with all billing and credit control and proactively help with marketing the firm and you personally. As a mother of two, it has given me the freedom to be a solicitor and still have the time and energy to be a good parent and spend quality time with my children. In my first year, my youngest was not yet at school, so I broke myself into this new way of working gently. By the end of my second year, I have more than doubled my fee income and am now looking for more new and exciting ways to develop my practice. I set my own hours – and can actually turn down work if I don’t have time for it. This was unheard of in my old practice! I have even found time to take up running and ensure that my self-development is as important as my work and family life. All of this adds up to a very contented solicitor. That’s not something you hear all that often! ------- Reading Karen's piece, the positives are joining Cognitive Law will no doubt be very apparent – complete flexibility, being able to choose where you work, how many hours you would like to work, and the freedom to work with whom you like. Increased family time, or the freedom to pursue leisure interests, becomes achievable within the working day. However, Cognitive Law know the conversations inevitably raise questions about the perceived drawbacks of becoming a consultant solicitor. In these FAQs they have tried to address some of these frequently asked questions honestly. Where will my clients come from? Clients are notoriously loyal to their solicitor. If you are a good solicitor with a strong following, clients will often move with you. I would hasten to add however, that you must adhere to any restrictive covenants in your previous contract of employment. Nevertheless relying on an existing client base may not be enough. Tuning into your entrepreneurial flair will be required to build on your networks and relationships; as will marketing (more on that later). But if you are ready to pursue a career as a consultant, your ambition and drive will instinctively be geared towards getting out there and networking. How will I make money? Join on our industry leading fee sharing model and earn up to 70% on all received fees. What sort of support will I get? We arrange professional indemnity insurance, handle compliance management and can facilitate any training requirements. Our back office support will provide you with everything you need to get going. Full training is provided to get to grips with our very easy to use case management system. We look after your invoicing and credit control, and we pay our consultants weekly on a fees received basis. We have regular 1 to 1’s with all consultants, and quarterly consultants meetings. There is always someone at the end of the phone to talk to, discuss any concerns with, and share ideas of best practice. We encourage our consultants to support each other with cross referrals, which not only earns them a referral fee, it allows them to offer a broader range of services outside their area of expertise. What about marketing? Our marketing team is set up to help our consultant solicitors hit the ground running. We offer full marketing and business development support from the outset, and throughout your consultancy career with Cognitive Law. Our marketing support includes but is not limited to the following: Business cards and other marketing literature Website profiles, dedicated area of services you offer and testimonials Social media training, including LinkedIn profiles and building networks Article writing and blog support Campaign creation and implementation for your area of law Networking and event schedules and suggestions Promotion of your specialism through our social media networks Client satisfaction questionnaires Award entry support What do I need to start? “Fail to plan….” – you know the rest! Along with your entrepreneurial flair, a business plan will be essential. A detailed plan (that you stick to!) and the dedication to build your network is the key to success. The luxury of being a consultant is that you get to do it all your way. You can pursue the clients you’d actually like to work with, in a way you are comfortable with, and in your own time. And to top it off, you get a bigger slice of the reward to take home! If taking the plunge into consultancy is for you then take a look at the great opportunities currently available with Cognitive Law.