Although most large law firms make part-time schedules available to their experienced attorneys, very few attorneys have taken advantage of this option over the ten years that NALP has been compiling this information. 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 2004-2005 Directory comprises listings from primarily large firms and includes part-time information from more than 1,300 individual law offices representing about 109,000 partners and associates nationwide.
The 2004 analyses reveal that nearly all (96.7%) 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 2003 figure of 96%. The number of attorneys reported to be working on a part-time basis was 3.9%, compared with 4.1% in 2003. Associates took greater advantage of part-time schedules than did partners, with 5.1% 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, part-time schedules were not as widely available in firms of 100 or fewer attorneys-88.1%. Associate use of part-time schedules was greatest in firms of 101-250 attorneys and 251-500 attorneys, at 4.2% and 4.0%, 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 2.8%.
The availability of part-time schedules also differed greatly among cities, from a low of about 86% in Indianapolis, to 100% availability in almost half the cities studied. Seattle and Raleigh/Durham had the highest percentage of attorneys actually using the part-time option, at 6.8%, followed by Denver, Hartford, and Portland, OR, at 6.3% to 6.4%. Denver boasted the highest percentage of part-time partners, at 7.7%, followed by Seattle and Raleigh/Durham. Associate use of part-time schedules was somewhat higher in general, but ranged from 1% in Birmingham to 8.6% in Philadelphia.
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 less than 4% 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 Hartford, Boston, and Raleigh/Durham 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 Richmond.
Eight states, or portions of states not represented by the cities above, had sufficient data for a parallel analysis. Among these states, Nevada and Texas reported the least possibility of part-time work. Following the national patterns, seven of the eight states had higher percentages of part-time associates than part-time partners. California was an exception, with the percentage of part-time partners and part-time associates very nearly equal. In some states, such as Kentucky, New Jersey, and New York, the contrasts between partner and associate use 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 2003 usually worked part-time, as did a similar percentage of those employed in professional specialties (e.g. engineers, architects, physicians). These rates contrast markedly with the 3.9% rate among attorneys at major law firms.
NALP's data show that the relatively low percentage of part-time attorneys during 2004 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 not to pursue a part-time schedule in a law firm setting may also reflect concerns about the effect part-time work might have on one's career path.
Availability and Use of Part-Time Provisions in Law Firms — 2004
*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: 79 offices/firms 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. Figures include a few offices in Canada, but exclude offices in Europe and Asia. The Kansas City area includes offices in Overland Park. Orange County includes offices in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach. The San Jose area includes offices in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, East 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. State figures exclude cities reported separately.
Source: The 2004-2005 NALP Directory of Legal Employers
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