March 27, 2013 Practice Points

Increasingly Popular Part-Time Schedules Are Not Yet Accepted

By Emily Wessel Farr

Women make up the vast majority of part-time lawyers, according to a new survey by the National Association for Legal Career Professionals, and reported by Reuters. Analyzing data from more than 1,100 law firms, the study found that of the 6.2 percent of attorneys who work on what is considered a part-time schedule, more than 70 percent are women.

The idea of part time as womanlymay pose a problem for both women and men who decide that part-time is best for them and their families. While 13.5 percent of female lawyers work a part-time schedule, just 2.7 percent of male lawyers are part-timers. James Leopold, the executive director of NALP—The Association for Legal Career Professionals, put it bluntly: “Firms need to have both women and men at a high level position who are themselves using a part-time schedule so it’s modeled as okay.” Mr. Leopold pointed to law firm culture discouraging the part-time “option.”

“Flextime,” increasingly available for attorneys, is another option that may prove palatable to firms. Beth Kaufman, president of the National Association of Women Lawyers and a litigator at Schoeman Updike Kaufman Stern & Ascher in New York, told Reuters she would prefer firms offer flextime instead of part-time schedules. “I think if a woman is given the opportunity to work on a flextime basis, she is more likely to achieve partnership status. She is not necessarily producing fewer hours; she may be working from home, on weekends, late at night. She may well be producing a lot more revenue that way," Kaufman said.

With a growing spotlight on the realities of parenthood, and the increasing pressure on firms to accommodate their most valued employees at all phases of their lives, alternative work schedules are likely here to stay. Their impact on the lawyer, however, remains to be seen. Reuters reports that, since 2006, the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) has conducted a yearly survey on the retention and promotion of women at AmLaw 200 firms. NAWL’s most recent report found that women have made little progress reaching leadership roles at big law firms, finding that barely 15 percent of a typical AmLaw 100 firm’s equity partners are women.

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation, part-time, schedules

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