More Part Time Lawyers Are Women (duh)

NALP just released some new numbers on part time lawyers (see here for the New York Law Journal writeup). These are some pretty telling stats. Less than 6% of all attorneys work part time, even though 98% of law offices report offering part time options. Not surprisingly, most of those working part time are women (only 5.4% of all attorneys worked part time; close to 13% of women worked part time). New York continues to lag behind other markets in terms of flexibility in work arrangements.

This sounds like women are leaving work rather than taking the part time options their employers offer (consider that as of 2004, women were about 35% of the private legal sector, according to NALP).

The questions that spring to my mind are: what is considered "part time"--is it a viable option that women are just not taking, or have they made the calculation that it is not a good option and instead voted with their feet? And how much does this aid the law firm model, which depends on whittling down large associate classes to much a smaller group of partners? Is this bottom line holding back--or even preventing--real change in the work structure, despite its obvious cost to women? Finally, where the heck are the men? Change isn't going to happen when part time/flextime work schedules are merely a fringe phenomenon. But even though their clients are starting to balk at rising fees (and questioning the need for such high associate salaries), and attrition remains high (especially for women and lawyers of color), firms are not going to mess with a system that works for them until they are forced to by a changing workforce, or changing client demands.


Legal Eagle

Debbie Henry, a consultant with Flex-Time Lawyers LLC, always tells law students (like me, and I am citing her since I have no firsthand knowledge yet) that there is really no such thing as "half time" at a law firm. You still end up working 40-50 hrs. a week, just not 80. So she argues that flex-time is a better, less misleading label than part-time.
"Where the heck are the men?" is a question to be asked. I guess what I'm gonna say in the meantime is: look at the glass half full. Women are trailblazing this area of occupational reform, taking a hit for everybody to get flex-time off the ground. Not that we should have to—but, it's the holidays, and I'm looking for positives. Go, part-time women lawyers! Fight the good fight!

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