Part-Time Attorney Schedules Still Widely Available, but Remain Rarely Used by Partners, Associates
11-07-2003

Although most large law firms make part-time schedules available to their experienced attorneys, in 2003, 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 NALP Directory of Legal Employers, the annual compendium of employer data published by NALP. The 2003-2004 Directory comprises listings from primarily large firms and includes part-time information from more than 1,300 individual law offices representing approximately 625 firms and 109,000 partners and associates nationwide.

The 2003 analyses reveal that 96% of the offices in the Directory allowed part-time schedules, either as an affirmative policy or on a case-by-case basis - little difference from the 2002 figure of 96.3%. The number of attorneys reported to be working on a part-time basis was 4.1%, as compared with 3.7% in 2002. Associates took greater advantage of part-time schedules than did partners, with 5.4% of associates working part-time, compared with 2.6% 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, although part-time schedules were not as widely available in firms of 100 or fewer attorneys, associate use of part-time schedules was greatest in firms of 101-250 attorneys and 251-500 attorneys, at 5.9% and 5.7%, respectively. Part-time partners, however, were much less common than part-time associates regardless of firm size, with figures ranging only from 2.5% to 2.9%.

The availability of part-time schedules also differed greatly among cities, from a low of about 83% in Indianapolis and Newark, to 100% availability in about half the cities studied. Denver and Hartford had the highest percentage of attorneys actually using the part-time option, at 7%, followed by Boston and Seattle, where the percentages were about 6.5%. Denver boasted the highest percentage of part-time partners, at 8.8%, followed by Seattle, Boston, and Portland. Associate use of part-time schedules was somewhat higher in general, and ranged from just over 2% in Birmingham and San Jose to 10.7% in Hartford.

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 only about 5% 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. Offices in Cincinnati, 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 Milwaukee and San Diego.

Six 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 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. In some states, such as New Jersey and New York, the differences were especially pronounced.

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), about 14% of individuals employed in non-agricultural industries during 2002 usually worked part-time, and about 13% of those employed in professional specialties (e.g. engineers, architects, physicians) during 2002 usually worked part-time. These rates contrast markedly with the 4.1% rate among attorneys at major law firms.

NALP's data show that the relatively low percentage of part-time attorneys during 2003 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 — 2003

  Availability - % of Offices Use - % of Attorneys Working Part-Time # of Offices
Part-time Available* Not Available to Entry-level** Affirmative Policy Applicable to All** # of Partners % Part-time Partners # of Associates % Part-time Associates % Part-time Overall
Nationwide 96% 58% 5.2% 51,360 2.6% 57,753 5.4% 4.1% 1,305
Firms of:
100 or fewer 84.7 59.7 3.8 7,484 2.9 5,505 4.6 3.6 281
101-250 98.9 56.8 7.1 13,582 2.5 11,446 5.9 4.1 283
251-500 100 44.7 3 12,411 2.7 12,509 5.7 4.2 302
501+ 98.6 61.3 6.2 17,883 2.5 28,293 5.2 4.1 439
Offices in:
Atlanta 94.9 51.5 0 1,512 2.1 1,743 5.3 3.8 34
Austin 90.5 52.6 5.3 443 1.6 442 7.2 4.4 21
Baltimore 100 77.8 0 493 3.7 356 9.3 6 9
Birmingham 100 66.7 0 365 2.7 231 2.2 2.5 6
Boston 96.8 33.3 16.7 1,793 5.2 2,335 7.5 6.5 31
Charlotte 100 57.1 0 457 4.2 410 3.9 4 14
Chicago 98.3 56.9 8.6 3,986 2.6 3,549 3.5 3 57
Cincinnati 100 27.3 9.1 455 2 393 5.9 3.8 11
Cleveland 100 61.5 0 694 1.6 653 6.6 4 13
Columbus 100 53.9 0 573 0.5 434 5.5 2.7 13
Dallas 96.8 60 0 1,470 1 1,510 3.6 2.3 30
Denver 94.4 41.2 17.6 537 8.8 419 4.8 7 18
Detroit area 100 76.5 0 913 2.5 506 4.2 3.1 17
Hartford 92.9 30.8 15.4 459 3.5 431 10.7 7 14
Houston 93.3 53.6 3.6 1,059 0.8 1,247 4.7 2.9 30
Indianapolis 83.3 50 0 442 1.1 379 8.4 4.5 6
Kansas City area 100 63.6 9.1 647 0.9 509 2.8 1.7 11
Los Angeles 94.5 73.9 1.4 2,244 2.6 2,994 5.3 4.2 72
Miami 94.7 55.6 11.1 550 1.8 469 4.1 2.8 19
Milwaukee 87.5 85.7 0 592 3.4 395 7.1 4.9 8
Minneapolis/St. Paul 95 36.8 21.1 1,220 4.3 846 7.1 5.4 20
Nashville 100 37.5 0 334 0.6 245 3.3 1.7 8
New York City 97.6 66.9 4.8 6,075 1.1 12,934 4.6 3.5 123
Newark 83.3 70 0 420 0 605 7.1 4.2 12
Northern Virginia 100 65 0 311 1 356 3.7 2.4 20
Orange Co., CA 95.7 72.7 9.1 419 1.7 565 7.6 5.1 23
Philadelphia 100 40 4 1,627 2.5 1,712 8.2 5.4 23
Phoenix 100 73.3 6.7 613 2.9 515 6.6 4.6 15
Pittsburgh 100 57.1 0 643 2.6 592 4.1 3.3 14
Portland, OR 92.9 69.2 0 506 5.1 344 5.8 5.4 14
Raleigh/Durham 100 40 0 235 4.3 170 8.8 6.2 9
Richmond 100 77.8 0 520 0.6 403 5.2 2.6 9
San Diego 94.1 81.3 0 422 4.5 535 3.9 4.2 17
San Francisco 94.6 63.7 5.8 1,478 4.5 1,891 7.3 6.1 55
San Jose area 87.5 67.9 0 686 3.1 1,463 2.1 2.4 32
Seattle area 93.3 60.7 7.1 978 6.2 723 7.1 6.6 30
St. Louis 100 62.5 12.5 516 3.1 401 8.5 5.5 8
Tampa/St. Petersburg 100 66.7 0 337 1.8 264 4.9 3.2 12
Washington, D.C. 100 52.3 8.6 4,914 3.3 6,002 6.3 5 127
Wilmington 100 63.6 0 283 0.7 291 3.8 2.3 11
States:
California 90.9 65 0 448 2.2 436 3.4 2.8 22
Florida 96.2 68 0 594 1.7 421 2.4 2 26
Michigan 92.3 66.7 0 468 1.5 250 4 2.4 13
New Jersey 100 76.5 5.9 547 1.5 619 5.2 3.4 17
New York 100 42.9 0 583 3.1 466 8.8 5.6 13
Texas 88.2 60 0 319 0.9 241 2.9 1.8 17

*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: 72 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, usually for the "home" office, to avoid double counting. 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 Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The Seattle area includes offices in Bellevue and Kirkland. The Detroit area includes offices in Bloomfield Hills, Bingham Farms, and Southfield. The Newark area includes offices in Newark, West Orange, and Roseland. A few offices in Canada and Puerto Rico are included; offices in Europe and Asia are excluded.

Source: NALP, 2003 NALP Directory of Legal Employers.

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