Friday, January 30, 2009


PAR Conference: Advancing Women Lawyers in Turbulent Times

Registration is now open for PAR's second annual conference: Strategies for Advancing Women Lawyers in Turbulent Times on March 5, 2009 on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. As you can see from the agenda, it is going to be fabulous. Outstanding speakers, cutting-edge issues, and armloads of practical information will be featured. Here's the agenda:

8:30 Registration

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
10:00 Strategies for Facilitating WorkLife Balance in a Faltering Economy

Leslie Turner, Coca Cola
María Meléndez, Sidley & Austin
Emily Finn, Latham & Watkins
Moderator - Carter DeLorme, Jones Day

11:15 Break

11:30 This is How We Do It - Roundtable discussions on Facilitating WorkLife Balance

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

3:45 Break

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

Joan C. Williams, PAR
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.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Article about part-time v. layoffs now available online

If you want to read the NLJ article that started this topic, it is now available online without a subscription: Layoff Alternative: Reducing Associate Hours.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Valid objection to the reduced hours in lieu of layoffs proposal?

We said we would discuss a possibly valid objection to PAR's suggestion that law firms consider reducing associates' hours in lieu of layoffs, so in the interest of robust debate, here goes.

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

Yesterday, we acknowledged that PAR's suggestion that law firms reduce the hours of their associates in lieu of lay offs has its imperfections. We're going to disclose those, but first we would like to look at the objections raised by others thus far.

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

Yesterday, we summarized an article in the National Law Journal that examined PAR's recommendation that law firms consider having associates work part-time as an alternative to laying them off. (Cost-saving option for firms: reduced hours, by Karen Sloan, Jan. 05, 2009; subscription required.)

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

We've launched a new initiative here at PAR: the Diversity and Flexibility Connection. The Connection will bring together the best research of the diversity and flexibility fields, with the aim of creating real progress on both fronts.

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:


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

# # #

Watch PAR's website for updates.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Reduced Hours as an alternative to Layoffs?

In today's National Law Journal, Karen Sloan explores an idea advanced by PAR: law firms should consider offering nonstigmatized reduced hours schedules to associates as an alternative to layoffs. (Cost-saving option for firms: reduced hours, by Karen Sloan, Jan. 05, 2009; subscription required.) Here's a brief summary for those of you who don't subscribe:

Sloan has done a nice job of laying out both sides of the issue, and we hope that frank conversations will result in law firms that are facing the need to cut costs due to declining workloads. Tomorrow, we will explore the topic a bit more in this space. In the meantime, if your firm is considering reduced hours in lieu of layoffs, please drop us a line and let us know.

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