Part-Time Schedules Rarely Used by Partners, Associates
12-03-2001

Although most large law firms make part-time schedules available to their experienced attorneys, in 2001, 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 NALP. The 2001-2002 Directory comprises listings from primarily large firms and includes part-time information from more than 1,200 individual law offices representing about 625 firms and over 100,000 partners and associates nationwide.

The 2001 analyses reveal that about 95.9% of the offices in the Directory allowed part-time schedules, either as an affirmative policy or on a case-by-case basis &$151; compared to 94.5% reported in 2000. The number of attorneys reported to be working on a part-time basis was 3.5%, as compared with 3.2% in 2000. Associates took greater advantage of part-time schedules than did partners, with 4.8% of associates working part-time contrasted with 2.0% 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 was 4.1% in the largest firms and somewhat more than 5% among firms of less than 500 attorneys. 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 500. A higher figure, 2.3%, was found for smaller firms.

The availability of part-time schedules also differed greatly among cities, from a low of 71% in Birmingham to 100% availability in offices reporting from Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Nashville, New Orleans, Orange County, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Tampa/St. Petersburg. Hartford had the highest percentage of attorneys actually using the part-time option, at 7.5%, followed by Boston, Denver, and San Diego, where the percentages were just over 5%. Denver boasted the highest percentage of part-time partners, at 6.4%, followed by Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Associate use of part-time schedules was somewhat higher in general, and ranged from 2.0% in Birmingham to 11.4% in Hartford.

Seven 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 Michigan, New York, and Virginia, where all of the offices represented in the Directory reported extending the part-time option; 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 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, 59% of the offices that offered a part-time option precluded entry-level associates from using that arrangement, and just over 7% 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 251-500 attorneys. Firms of less than 100 were most likely to have an affirmative policy of part-time availability applicable to all attorneys.

Offices in Birmingham, Boston, and Cincinnati 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 Richmond. Among states, Virginia 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 11% of all individuals aged 25 or older who were employed in non-agricultural industries during 2000 usually worked part-time, and about 13% of those employed in professional specialties during 2000 usually worked part-time. These rates contrast markedly with the 3.5% rate among attorneys at major law firms.

NALP's data show that the relatively low percentage of part-time attorneys during 2001 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 — 2001

  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 Partners % Part-Time Partners # of Associates % Part-Time Associates % Part-Time Overall
Nationwide 95.9% 58.8% 7.3% 47,784 2.0% 55,237 4.8% 3.5% 1,253
Firms of:
100 or fewer 89.17 56.9 8.3 7,593 2.3 5,518 5.2 3.5 284
101-250 97.7 63.7 7.3 13,803 2.2 12,347 5.3 3.7 310
251-500 98.6 47.2 7.9 12,042 2.0 14,452 5.4 3.8 294
501+ 97.5 65.4 6.2 14,346 1.8 22,920 4.1 3.2 365
Offices in:
Atlanta 94.1 50.0 6.3 1,374 0.8 1,605 4.3 2.7 34
Austin 95.0 73.7 5.3 402 0.2 508 3.7 2.2 20
Baltimore 100.0 77.8 0.0 493 2.4 358 6.4 4.1 9
Birmingham 71.4 20.0 0.0 357 0.8 202 2.0 1.3 7
Boston 96.7 29.6 18.5 1,741 3.4 2,463 6.9 5.4 30
Charlotte 92.3 66.7 0.0 364 1.9 346 2.9 2.4 13
Chicago 96.6 49.1 7.0 3,759 1.8 3,553 4.0 2.9 59
Cincinnati 100.0 30.0 10.0 321 1.6 241 5.4 3.2 10
Cleveland 100.0 61.5 0.0 723 1.8 635 5.2 3.4 13
Columbus 100.0 46.7 13.3 581 0.7 436 4.1 2.2 15
Dallas 92.1 60.0 8.6 1,338 0.6 1,423 3.4 2.0 38
Denver 100.0 45.0 25.0 513 6.4 405 3.7 5.2 20
Detroit area 100.0 75.0 0.0 502 1.8 263 3.8 2.5 12
Hartford 91.7 36.4 33.3 257 3.9 236 11.4 7.5 12
Houston 90.3 60.7 3.6 1,095 0.7 1,173 5.5 3.2 31
Indianapolis 87.5 42.9 0.0 299 1.3 229 7.9 4.2 8
Kansas City area 100.0 83.3 0.0 524 2.5 477 4.2 3.3 12
Los Angeles 96.2 70.7 2.7 2,152 2.2 2,911 3.7 3.1 78
Miami 95.0 63.2 0.0 401 1.7 368 4.6 3.1 20
Milwaukee 87.5 57.1 12.5 623 3.7 481 5.0 4.3 8
Minneapolis/St. Paul 94.7 38.9 5.6 1,082 3.4 789 4.7 4.0 19
Nashville 100.0 28.6 0.0 256 0.4 221 0.9 0.6 7
New Orleans 100.0 77.8 0.0 312 0.6 177 3.4 1.6 9
New York City 96.9 66.7 7.1 5,611 1.2 11,383 5.0 3.8 130
Orange Co., CA 100.0 73.9 8.7 416 1.4 601 4.3 3.1 23
Philadelphia 100.0 36.4 9.1 1,033 4.3 1,125 5.1 4.7 22
Phoenix 100.0 53.9 7.7 563 2.7 484 4.1 3.3 13
Pittsburgh 92.9 53.8 7.1 567 1.2 579 4.3 2.8 14
Portland, OR 92.3 75.0 7.7 413 3.4 318 4.1 3.7 13
Richmond 100.0 87.5 0.0 480 1.0 388 4.9 2.8 8
San Diego 100.0 60.0 13.3 353 4.8 527 5.3 5.1 15
San Francisco 100.0 76.2 4.8 1,237 4.7 1,612 4.7 4.7 42
San Jose area 90.6 67.7 3.2 672 2.8 1,991 2.7 2.7 32
Seattle area 96.6 60.7 3.6 886 4.6 741 4.5 4.5 29
St. Louis 100.0 50.0 12.5 499 2.0 384 7.3 4.3 8
Tampa/St. Petersburg 100.0 58.3 8.3 358 2.5 232 4.7 3.48 12
Washington, D.C. 99.3 53.0 12.1 5,062 2.1 6,231 5.4 3.9 133
Wilmington 88.9 50.0 22.2 229 0.9 218 6.4 3.6 9
States:
California 90.5 78.9 0.0 411 2.9 388 5.4 4.1 21
Florida 91.7 81.8 0.0 554 1.3 426 4.2 2.6 24
Michigan 100.0 70.0 0.0 343 1.5 182 3.8 2.3 10
New Jersey 95.8 52.2 8.3 808 0.7 1,097 6.1 3.8 24
New York 100.0 64.7 0.0 685 1.2 527 6.3 3.4 17
Texas 81.3 53.8 6.3 317 1.3 257 2.3 1.7 16
Virginia 100.0 50.0 5.0 338 0.9 340 3.8 2.4 20

*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: 60 firms/offices which make part-time schedules available did not report on the availability of part-time work for new associates. In this analysis, these firms were counted among those not offering part-time work to new associates. The count of offices reflects the number of offices reporting whether or not part-time work is available. In some cities the number of offices reflected in the use statistics may be less because, for firms reporting firmwide information for each of their locations, use information was counted only once rather than in each city with a listing for that firm. The Detroit area includes offices in Bloomfield Hills and Troy. The Kansas City area includes offices Leawood and Overland Park. Orange County includes offices in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach. Portland, OR includes offices in Lake Oswego. 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 these analyses.

Source: NALP, 2001 National Directory of Legal Employers.

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