Opportunities for Part-Time Schedules Rarely Used by Attorneys - 1998
11-18-1999

Although most large law firms make part-time schedules available to their experienced attorneys, in 1999, as in the previous five years that NALP has compiled this data, very few attorneys took advantage of this option. These are among the findings of the most recent analyses of the National Directory of Legal Employers, the annual compendium of employer data published by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). The 1999-2000 Directory comprises listings from primarily large firms and includes part-time information from more than 1,200 individual law offices representing over 600 firms and nearly 100,000 partners and associates nationwide.

The 1999 analyses reveal that about 94% of the offices in the Directory allowed part-time schedules, either as an affirmative policy or on a case-by-case basis - compared to 92% reported in 1998. The number of attorneys reported to be working on a part-time basis was 2.9%, as compared with 3.0% in 1998. Associates took greater advantage of part-time schedules than did partners, with 4.5% of associates working part-time contrasted with 1.6% of partners.

NALP's data reveal differences in the availability and use of part-time schedules when measured by size of firm, city, and state. For example, part-time schedules were most available and were most likely to be used in mid-size firms of 101-250 attorneys - 98.2% of these firms offered part-time schedules and 3.1% of the attorneys at these firms availed themselves of this option, figures slightly higher than those for smaller and larger firms.

Associate use of part-time schedules ranged from 3.8% in large firms to 4.7% in mid-size firms. Part-time partners, however, were much less common than part-time associates regardless of firm size, constituting just 1.7% of partners in small and mid-size firms and 1.4% of partners in large firms.

The availability of part-time schedules also differed greatly among cities, from a low of 83% in Tampa to 100% availability in offices reporting from Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Irvine, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Of these cities, Boston and Seattle had the highest percentages of attorneys actually utilizing the part-time option (5.0% and 4.8% respectively). Hartford and Palo Alto boasted the highest percentage of part-time partners, at 3.8%. Associate use of part-time schedules was somewhat higher in general, and ranged from a low of 1.2% in Charlotte to a high of 7.9% in Hartford.

Six states not represented by the cities above had sufficient data for a parallel analysis. Among these states, part-time work was move available in Missouri and Virginia, where all of the offices represented in the Directory reported extending the part-time option; Wisconsin showed the least possibility of part-time work. Following the national patterns, these six states had higher percentages of part-time associates than part-time partners. However, in some states the differences were especially pronounced - New Jersey, for example, showed a relatively high percentage of part-time associates (5.5%) and the lowest percentage of part-time partners (0.4%).

Entry-level lawyers in search of part-time schedules found their options more limited. Nationally, 57% of the offices that offered a part-time option precluded entry-level associates from using that arrangement, and just 6% had an affirmative part-time policy that made the option available to all attorneys. Nonetheless, an entry-level attorney's chances of finding part-time work were somewhat higher in firms of more than 250 attorneys. Firms of less than 100 were most likely to have an affirmative policy of part-time availability applicable to all attorneys.

Offices in Hartford, Menlo Park, and Minneapolis offered the best prospects for entry-level attorneys looking for part-time work - the cities least likely to offer a part-time option to entry-level attorneys were New York City, Palo Alto, and Portland, Oregon. Among states, Missouri and Wisconsin had the highest percentages of firms which made part-time work available to all attorneys.

Part-Time Lawyer Ratios Differ from the Workforce at Large

Interestingly, the dearth of part-time attorneys distinguishes the profession from both the workforce as a whole and from more narrowly defined segments of the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 13% of all individuals aged 25 or older who were employed in non-agricultural industries during 1998 usually worked part-time, and about 16% of those employed in professional specialties during 1998 usually worked part-time. These rates contrast markedly with the 3.0% rate among attorneys at major law firms. Unpublished data from BLS indicates that, among lawyers and judges as a whole, about 8% usually worked part-time.

NALP's data show that the relatively low percentage of part-time attorneys during 1999 is not an indication that the option was not available. It is likely that many factors play a role in determining whether or not an attorney avails him or herself of the part-time work option. The relatively low use of what may perceived as a positive perquisite may reflect law firm cultures. For example, even NALP's more limited information on government and public interest organizations suggests that although the availability of part-time work in these settings in lower than in law firms, the proportion of attorneys working part-time is about the same. A decision to pursue a part-time schedule in a law firm setting would naturally include concerns about the effect part-time work might have on one's career path, in addition to myriad personal desires.

Availability and Use of Part-Time Provisions in Law Firms — 1999


  Availability - Percent of Offices Use - Percent of Attorneys Working Part-Time
Part-Time Avail.* Not Avail. to Entry-Level** Affirmative Policy Applicable to All** # of Offices # of Partners % Part-Time Partners # of Associates % Part-Time Associates % Part-Time Overall # of Offices
Nationwide 93.8 57.3 6.1 1,221 46,628 1.6 52,423 4.1 2.9 1,215
Firms of:
100 or fewer 85.8 56.5 7.7 332 8,994 1.7 6,615 4.6 2.9 340
101-250 98.2 61.4 6.1 332 14,822 1.7 12,696 4.7 3.1 324
251+ 95.9 55.2 5.2 556 22,791 1.4 33,098 3.8 2.8 550
Offices in:
Atlanta 93.9 54.8 0.0 33 1,250 1.0 1,380 3.7 2.4 30
Austin 90.5 57.9 5.3 21 390 0.3 335 3.6 1.8 20
Boston 100.0 44.4 18.5 27 1,543 3.0 1,932 6.6 5.0 27
Charlotte 100.0 58.3 0.0 12 265 1.5 251 1.2 1.4 10
Chicago 93.1 55.6 5.6 58 3,534 2.2 3,223 3.5 2.8 58
Cincinnati 100.0 40.0 30.0 10 404 1.0 299 3.7 2.1 10
Cleveland 100.0 45.5 0.0 11 643 0.9 542 6.5 3.5 12
Columbus 85.7 33.3 8.3 14 549 0.2 385 3.1 1.4 14
Dallas 86.1 51.6 6.5 36 1,376 0.3 1,411 2.5 1.4 36
Denver 100.0 52.6 5.3 19 481 2.5 360 3.3 2.9 18
Hartford 84.6 27.3 36.4 13 237 3.8 202 7.9 5.7 10
Houston 87.1 59.3 3.7 31 1,007 0.0 1,045 2.9 1.5 30
Irvine 100.0 55.6 0.0 9 112 0.9 153 7.2 4.5 9
Los Angeles 94.9 68.0 4.0 79 2,510 1.6 3,314 3.8 2.9 80
Menlo Park 100.0 30.0 10.0 10 73 0.0 139 2.2 1.4 9
Miami 88.9 68.8 0.0 18 389 0.5 331 3.0 1.7 17
Minneapolis 89.5 23.5 11.8 19 1,064 2.8 672 3.1 2.9 19
New York 95.9 70.9 5.1 122 5,485 0.9 10,429 4.3 3.1 127
Palo Alto 100.0 80.0 0.0 15 393 3.8 918 2.4 2.8 14
Philadelphia 100.0 50.0 10.0 20 1,289 1.6 1,274 7.5 4.5 19
Phoenix 100.0 53.9 0.0 13 584 1.9 400 3.8 2.6 12
Pittsburgh 90.9 60.0 10.0 11 471 1.1 433 5.1 3.0 10
Portland, OR 91.7 72.7 9.1 12 441 3.2 274 3.6 3.4 13
San Diego 100.0 66.7 0.0 12 313 2.9 313 4.2 3.5 12
San Francisco 100.0 68.9 6.7 45 1,258 3.2 1,421 6.1 4.7 43
Seattle 100.0 47.6 9.5 21 805 3.4 538 6.9 4.8 22
Tampa 83.3 60.0 0.0 12 368 2.2 259 1.9 2.1 12
Washington, DC 98.5 57.4 8.5 131 4,637 2.0 5,423 4.3 3.3 133
States:
Indiana 91.7 54.6 0.0 12 388 2.1 313 6.7 4.1 9
Michigan 92.9 57.7 0.0 28 1,049 0.5 489 5.1 2.0 23
Missouri 100.0 52.6 5.3 19 1,079 1.4 881 3.1 2.1 19
New Jersey 95.7 77.3 4.6 23 749 0.4 947 5.5 3.2 24
Virginia 100.0 71.4 4.8 21 728 1.2 580 5.0 2.9 19
Wisconsin 90.9 40.0 10.0 11 567 3.9 412 5.3 4.5 10

*Percentages are based on all offices and reflect availability either as an affirmative policy or on a case-by-case basis.
**Percentages are based on offices which make part-time work available.

Source: National Association for Law Placement, 1999-2000 National Directory of Legal Employers.

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