New Report on How Firms Can Retain Women

The Georgia Association for Women Lawyers released a report on retaining women attorneys entitled: IT'S ABOUT TIME II: Examining Flexible Work Arrangements from the Attorney's and the Firm's Perspectives -- A Study of Part-time Policies in Georgia Law Firms.
The study surveys 84 law firms in Georgia and finds that only 30% of firms have "formal, written policies regarding reduced time and flexible work arrangements."  The report also looks at informal flexible work arrangements, citing "responses from 386 female attorneys to an online survey [which] suggest that informal arrangements make monitoring, scheduling, and other work-related responsibilities very difficult" for those who use them.
Why should firms care about having effective part-time or flexible policies?  According to the report, "it costs a firm $200,000 to replace a second-year associate."  Since most firms attempt to hire diverse associate classes, losing women can be expensive.  The report goes on to state that 58% of professional women "describe their careers as 'non-linear' and rely on a variety of work options such as flexible work schedules and part-time work arrangements either as a way to take some time out or as a way to transition back to full-time work."  In addition, "only 5% of women who have taken some time off from work return to their original employer."

[More after the jump]

Other interesting findings:
  • Only 16% of partners at the surveyed firms were women
  • 93% of respondents--male and female--approved of part-time and flexible work schedules regardless of whether the respondent intends to make use of such policies
  • 86% of the female respondents were interested in taking advantage of part-time or flexible work options at some point in their careers
  • Working part time or on a flexible schedule is viewed as "career limiting"
  • 30% of respondents on a part-time schedule still worked more than 40 hours per week
  • Only 10% of the surveyed firms reported having an attorney make partner while working on a part-time schedule
  • More than 50% of the firms that responded never had an attorney work part-time
The report suggested the following target areas for firms to improve flexible and part-time work policies:
  • Develop clear written policies
  • Define reasonable expectations for part-time lawyers
  • Value part-time attorneys
  • Shift the definition of "success" from hours worked to something broader

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