Although most large law firms make part-time schedules available to their experienced attorneys, in 2002, as has been the case since NALP first compiled this data in 1994, very few attorneys have taken advantage of this option. These are among the findings of the most recent analyses of the NALP Directory of Legal Employers, the annual compendium of employer data published by NALP. The 2002-2003 Directory comprises listings from primarily large firms and includes part-time information from more than 1,200 individual law offices representing about 615 firms and over 100,000 partners and associates nationwide.
The 2002 analyses reveal that 96.3% of the offices in the Directory allowed part-time schedules, either as an affirmative policy or on a case-by-case basis — close to the figure of 95.9% reported in 2001. The number of attorneys reported to be working on a part-time basis was 3.7%, as compared with 3.5% in 2001. Associates took greater advantage of part-time schedules than did partners, with 4.8% of associates working part-time, compared with 2.4% 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 associates in those firms used part-time schedules during 2002 (4.6%) equaled that of the largest firms.
Associate use of part-time schedules was greatest in firms of 101-500, at about 5%. Part-time partners, however, were much less common than part-time associates regardless of firm size, ranging from 2.2% in firms of 101-250 attorneys to 2.6% at smaller firms.
The availability of part-time schedules also differed greatly among cities, from a low of about 85% in Hartford and Phoenix to 100% availability in about half the cities studied. Hartford had the highest percentage of attorneys actually using the part-time option, at 7.9%, followed by Boston and Denver where the percentages were between 6% and 7%. Denver boasted the highest percentage of part-time partners, at 8.4%, followed by Seattle, Boston, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Associate use of part-time schedules was somewhat higher in general, and ranged from 1.5% in Charlotte to 11.2% in Hartford.
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 slightly less than 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 250 or fewer attorneys. Offices in Hartford and Boston 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 Newark and Kansas City.
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 Jersey, and New York, 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. Of note: in some states, such as New Jersey and New York, the differences were especially pronounced. Returning to the subject of availability of part-time work for entry-level associates, among these seven states, Virginia had the highest percentage of firms that 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 at law firms distinguishes private law firm practice from both the U.S. workforce as a whole and from more defined segments of the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost 11% of all individuals aged 25 or older who were employed in non-agricultural industries during 2001 usually worked part-time, and about 13% of those employed in professional specialties (e.g. engineers, architects, physicians) during 2001 usually worked part-time. These rates contrast markedly with the 3.7% rate among attorneys at major law firms.
NALP's data show that the relatively low percentage of part-time attorneys during 2002 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. 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 various personal desires.
Availability and Use of Part-Time Provisions in Law Firms — 2002
*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: 55 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 firm wide 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 Bingham Farms, Bloomfield Hills and Southfield. 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, 2002 NALP Directory of Legal Employers.
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