Although most large law firms make part-time schedules available to their experienced attorneys, in 1998, as in past years, 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 the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). The 1998-99 Directory comprises listings from primarily large firms and includes part-time information from more than 1,100 individual law offices representing over 600 firms and 85,000 partners and associates nationwide.
The 1998 analyses reveal that 92% of the offices in the Directory allowed part-time schedules, either as an affirmative policy or on a case-by-case basis - a figure that showed little change from the 92.5% reported in 1997. The number of attorneys reported to be working on a part-time basis increased somewhat to 3%, as compared with 2.7% in 1997. Associates took greater advantage of part-time schedules than did partners, with 4.5% of associates working part-time contrasted with 1.5% of partners; however, the overall increase in use of part-time schedules reflects an increased rate of part-time work among partners, while the rate of associates working part-time remained unchanged.
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 most available and were most likely to be used in mid-size firms of 101-250 attorneys - 96.4% of these firms offered part-time schedules and 3.6% of the attorneys at these firms availed themselves of this option. In contrast, firms of over 251 attorneys were more likely to offer the part-time option and least likely to have attorneys take advantage of the option, while firms of 100 or fewer attorneys were less likely to offer part-time schedules but reported a higher percentage of attorneys working part-time.
Associate use of part-time schedules ranged from 3.8% in large firms to 5.8% in mid-size firms. Part-time partners, however, were much less common that part-time associates regardless of firm size - constituting just 1.8% of partners in mid-size firms and 1.3% of partners in large firms.
The availability of part-time schedules also differed greatly among cities, from a low of 82% in Tampa to 100% availability in Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Menlo Park, Miami, Palo Alto, Philadelphia, and Seattle. Of these cities, Charlotte and Philadelphia had the highest percentages of attorneys actually utilizing the part-time option (4.6% and 4.4% respectively). Charlotte boasted the highest percentage of part-time partners, with 5.2%, followed by Palo Alto at 3.4%. Associate use of part-time schedules was somewhat higher in general, and ranged from a low of 0.6% in Menlo Park to a high of 12% in Hartford.
Ten states had sufficient data, in addition to that for the specific cities listed, for a parallel analysis. Among these states, part-time work was most available in Ohio, where all of the offices represented in the Directory reported extending the part-time option. Missouri and Virginia also had above average availability of part-time schedules, while Texas, in keeping with city trends, showed the least possibility of part-time work. Following the national patterns, these ten states had higher percentages of part-time associates than part-time partners; however in some states the differences were especially pronounced. For example, New Jersey showed a relatively high percentage of part-time associates (5.7%) and the lowest percentage of part-time partners (0.5%).
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 just 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 100 or fewer attorneys. Firms of this size were also most likely to have an affirmative policy of part-time availability applicable to all attorneys.
Offices in Hartford, Menlo Park, and Minneapolis 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 Austin, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, and Phoenix. Among states, Missouri and Ohio had the highest percentages of firms which made part-time work available to all 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 13% of all those age 25 or older who were employed in non-agricultural industries during 1998 usually worked part-time, and about 16% of those employed in professional specialties during 1998 usually worked part-time. These rates contrast markedly with the 3.0% rate among attorneys at major law firms. Unpublished data from BLS indicates that, among lawyers and judges as a whole, about 8% usually worked part-time.
NALP's data show that the relatively low percentage of part-time attorneys during 1998 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, 1998
*Percentages are based on all offices and reflect availability either as an
affirmative policy or on a case-by-case basis.
Source: National Association for Law Placement, 1998-99 National Directory of Legal Employers.
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