Reduced Hours, Full Success: Part-Time Partners in U.S. Law Firms

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2009 Report by the Project for Attorney Retention. Findings include that part-time work retains women partners, many develop significant business for their firms, and many are involved in firm governance. Contains best practices recommendations for law firms and partners.
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  T he P rojecT    or    A  TTorney  r  eTenTion S ePTember  2009 by   Cynthia Thomas CalvertLinda Bray Chanow  and   Linda Marks  Copyright 2009 The Project or Attorney Retention r  educed h ourS ,F ull S ucceSS :P  ArT -T ime P  ArTnerS   in u.S. l  Aw  F irmS     |   Reduced Hours, Full Success: Part-Time Partners in U.S. Law Firms The Project  for  Attorney Rentention e  xecuTive S ummAry  Part-time arrangements have long been viewed as bullets to the heart o lawyers’ careers—and dubiouspropositions or law rms’ bottom lines. This report challenges that view. It shows that law rms can createsuccessul reduced-hours programs—and that part-time lawyers and their law rms can fourish when they do.In 2000, the Project or Attorney Retention developed its best-practice “balanced hours” model, whichchallenged the then-standard practice o taking part-time lawyers o the partnership track. As the number o part-time partners increased, rom 1.6% in 1999 to 3% in 2008, questions emerged about how to compensatepart-time partners, what to expect rom them in terms o business development and rm service, and the best ways to create successul practices. This report is PAR’s response to those questions.PAR interviewed 109 lawyers or this study, including 53 part-time equity partners, 23 part-time income ornon-equity partners, and six part-time counsel. Seventy-ve o the part-time lawyers were emale; eight werepartners o color. In lengthy telephone interviews, they answered questions about their career history, rms,schedules, practices, clients, compensation, business development, colleagues, satisaction, and personal lives.PAR also interviewed additional partners o color who were not working part-time, and several managingpartners. The study ocused on partners in Colorado, the District o Columbia, and San Francisco, and alsoincluded partners rom other regions.The participants’ responses challenge conventional wisdom. Most strikingly, it is clear that working reducedhours is not inconsistent with long-term career success in the law, as detailed in these key ndings:ã Many respondents had signicant books o business, and the majority reportedspending as much or more time on business development as ull-time partners;ã Most respondents generate signicant revenue, billing between 1200 and 1600hours annually and pushing additional work down to associates; andã Many hold leadership positions in their rms, including managing partner,executive committee member, practice group head, and members o high levelcommittees.This success leads to the important contribution o part-time partners as mentors and role models. Theirpresence sends the message to more junior lawyers, and to colleagues who eel they might need to reduce theirhours in the uture, that they have a uture at the rm. Successul part-time partners enable a rm to retainvalued attorneys—even those who have not expressed an interest in reducing their hours. Another break with the past comes with the key nding that most respondents do not eel a stigma associated with their part-time status. Nearly 60% reported the absence o stigma, and the perception that they aresupported and valued at their rms. The remaining 40% reported a variety o evidence o stigma, includingunair compensation policies, attitudes that were hostile to part-time work, rm policies that reuse to allow part-time partners to attain equity status, and doubts about their commitment. These ndings come with acaveat. This study looked at partners who have remained with their rms, and thereore are most likely tobe happy with their arrangements. Part-time partners who experienced signicant stigma and who were notsupported by their rms have likely let and were not reached by this study.     |   Reduced Hours, Full Success: Part-Time Partners in U.S. Law Firms The Project  for  Attorney Rentention Several o the key ndings challenge the notion that part-time partners are not available to their clients:ã Respondents tend to work as needed, having considerable fexibility in their schedulesand working around client needs;ã Client service is oremost, with the vast majority o respondents stating that they do whatever is necessary to be responsive and meet deadlines; andã Most clients are unaware o the partners’ schedules because client service is seamless.Clients who are aware o their outside counsel’s reduced-hours schedules are generally supportive. They realizethat all partners, regardless o the hours they keep, work on a variety o matters and are not available 24/7, andthat technology gives them access to their lawyers no matter where they are. The general counsel participatingin PAR’s Diversity and Flexibility Connection have stated their support or reduced hours work because they understand it acilitates retention and advancement o valued and diverse lawyers.Finally, this report debunks the common assumption that only white women with children seek to reduce theirhours. Without a doubt, this group is vastly over-represented among part-time partners. Most respondents hadreduced their hours due to child care, but others had other outside jobs, were writing, had health issues, or were nearing retirement. Moreover, respondents included part-time men, and a quarter o the partners o colorrespondents are working part-time. A troubling nding is that the fexibility stigma—the stigma oten associated with reduced hours—discourages some women o color rom reducing their hours or ear o compounding thechallenges they ace as attorneys o color. Notably, some women o color respondents reported that having part-time partners at their rms signaled opportunity and acceptance in ways that mattered, even i they themselves were not currently part-time.This study also gathered inormation helpul to rms that seek to design viable, nonstigmatized part-timepartnerships. It provides inormation on air ways to design compensation and steps to eliminate stigma. Otherbest practices include having a written policy, supporting business development eorts, encouraging part-timepartners to assume leadership roles, and using part-time partners as role models.Finally, the report provides inormation to individual attorneys who want to be successul part-time partners,drawn rom the respondents’ experiences. These include strategically creating schedules to include valued rmservice, prioritizing business development, and being proactive about compensation.Part-time partners play a crucial role in the long-term nancial stability o law rms. By staying with their rms,they deepen relationships with clients, generate business, and provide needed leadership. Part-time partners alsoserve as evidence o their rms’ commitment to fexible work arrangements, enhancing recruitment eorts andsending a message to clients that the rm is serious about diversity. Supporting part-time partnership is a soundbusiness decision.  T  Able   oF c onTenTS Executive Summary ............................................................................................................................................................................1 Acknowledgements .............................................................................................................................................................................4Introduction ........................................................................................................................................................................................5Demographics o Respondents ...........................................................................................................................................................8Key Findings .......................................................................................................................................................................................9 1. Part-Time Partners Seldom Work Set Schedules.........................................................................................................................................92. Flexible Work Arrangements Attracted and Retained the Partners ...........................................................................................................103. Client Service is Not Compromised by Part-Time Schedules ..................................................................................................................134. Many Part-Time Partners are Financially Successul at their Firms ..........................................................................................................145. Many Part-Time Partners Are Involved in Firm Governance ...................................................................................................................166. Part-Time Partners Report Less Stigma than Part-Time Associates ..........................................................................................................177. Compensation or Most Part-Time Partners is Proportional ....................................................................................................................198. Most Partners Do Not Tell Clients about Their Schedules .......................................................................................................................219. Most Part-Time Partners are Satised with their Arrangements ...............................................................................................................2310. Developing Associates, and Delegating Work to Them, Is Essential ........................................................................................................2311. Partners o Color Have Signicant Work Lie Confict But May Feel Pressure Not to Use Existing Programs. ................................25 Best Practices Recommendations or Law Firms ..............................................................................................................................28 1. Create a Written Policy or Part-time Partners ..........................................................................................................................................282. Support Flexibility in When and Where Partners Work ...........................................................................................................................293. Eliminate Stigma .......................................................................................................................................................................................304. Support Part-time Partners’ Business Development Eorts ......................................................................................................................315. Recognize Part-Time Partners’ Contributions Fairly.................................................................................................................................326. Encourage Part-Time Partners to be Firm Leaders ...................................................................................................................................327. Use Part-Time Partners as Role Models and Recruiters ............................................................................................................................338. Let Part-Time Partners Decide What to tell their Clients .........................................................................................................................33 Recommendations or a Successul Part-Time Partnership ..............................................................................................................35 1. Create Schedules Strategically ....................................................................................................................................................................352. Prioritize Business Development Early In Partnership ..............................................................................................................................353. Build In Time to Be in the Oce .............................................................................................................................................................364. Be Flexible, Accessible, and Responsive .....................................................................................................................................................365. Establish and Maintain Boundaries...........................................................................................................................................................376. Invest in Associates ....................................................................................................................................................................................387. Create Flexibility in Lie Outside the Oce .............................................................................................................................................388. Be Proactive About Compensation ...........................................................................................................................................................39 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................................................................40 Appendix I: Methodology ................................................................................................................................................................41 Appendix II: Paths to Partnership or Part-Time Lawyers ................................................................................................................42
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