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 eleven 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 2005-2006 Directory comprises listings from primarily large firms and includes part-time information from more than 1,300 individual law offices representing about 110,000 partners and associates nationwide.
The 2005 analyses reveal that nearly all (96.2%) 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 2004 figure of 96.7%. The number of attorneys reported to be working on a part-time basis was 4.0%, compared with 3.9% in 2004 and 4.1% in 2003. Associates took greater advantage of part-time schedules than did partners, with 5.2% of associates working part-time, compared with 2.8% 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 — 86.3%. Associate use of part-time schedules was greatest in firms of 101-250 attorneys and 251-500 attorneys, at 5.6%. Part-time partners, however, were much less common than part-time associates regardless of firm size, with figures ranging only from 2.2% to 3.0%.
The availability of part-time schedules also differed greatly among cities, from a low of about 87% in Indianapolis, to 100% availability in half of the cities studied. Milwaukee, San Francisco, and Stamford/Greenwich had the highest percentage of attorneys actually using the part-time option, at just over 7.0%, followed by Boston, Raleigh/Durham, and Seattle, at 6.2% to 6.8%. San Francisco boasted the highest percentage of part-time partners, at 7.3%, followed by Milwaukee, Raleigh/Durham, and Seattle. Associate use of part-time schedules was somewhat higher in general, but ranged from few or none in Birmingham and New Orleans to 10.4% in Stamford/Greenwich.
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 100 or fewer attorneys. Offices in Cincinnati, Hartford, Miami, Minneapolis, 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 Baltimore, Milwaukee, and New Orleans.
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. New Jersey was an exception, with the percentage of part-time partners nearly twice that of part-time associates. In some states, such as Kentucky, Michigan, 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), just over 14% of employed individuals during 2004 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 4.0% rate among attorneys at major law firms.
NALP’s data show that the relatively low percentage of part-time attorneys during 2005 is not an indication that the option was not available. It is likely that many factors play a role in determining whether or not attorneys avail themselves 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 — 2005
|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|
|100 or fewer||86.3||55.4||3.3||7,231||3.0||4,937||4.8||3.7||278|
|Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach||100.0||66.7||0.0||245||0.0||199||4.0||1.8||10|
|Kansas City area||100.0||61.5||0.0||800||0.9||524||3.6||2.0||13|
|New York City||98.5||62.0||3.9||6,232||1.5||12,152||4.9||3.8||131|
|Northern NJ/Newark area||95.7||72.7||0.0||919||0.7||1,176||5.4||3.3||23|
|Orange Co., CA||96.7||62.1||6.9||568||1.9||651||4.8||3.4||30|
|Salt Lake City||100.0||42.9||14.3||94||2.1||76||7.9||4.7||7|
|San Jose area||94.4||61.8||5.9||745||3.0||1,306||2.8||2.9||36|
|Other areas in California||88.2||66.7||0.0||476||2.1||421||2.4||2.2||17|
|Other areas in Florida||96.3||69.2||0.0||542||1.1||310||2.9||1.8||27|
|Other areas in Michigan||87.5||71.4||0.0||349||1.7||155||5.8||3.0||16|
|Other areas in New Jersey||100.0||50.0||12.5||168||3.6||158||1.9||2.8||8|
|Other areas in New York State||100.0||42.9||0.0||700||1.7||453||9.9||4.9||13|
|Other areas in Texas||85.7||58.3||0.0||309||1.3||216||4.2||2.5||14|
* 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.
Source: 2005-2006 NALP Directory of Legal Employers.
Note: 73 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 firmwide information for each of their locations, use information was counted only once, usually for the "home" office. Some city information includes one or more offices in adjacent suburbs. Orange County includes offices in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach. The San Jose area includes offices in Cupertino, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and E. Palo Alto, Redwood Shores/Redwood City, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The Detroit area includes offices in Bloomfield Hills, Bingham Farms, Southfield, and Troy. The Northern New Jersey/Newark area includes offices in Newark, Roseland, West Orange, Florham Park, Hackensack, Morristown, Parsippany, Short Hills, Westfield, Bridgewater, and Woodbridge. Northern Virginia includes offices in Falls Church, McLean, Reston, Vienna, and Alexandria. State figures exclude cities reported separately.
About NALP: Founded in 1971, the National Association for Law Placement, Inc.® (NALP) is dedicated to facilitating legal career counseling and planning, recruitment and retention, and the professional development of law students and lawyers. NALP maintains an online archive of press releases at www.nalp.org — click on Research & Statistics > Press Releases. For additional information about NALP research, contact Judith Collins (firstname.lastname@example.org), Director of Research, or James G. Leipold (email@example.com), Executive Director, at 202-835-1001. Mailing address: National Association for Law Placement, 1025 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1110, Washington, DC 20036-5413.