Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Excellent Report on Retention and Advancement of Women

The Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia had an Initiative on the Advancement and Retention of Women this past spring (see the Up To PAR blog archive for details about the Initiative).

The report of the Initiative is now available for free online at the WBA's website. It is very worthwhile reading, and PAR is proud to have been involved with the Initiative.

If you know of a bar association that has an initiative or similar program addressing the advancement and retention of women or work/life balance for attorneys, we'd appreciate it if you'd drop us a line and let us know. We are creating a list that we will make available on our website.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


What Is It Really Like to Work Part-Time at a Firm?

PAR is frequently asked by law students and attorneys looking to change firms which firms are best for attorneys who want to have a life outside the office and still be able to have a rewarding professional life inside the office.

Fortunately, we can often give some insider information, thanks to all the terrific attorneys who share their experiences with us.

We are now updating The Scoop, the section of our website that provides information about how part-time really works at various firms across the country. We have one section that provides a table showing the number of associates, counsel, and partners who work reduced hours, whether part-timers are eligible for partnership, etc. Some of this information comes from the firms themselves. We then have a link for each firm to a page with additional information -- some gathered from respected sources like NALP, some gathered from the Internet, and some gathered from reports from attorneys who work at the firms and just plain gossip.

If you would like to help us, please drop us a line at and let us know the good, bad, and ugly of part-time work at your firm. If you work part-time, please let us know how it works for you. If you have decided not to work part-time, please tell us why. And if you've observed part-time work by others, that is good to know about, too.

You could really help us by sending emails to all your friends who are attorneys and ask them to also send us information about part-time work at their firms. The more responses we get, the more useful The Scoop will be.



Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Firms Still on the Recruiting/Attrition Treadmill

Natalie's post last week was so good that it is worth repeating. Consider this a p.s. to her 8/8/06 blog below.

An article on today’s says that firms are having a harder time recruiting (“Law Firms Rework Campus Recruiting” by Leigh Jones, The National Law Journal, Aug. 15, 2006). Firms need more attorneys, and law school enrollment is down, the article says. So firms are changing their recruiting tactics – and the strategy some are choosing means that they’re trying to entice law students who are looking for a good quality of life by promising that they’ll make them work harder than ever.

Makes a lot of sense, right?

It is really true – Baker Botts reports that it is raising first years’ salaries to $140,000. Salary increases like that only exacerbate attrition, however – requiring firms to find even more attorneys to hire. Throwing money at associates will almost certainly mean that attorneys will have to work longer hours to cover the increase – the very thing attorneys do not want. As firms raise billable hour requirements, associates who want a life outside the office will raise up stakes and look for less demanding pastures.

Obviously, Baker Botts hopes to attract more applicants by getting in front of the pack in terms of salary. Whatever competitive recruiting advantage the salary raise gives them will vanish as all the firms match the higher salary – unless the firm raises salaries again.

The better way to attract and retain top talent is to offer attorneys the better quality of life they crave through balanced hours programs.

Research shows that for law students and laterals in the job market, work/life balance is one of the most important factors in choosing employers. According to Leigh Jones’s article, NALP reports that 78% of attorneys now leave their firms by their fifth year, and the inability to balance competing demands of work and personal obligations is frequently cited by attorneys as the reason they left their firms. This is true for both men and women. As Catalyst has reported, male and female attorneys report similar levels of work/life conflict. Moreover, an American Management Association survey of 352 companies that found employers reported more success in retaining employees by "giving them a life" than by offering more cash, according to Sue Shellenbarger of the The Wall Street Journal. Another study by Harris Interactive and the Radcliffe Public Policy Center found that slightly over 70 percent of men in their twenties and thirties said they would be willing to take lower salaries in exchange for more family time.

It would be so much cheaper to give associates time rather than money. As we set forth in Solving the Part-Time Puzzle: The Law Firm’s Guide to Balanced Hours, recruiting would be easier, attrition would go down, client relationships would stabilize, business development would improve, and productivity would increase.

There are a handful of firms that are leading the pack in terms of balanced hours. Kirkpatrick Lockhart and Dickstein are standouts. When laterals and law students call PAR and ask for the names of the best firms to work for, these are the types of firms they are looking for. I would be very surprised if they are having any difficulty with their recruiting.

-- Cynthia

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Money Isn't Everything: Bigger Salaries Are Not the Solution to Law Firm Attrition

As noted in BigLaw Associate Pay Surges in 2006 in today's New York Lawyer, the big firms have got it all wrong. While PAR is not opposed to raising salaries for junior associates who toil long hours at big law firms across the United States, throwing money at junior associates may get them in the law firm door, but it ultimately will not help firms keep them. In fact, as Ward Bower of Altman Weil points out in today's article, raising first-year salaries to $135,000 "can be ironically self-defeating." By compressing compensation for junior associates--i.e., mid-level associates are not receiving increases proportionate to what their beginning colleagues are making--the result is a "heightened incentive for new lawyers to use their hefty salaries to pay down debt quickly and bid adieu to a big firm after a few years."

Flexibility, work-life balance, and professional development are the keys to retention and what the new generation of lawyers is seeking. In PAR's view, if firms are looking for workhorses for a couple of years, then go ahead and raise salaries. Mission completed. If the goal, however, is to recruit and retain the talent in which the firm has heavily invested, then part of the equation must be the development of viable balanced hours programs that allow attorneys to have lives outside the office and maybe even some time to spend some of their six-figure incomes.


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