WHEN she took over as chairman of Morton Fraser in 2017 Maggie Moodie had one specific goal in mind: to make the firm the best in Scotland to work for.

In order to achieve this, she put a formal agile-working policy in place that has enabled partners and staff to choose exactly where and when to do their work - so long as it has no detrimental effect on the business and its clients.

The results, it seems, speak for themselves, with early indications being that it is shaping up to be a resounding success.

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Having surveyed its staff a year after the policy was first implemented, Morton Fraser found that almost half of the firm (46 per cent) had chosen to begin working in an agile way, with 91% of all staff saying that team dynamics had not been affected by the change.

Crucially, as far as Ms Moodie is concerned, those that had taken the opportunity to work in an agile way reported that it had had a positive impact on their lives, with 83% saying it had improved their overall sense of wellbeing.

“We didn’t do this to cut property costs or to save money, we did it because we thought it was the right thing to do,” Ms Moodie said. “We thought and believed it would help people’s sense of wellbeing and help them balance their work lives with their lives outside work; ultimately that would keep us providing a great service for clients because people that look after themselves look after their clients.

“That has filtered through with a really high percentage reporting that this has had a positive impact on their sense of wellbeing. That was always really important to me.”

Part of the reason for embracing agile working was to improve the retention of female lawyers within the firm, with the aim of seeing a greater number of the women entering the business at the junior end go on to influence its future direction as partners.

Although Morton Fraser has for many years been co-led by a woman, just like its competitors it has a gender imbalance within its senior ranks: fewer than half of its partners are female even though well over half of its fee-earners are. Creating a working environment that makes it easier for women to juggle the demands of a senior role with the changing demands of their personal lives is expected to help redress that balance.

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“I’m keen to continue to make sure that we create the right environment for everybody to be the best they can be and that we encourage women into senior roles,” Ms Moodie said.

“You need diversity of thought if you are serving a diverse group of people and our clients aren’t just men. More and more women are business owners are women and if they are constantly faced with a male figure they’re going to think ‘they don’t think like me’.

“We won’t come up with great ideas if everyone round the table thinks in the same way and has the same attitude.”

Despite this, the firm is keen to stress that agile working is not a female-only policy, with Ms Moodie noting that the point of agile working is to get the best out of all its staff by giving them the space to get the most out of their own lives too.

“It’s very important that this is not just for women,” she said. “Men have traditionally had a hard time wanting to spend time with their kids or elderly parents or just being at home enough - its crucial to remember that.

“[If you’re in a relationship] and one partner has this flexibility and the other one doesn’t that’s not good for either partner. You can’t free up just one because all that will happen is that they will end up taking on the vast majority of the household tasks.”

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The crux of the policy, which some parts of the firm were already embracing in an informal way, is to ensure that people’s contribution is not measured simply in terms of how long they spend sitting at their desk because, as Ms Moodie said, “if that’s how we manage someone’s performance then we’re really not managing them”.

Now that agile working is seen as “part of the fabric of Morton Fraser”, Ms Moodie will spend the remainder of her three-year term as chairman focusing on related issues such as wellness and mental health, areas she sees as being vitally important to the future success of the firm as a whole.

“It’s so important – you spend so much time at work you can’t be miserable,” she said.