Friday, January 30, 2009
PAR Conference: Advancing Women Lawyers in Turbulent Times
9:00 Keynote: Does it Pay to Advance Women Lawyers during Turbulent Times?
Joan C. Williams, PAR
9:30 Reduced Hours, Full Success? Interim Report on PAR's Part-Time Partner Study
Linda Chanow and Linda Marks, PAR
Leslie Turner, Coca Cola
María Meléndez, Sidley & Austin
Emily Finn, Latham & Watkins
Moderator - Carter DeLorme, Jones Day
Table heads: Karen Lockwood, Howrey; Linda Oliver, Hogan & Hartson; Mara Senn, Arnold & Porter; Monica Parham, Crowell Moring; Ellen Ostrow , Lawyers Life Coach; Ida Abbott, Ida Abbott Consulting; MJ Tocci, Fulcrum Advisors; Natalie Hiott-Levine, PAR.
12:30 Lunch, sponsored by Major, Lindsey & Africa
1:30 Eliminating Hidden Gender Bias in the Legal Workplace
Cynthia Thomas Calvert, PAR
Consuela Pinto, PAR
Moderator: Kate Fritz, Fenwick & West
2:45 Diversity & Flexibility Connection: The Law Department Experience
Teri McClure, UPS
James Potter, Del Monte
Laura Stein, Clorox
Moderator: Manar Morales, PAR
4:00 How Law Firms Compensate Women Lawyers
Lisa Horowitz, National Association of Women Lawyers
Christine A. Edwards, Winston & Strawn
Cynthia Thomas Calvert, PAR
4:50 Closing Remarks
The cost is only $199 for the full-day conference, lunch, and materials. Seating is limited (last year's conference filled quickly). PAR members, who get two free admissions to the event, will have priority and then admission will be first-come, first-served based on registration date. If you agree that this is a can't-miss event, register asap here.Joan C. Williams, PAR
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Article about part-time v. layoffs now available online
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Valid objection to the reduced hours in lieu of layoffs proposal?
The slowed economy is giving law firms a reason to make cuts in the associate ranks that they should have already made, regardless of their financial position. For whatever reason -- the need for warm bodies to do work or aversion to terminations -- firms have continued the employment of associates whom they knew did not have a future with the them. To the extent cuts should have happened anyway, we agree that reducing hours is not a good alternative to layoffs.
Now that we've looked at the pros and cons, we'd like to hear back from you. Is your firm using reduced hours as an alternative to layoffs? If you're in law firm management, is it something you're considering? If you're an associate, would you be willing to reduce your hours and compensation in exchange for continued employment? You can comment here on the blog, or comment privately through our website.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Looking more closely at the reduced hours v. layoffs proposal
First, in the article in the National Law Journal about PAR's proposal (Cost-saving option for firms: reduced hours, by Karen Sloan, Jan. 05, 2009; subscription required), the chair of Dickstein Shapiro, Mike Nannes, was reported to have said that having associates work fewer hours doesn't provide the same level of savings as layoffs. The example given in the article is that it costs a firm less to have three associates billing 2000 hours each than to have four associates billing 1500 hours each because the firm must pay for office space and benefits for the additional reduced hours associate.
While we don't want to disagree with Mike, we want to take a minute to look behind the example. The rent cost doesn't strike us as being a compelling argument because the law firm is likely going to have to continue to pay for that office under its lease whether the office is occupied or not, at least in the near term. The benefits issue is harder to argue with; while some firms pro-rate benefits or have part-time lawyers pay a portion of their benefits, the trend at large law firms is to pay full benefits to part-time lawyers. But the fact that the firm would have to pay for the benefits package of the fourth retained associate is not the end of the matter; we need to take the next step and compare the cost of that benefits package and the costs associate with laying off the associate and later hiring and training a replacement when the economy improves. Given that it costs firms $200,000 - $500,000 to replace a mid-level associate, the firm is likely better off just paying the fourth associate's benefits.
The second objection was also raised in the article. Douglas Richardson, a consultant with Altman Weil, posits that clients may feel they are wasting their money if a large number of part-time associates rotate in and out of their matters. The clients would be concerned, he said, about whether they were paying to bring more associates up to speed because of the reduced hours structure.
This objection also has an answer. Many clients limit the number of lawyers they let bill on their matters, so having a large number of associates working on one matter is an unlikely staffing scenario. More to the point, layoffs are more likely to increase the number of lawyers working on matter -- if the associate who is working on a matter is laid off, he or she will have to be replaced. And if there is another round of layoffs... One of the reasons PAR has proposed reduced hours in lieu of layoffs is to maintain stability in client service by retaining the associates who are performing the work.
Richardson's second objection is dead on. He says that it would be hard to convince associates to reduce their hours because of the perception that part-time schedules are career killers. PAR has spent years researching the stigma associated with part-time schedules and its solutions. It is an uphill battle, and while we see progress, stigma is still a very real issue at most firms. Stigma can be reduced by the way the firm implements the reduced hours program, and by implementation of the best practices PAR has detailed in its reports and its book Solving the Part-Time Puzzle (NALP 2004). We will outline some of these steps in a later post as a handy reference for firms that are considering adopting PAR's proposal.
There is another objection that has not yet been raised that we think has some validity. We'll discuss that tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
More on reduced hours as an alternative to layoffs
Essentially, PAR's idea is this: if a law firm or practice group is experiencing a shortage of billable work, it can project the number of attorney hours it expects to need and encourage associates to reduce their hours, with a commensurate reduction in compensation, to a level that matches the projected need. For example, a practice group may decide that for the next six months, it expects to have about 4300 billable hours of work. If the practice group has six associates, it may conclude that it needs to lay off two associates and keep four associates who will bill about 45 hours per week. The alternative would be for all six associates to remain with the firm and bill 30 hours per week and receive two-thirds of their salaries.
Why is the reduced hours alternative any better than layoffs? First, it allows the firm to keep associates it has worked to hire and train, and when the economy improves (we're optimists), these associates can ramp up their hours quickly and handle the additional work. If the firm lays off associates, the firm will have a lag time before it can handle a significant amount of work as it hires new associates and gets them up to speed. The firm will also have to bear the costs associated with the layoffs and the costs associated with hiring new associates and training them.
Second, keeping as many associates as possible will maintain good client service. Clients tell PAR that they don't like having the associates on their cases repeatedly replaced; clients not only pay to get the new associates up to speed, but they invest time and effort in developing personal relationships with them and gain efficiencies as the associates become familiar with their business. Keeping the associates who have relationships with clients is a big plus for all involved.
Finally, keeping the associates improves intangibles such as productivity and reputation. The retained associates feel more secure in their jobs, feel more loyalty toward their firm, and can focus on being productive rather than worrying about when the ax will fall. The firm gains a reputation for being humane and creative, which helps in future recruiting.
Is the reduced hours alternative a perfect solution? Of course not. Tomorrow, we will look at some of the common objections and assess their validity.
PAR Announces the Diversity and Flexibility Connection
One of the most significant aspects of the Connection is that it will also bring together prominent general counsels and managing partners for frank and in depth face-to-face discussions about how law firms and law departments can work together to support each other to make the legal profession more inclusive for women and minority lawyers.
Here's our press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
General Counsels and Managing Partners to Meet
for Diversity and Flexibility Initiative
SAN FRANCISCO, January 6, 2009: Today, the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) launched the Diversity and Flexibility Connection with key general counsels and law firm managing partners. "There is a fundamental connection that has not been made at our nation's law firms that PAR is now in a strategic position to explore, and that is the connection between work/life strategies and diversity objectives," said Joan Williams, co-director of PAR. "We are very excited and greatly appreciative to have twelve distinguished general counsels participating in the Connection. Their involvement is a testament to the benefits both law firms and clients can gain from this broadened approach."
Although research shows that diversity programs need to include a work/life component in order to be successful, until now, diversity and work/life programs have largely been treated separately. "PAR is connecting carefully selected law firm managing partners and general counsels who are in positions to create real change," noted Williams. "This high level group will have frank, moderated discussions about how in-house and outside counsel can work together in an approach that incorporates the most effective tactics from both diversity and flexibility efforts."
PAR has selected, based on their leadership and commitment to diversity, the following general counsels to participate in the Connection:
Dennis J. Broderick, Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, Macy's Inc.
Catherine A. Lamboley, Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary (retired), Shell Oil Company
Thomas A. Mars, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Michele Coleman Mayes, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Allstate Insurance Company
Teri Plummer McClure, Senior Vice President of Legal Compliance and Public Affairs, General Counsel & Secretary, United Parcel Service
Roderick A. Palmore, Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, General Mills Inc.
James Potter, Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, Del Monte Foods Company
Thomas L. Sager, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, DuPont Company
Douglas G. Scrivner, General Counsel, Secretary & Compliance Officer, Accenture
Laura Stein, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, The Clorox Company
Leslie M. Turner, General Counsel CCNA, The Coca-Cola Company
Danette Wineberg, Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, The Timberland Company
The general counsels will invite twelve managing partners from firms that have a demonstrated commitment to diversity and work/life issues to participate in meetings. Topics to be discussed at the meetings include shared objectives for diversity, the role work/life issues play in diversity, major issues that affect women's advancement, and how corporate counsel and law firms can best work together to achieve inclusion through flexible scheduling. After initial discussions, the Connection will produce best practices and action steps for law departments and law firms. PAR will also assist with the establishment of metrics to measure the progress that results from the initiative.
PAR's Connection will complement the work of other influential groups and initiatives that are working to increase diversity and flexibility in law firms and to strengthen law firm/client relationships, such as A Call to Action, the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, the Association of Corporate Counsel's Value Challenge, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and the National Association of Women Lawyers. In consultation with these groups and building on their work, the Connection will bring together diversity and flexibility research and best practices that until now have been viewed as distinct. In keeping with PAR's hallmark, the Connection also will develop practical action steps and solutions for law firms and their clients that will achieve inclusion for all lawyers. PAR will release a report of the Connection's work and recommendations in the fall of 2009.
PAR, a nonprofit organization that studies the advancement of women lawyers and work/life issues for all lawyers, is headquartered at UC Hastings College of the Law. Its co-directors are Joan C. Williams, distinguished professor of law at Hastings, and Cynthia Thomas Calvert, a former law firm litigation partner. PAR is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and other grantors, and by its law department and law firm members. For more information, visit PAR's website at www.pardc.org.
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Monday, January 05, 2009
Reduced Hours as an alternative to Layoffs?
- PAR and several law firm consultants are recommending that law firms look seriously at implementing reduced hours programs to manage their workforce and protect their reputations during the down economy. Many firms have laid off attorneys in recent months due to a lack of work. Linda Bray Chanow, PAR's Director of Research, said that associates would work fewer hours and receive proportionally reduced compensation, which would allow firms to lower their costs without losing their associates. The proposal is a business initiative, according to PAR Co-Director Cynthia Thomas Calvert. (Okay, the article really said that Calvert was the assistant director at PAR. But we're taking the liberty here of setting the record straight while we're summarizing.)
- The article quotes Linda Headley, shareholder at Littler Mendelson, as saying that although her firm has not had to consider layoffs, if it were facing the issue, it would look at all of its options to preserve its talent. She noted that it is hard to get talented lawyers, and worth working to keep them. Michael Nannes, chairman of Dickstein Shapiro, is reported to have said that although firms use flex-time programs to accommodate changes in lawyers' lives, he doesn't think many firms will reduce hours to cut costs because reduced hours do not result in the same savings as layoffs. An example given is the a firm has to continue to provide office space to attorneys working reduced hours. Nannes also noted, however, that clients want continuity in their outside lawyers, and the reduced hours alternative would maintain client relationships.
- Chanow, the article continues, notes that the reduced hours alternative gives firms the ability to handle increases in workloads by recalling some associates to full-time. She also notes that the alternative will maintain diversity among firms' associates, because the young associates who are most likely to be laid off are also most likely to be the firms' most diverse lawyers. Charles Santangelo of Hildebrandt International adds that firms that use reduced hours in lieu of layoffs will earn their associate's loyalty and make future recruiting easier. Douglas Richardson of Altman Weil questions whether clients may feel they are not getting value if a number of associates work on their matters.
- Two final issues are raised in the article. The first is stigma. Calvert notes that the perception that reduced hours schedules are career-enders needs to be addressed by firms in order for the layoff alternative to be successful. The second is whether the reduced scheduling should be voluntary or mandatory. While PAR recommends voluntary programs, Richardson recommends that the programs be mandatory to avoid the reluctance of associates to reduce their hours. He suggests that firms spell out the terms under which reduced hours schedules could return to full-time in the future.