Lewis Silkin’s award-winning rockhopper service celebrates fifth anniversary
16 July 2019
It is five years since Lewis Silkin launched rockhopper, its highly successful, fixed-fee HR support service.
rockhopper services are provided by a team of senior employment lawyers working part-time hours from home, supporting clients with helpline advice and defending Employment Tribunal claims. The reduced overhead costs are passed on to clients, making it a top quality, excellent value service.
rockhopper has enabled Lewis Silkin to retain talented lawyers who might have otherwise left due to personal circumstances, such as relocation or caring commitments.
Five years ago
Employment partner Laura Farnsworth launched rockhopper in July 2014, initially with two Lewis Silkin lawyers - Lorna Scamman and Hannah Williams.
Lorna was relocating to Sheffield due to her husband’s work: “I thought I would have to leave Lewis Silkin as Sheffield was too far to commute from”. Hannah had just had her third child: “I still wanted to work as a lawyer but, with three pre-school aged children, I wanted a part-time job with fixed, predictable working hours. Most jobs in law are not like this!”
Working from home on a part-time basis provided an ideal solution. “The introduction of rockhopper enabled me to stay at a firm I love, doing challenging work for high-profile clients” says Lorna. “The ability to work part time and from home to the extent rockhopper offers is unusual in the legal sector and I now have an ideal work/life balance”.
There are now 16 lawyers in the team, with more joining this year as the service continues to grow. According to Hannah, “Being part of the rockhopper team works brilliantly for me - I know that when I’m not working, our clients are well looked after by my excellent colleagues. It’s good for everyone - clients receive a continuous, seamless service and I can make the most of my non-working time.”
Unlike most other helpline services, the rockhopper team members are all senior and experienced employment lawyers. Two of them, Denise Tomlinson and Rebecca Peedell, were previously partners in Lewis Silkin’s “core” employment team.
The balance of flexible working and undertaking challenging legal work has also attracted top talent from outside the firm. Over the past year rockhopper has welcomed five external recruits, including two former partners and co-heads of an employment law consultancy.
Praise and recognition
While rockhopper was primarily designed for businesses in the retail and hospitality sector, which tend to deal with a high volume of low-value employment claims and issues, the service has attracted other companies of different types. rockhopper now has a wide client base with organisations of all sizes and from various sectors, from tech start-ups to large, multi-national corporates.
Clients have consistently praised the responsiveness of the team, the quality of advice and the value and innovation of the service. “rockhopper is amazing - I have never experienced anything like it from any other law firm”, says one in-house employment lawyer. One General Counsel comments, “We love the service and have been blown away by the value.”
rockhopper was commended as “standout” at the FT Innovative Lawyer Awards, and was recently shortlisted for the Innovative Legal Service Award in the LexisNexis 2019 awards.
A better work-life balance
Last year, rockhopper won the Working Families “Best Innovation” award. The work-life balance organisation’s then CEO, Sarah Jackson OBE, commented: “By incorporating home working and part-time working into their business model, Lewis Silkin are keeping (mainly) women who would otherwise be stepping out of their careers.”
The rockhopper lawyers echo this sentiment. “rockhopper has enhanced the lives of many like me. I now feel I have a great work-life balance and I love my job”, comments one member of the team. The ability to combine work with other commitments has attracted employment lawyers from other firms who are keen to continue their careers but in a different way. “Since I started my legal career, I really couldn’t see how I could balance work and family in the way I wanted,” one of the new joiners notes, “I was so happy to hear about rockhopper! And it’s not just me - so many people I talk to say how great it is to hear of a London-headquartered firm offering an alternative legal career.” Lewis Silkin now offers other services using a similar model to rockhopper, such as commercial law advice.
Laura Farnsworth, Head of rockhopper, was recognised in 2018’s Timewise Power 50 awards – a celebration of flexible working and of those in senior roles who highlight to others what is achievable with a more flexible work pattern.
“We are incredibly proud of what the rockhopper team has achieved over the past five years”, says Laura. “It has been fantastic to receive such positive feedback from clients, and to be able to offer talented senior lawyers a way to maintain their career in a way that better suits their life circumstances. We’re very much looking forward to the next phase of rockhopper’s development.”