Part-Time Schedules Remain Widely Available but Rarely Used by Attorneys
11-27-2000

Although most large law firms make part-time schedules available to their experienced attorneys, in 2000, as has been the case since NALP first compiled this data in 1994, 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 2000-2001 Directory comprises listings from primarily large firms and includes part-time information from more than 1,200 individual law offices representing about 675 firms and nearly 100,000 partners and associates nationwide.

The 2000 analyses reveal that about 94.5% of the offices in the Directory allowed part-time schedules, either as an affirmative policy or on a case-by-case basis — compared to 93.8% reported in 1999. The number of attorneys reported to be working on a part-time basis was 3.2%, as compared with 2.9% in 1999. Associates took greater advantage of part-time schedules than did partners, with 4.4% of associates working part-time contrasted with 1.9% 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, although part-time schedules were not quite as widely available in firms of 100 or fewer attorneys, the extent to which part-time schedules were used in those firms during 2000 (3.4%) equaled that of firms of 101-500 and exceeded that of the largest firms, where the figure was 2.8%.

Associate use of part-time schedules ranged from 3.5% in the largest firms to 4.9% in mid-size firms. Part-time partners, however, were much less common than part-time associates regardless of firm size, constituting less than 2% of partners in firms of more than 100. A notably higher figure, 2.5%, was found for smaller firms.

The availability of part-time schedules also differed greatly among cities, from a low of 82% in Portland to 100% availability in offices reporting from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Kansas City, Orange County, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Seattle. Boston, Denver and San Francisco had the highest percentages of attorneys actually utilizing the part-time option (about 5.0%). Portland and San Francisco boasted the highest percentage of part-time partners, at about 4%. Associate use of part-time schedules was somewhat higher in general, and ranged from 2.3% in Kansas City to 6.8% in Hartford.

Eleven states, or portions of states not represented by the cities above, had sufficient data for a parallel analysis. Among these states, part-time work was more available in New York, Tennessee and Virginia, where all of the offices represented in the Directory reported extending the part-time option; Florida and Texas showed the least possibility of part-time work. Following the national patterns, these states had higher percentages of part-time associates than part-time partners. However in some states, such as Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Virginia, the differences were especially pronounced.

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 500 attorneys. Firms of less than 100 were most likely to have an affirmative policy of part-time availability applicable to all attorneys.

Offices in Boston, Columbus 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 Kansas City and Miami. Among states, Tennessee and Wisconsin had the highest percentages of firms which made part-time work available to new 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 1999 usually worked part-time, and about 15% of those employed in professional specialties during 1999 usually worked part-time. These rates contrast markedly with the 3.2% rate among attorneys at major law firms.

NALP's data show that the relatively low percentage of part-time attorneys during 2000 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 be 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 is 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 — 2000

  Availability — Percent of Offices Use — Percent of Attorneys Working Part-Time # of Offices
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
Nationwide 94.5% 56.6% 6.1% 1,261 47,328 1.9% 52,553 4.4% 3.2% 1,258
Firms of:
100 or fewer 87.7 57.3 8.2 334 8,625 2.5 6,196 4.7 3.4 331
101-250 95.1 56.1 4.5 328 14,089 1.9 12,579 4.9 3.3 323
251-500 99.4 49.7 5.9 308 12,640 1.7 14,449 4.9 3.4 308
501+ 96.6 64.3 6.1 290 11,971 1.6 19,318 3.5 2.8 295
Offices in:
Atlanta 94.1 43.8 6.3 34 1,279 0.8 1,455 4.5 2.8 30
Austin 90.0 55.6 11.1 20 387 0.0 373 2.7 1.3 20
Boston 96.8 33.3 13.3 31 1,598 2.9 2,107 6.4 4.9 30
Charlotte 91.7 63.6 0.0 12 343 2.0 331 3.3 2.7 12
Chicago 96.7 48.3 6.9 60 3,581 1.8 3,285 3.9 2.8 59
Cincinnati 100.0 36.4 18.2 11 380 1.1 323 4.0 2.4 11
Cleveland 100.0 54.6 0.0 11 681 1.3 593 4.7 2.9 12
Columbus 100.0 33.3 6.7 15 570 0.9 407 3.4 1.9 15
Dallas 91.2 54.8 6.5 34 1,313 0.3 1,329 3.8 2.0 33
Denver 100.0 63.6 9.1 22 520 3.8 377 6.4 4.9 22
Hartford 91.7 36.4 36.4 12 242 3.7 221 6.8 5.2 10
Houston 96.9 67.7 3.2 32 1,065 0.0 1,126 3.5 1.8 31
Kansas City area 100.0 80.0 0.0 10 639 1.6 529 2.3 1.9 12
Los Angeles 98.6 68.5 4.1 74 2,209 2.3 2,833 3.8 3.2 77
Miami 85.0 70.6 0.0 20 427 1.9 366 4.1 2.9 18
Minneapolis/St. Paul 88.9 25.0 6.3 18 1,108 3.0 711 4.2 3.5 19
New York City 94.5 68.6 5.0 128 5,818 1.2 12,100 4.3 3.3 128
Orange Co., CA 100.0 65.4 3.9 26 430 0.5 555 3.4 2.1 25
Philadelphia 100.0 38.1 4.8 21 1,353 3.1 1,334 6.0 4.5 19
Phoenix 100.0 64.3 0.0 14 572 1.9 436 3.7 2.7 14
Pittsburgh 100.0 54.6 9.1 11 504 3.2 503 3.8 3.5 11
Portland, OR 82.4 57.1 7.1 17 502 4.2 338 3.3 3.8 17
San Diego 88.2 60.0 6.7 17 375 1.9 436 3.0 2.5 16
San Francisco 100.0 65.2 4.4 46 1,232 4.0 1,443 5.9 5.0 44
San Jose area 92.6 64.0 4.0 27 644 2.0 1,515 2.6 2.4 29
Seattle area 100.0 57.1 0.0 28 911 3.0 629 5.1 3.8 28
St. Louis area 90.0 55.6 11.1 10 581 1.5 445 2.5 1.9 10
Tampa/St. Petersburg 84.6 63.6 0.0 13 374 2.7 278 2.9 2.8 13
Washington, D.C. 98.5 50.0 10.2 130 4,745 2.6 5,646 4.8 3.8 130
States:
California 88.0 63.6 0.0 25 492 2.4 433 4.4 3.4 24
Delaware 90.0 55.6 22.2 10 237 0.8 208 5.3 2.9 10
Florida 76.5 76.9 0.0 34 680 0.9 509 3.3 1.9 31
Indiana 92.3 50.0 0.0 13 447 2.9 367 6.8 4.7 10
Michigan 96.4 59.3 0.0 28 1,112 0.9 557 5.0 2.3 23
New Jersey 95.8 52.2 8.7 24 823 0.6 1,055 5.1 3.1 25
New York 100.0 64.7 0.0 17 687 1.0 488 6.1 3.1 16
Tennessee 100.0 25.0 8.3 12 416 1.4 309 1.9 1.7 13
Texas 75.0 55.6 0.0 12 291 0.3 212 1.4 0.8 12
Virginia 100.0 72.7 9.1 22 790 0.8 665 5.6 3.0 23
Wisconsin 91.7 45.5 9.1 12 719 4.2 519 4.4 4.3 12

*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.

Note: The count of offices providing a part-time option includes offices reporting both general availability and availability to new associates, and thus can differ from the number of offices reporting use of part-time schedules. The Kansas City area includes offices in Leawood and Overland Park, Kansas. Orange County includes offices in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach. The San Jose area includes offices in Cupertino, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The Seattle area includes offices in Bellevue and Kirkland. State information excludes any cities listed separately. Foreign offices are excluded from the nationwide and firm size analyses.

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

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