London Partner Chris Bryant has been named to the 2019 Timewise Power 50 – an annual recognition of 50 senior UK executives who work part-time or flexible schedules. The list was covered Feb. 26 by the UK national newspaper, The Telegraph, with Bryant’s part-time schedule at BCLP leading off the coverage.

“My primary reason is childcare,” Bryant told The Telegraph. “I look after our two-year-old daughter. I also have a sideline writing musicals, which became a bit more than a hobby two years ago.”

At Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Bryant heads up the firm’s Brexit taskforce, helping clients across virtually all sectors to prepare for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. He also advises on large-scale competition and trade law investigations in the EU and UK, including a number of multimillion-pound competition damages actions. 

In addition, Bryant has written Brexit the Musical, “which did quite well and turned into quite a big thing,” he said. The production enjoyed sold-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival and is in development to tour nationwide.

 In response to making this year’s Timewise Power 50, Bryant authored a first-person account of what working a part-time schedule has meant for his career, family and outside interests.

I am a partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in London advising on UK & EU competition law, international trade law, and EU regulatory issues.  I work three days per week. 

There are so few male role models working genuine part time arrangements.  When a colleague encouraged me to put myself forward for the Timewise Power 50 list, perhaps this is what convinced me to participate. I developed the confidence to work part time at a particular point in my career.  If there were other part time male role models, I may have had the confidence to do so sooner. 

I have two reasons for working part time.  I look after my two year old daughter two days a week.  I also write musical theatre and in 2017 wrote “Brexit the Musical”, which played to sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival and is currently in development to tour nationwide. 

I would be lying if I said the decision to work part-time was not a daunting one and I didn’t have concerns about whether it might affect my career.  I began working part time as a partner, when I had reached a stage in my career where I felt well established within the firm and had more control over my own workload.  I am open and public around my working arrangements and I actively encourage junior colleagues to work flexibly.  The two associates I work most closely with both work part time. 

I initially worked a nine-day fortnight, dropping to three days a week when my daughter was born.  I was the second male partner at BCLP to take Shared Parental Leave and I remain the only male partner to work three days per week. 

I am encouraged that my part time arrangement has not come at the detriment of the quality or complexity of matters I lead.  For instance, since working part time, I have been appointed to lead BCLP’s Brexit taskforce (recently ranked as a Tier 1 practice by Legal 500).  This has required a mix of two-way flexibility, a fantastic team in the office and open communication with my clients.  As a team this has meant finding the right balance of supporting one another, stepping in when needed and being respectful of one another’s arrangements and responsibilities outside of work.

I have found clients are very receptive to my part time arrangement.  They know I am there if there is an emergency - but they are also respectful that if I say I will get something to them I will.  How and when I do that is my issue - this does often require juggling calls during set windows on my non-working days or picking work up outside hours, but it is all worth it! 

While the tide is changing, there is still a reticence among some men to embrace flexible working – or a fear that part-time working could hamper career prospects.  I am proud that BCLP has taken a strong stance in this area and I hope in some way my experience will give others (regardless of gender) considering the prospect of part-time working the confidence to go for it.

- Chris Bryant