Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Thoughts on being a "Legal Rebel"

Many thanks to the ABA Journal for naming me a "Legal Rebel." I admit it is a little embarrassing (am I really a rebel? And surely the video did not have to freeze on that awful picture, and now everyone knows how messy my office gets when I'm writing!), but also a little pleasing (after ten years of working on the advancement of women lawyers and work/life issues, it is nice to know someone is listening).

Before my Rebel interview, I planned all sorts of things I wanted to say about PAR. Unfortunately, the interview lasted about five minutes and focused on just a couple of issues and not on the organization itself. So, here are three things I wish I could have said in my interview:

1. PAR has changed considerably from its early days. Initially, PAR was just Joan Williams and me in the District of Columbia, with a little money from the Sloan Foundation and a desire to finally solve the issue of why women weren't advancing more rapidly in law firms. Today, there are six of us with the addition of Manar Morales, Natalie Hiott-Levine, Linda Marks, and Linda Chanow -- all fabulously talented and treasured colleagues. We now have a full national reach and a budget that is about ten times bigger than our first. Our research has answered the question why women lawyers are not advancing as rapidly as they should, and we have developed and continue to develop practical solutions for women lawyers, law firms, and corporate law departments to use to help women lawyers achieve parity.

2. One thing about PAR that hasn't changed: Joan Williams remains one of the most fascinating people I've ever met. She is brilliant, and she has single-handedly moved mountains to improve the workplace for women. She changes lives -- just listen to her talk or read something she has written and see for yourself. Sharing the Director position with her at PAR has been amazing.

3. PAR has had considerable success helping lawyers and legal employers to get ahead through nonstigmatized reduced hours work and action steps to develop and promote women lawyers. We are often described as "nationally recognized experts" and a "leading voice," and I sometimes reflect on why we have been so influential. I have decided it comes down to three things: 1) our work is based on research, both our own and others'; 2) we work with all stakeholders -- lawyers, law firms/legal departments, and clients; and 3) we create practical, workable, business-based solutions. I don't think we can overlook good communication skills and a lot of long hours, but the content has to be there first.

Of course, there is a lot more I wish I could have said -- things about some of PAR's projects, the law firms and law departments that have joined PAR, and where I think PAR is headed in the future. Those may appear in future editions of this blog. In the meantime, I'm going to go be a little rebellious.


Thursday, September 24, 2009


Part-Time Partners, Full Success: PAR Releases New Study

PAR has released its part-time partner report, "Reduced Hours, Full Success: Part-Time Partners in U.S. Law Firms. Here is the press release:

Part-Time Law Partners Succeed for Clients, Firms
New Study Shows Reduced Schedules No Bar to Financial Success

Throw away those preconceived ideas about part-time partners in law firms.  The Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), a leading voice on work-life balance and women’s advancement in the law, releases a ground-breaking study showing that part-time partners are remarkably successful: they are highly responsive to their clients, generate significant revenue, and are active leaders and role models within their firms.  “A decade ago, firms typically took part-time lawyers off partnership track,” said PAR Co-Director Joan C. Williams.  “Now, thanks to the efforts PAR and others to create non-stigmatized part-time programs, these lawyers became partners and this study shows the results: a win-win scenario for partners and their firms.”

“The conventional wisdom is that attorneys who cut back their hours cut back their careers.” said Cynthia Calvert, PAR’s co-director and one of the study’s authors.  “We talked with many successful part-time partners for whom that wasn’t true.”  The key findings challenge conventional wisdom about part-time lawyers:

•           Many respondents had significant books of business, and the majority  reported spending as much or more time on business development as full-time partners;

•           Most respondents generate significant revenue, billing between 1200 and 1600 hours annually and pushing additional work down to associates;

•           Many hold leadership positions in their firms, including managing partner, executive committee member, practice group head, and members of high level committees; and

•           Client service is foremost, with the vast majority of respondents stating that they do whatever is necessary to be responsive and meet deadlines.

Clients of part-time partners are generally supportive, the study finds.  “Wal-Mart has worked with part-time partners, and we support their flexible work arrangements,” said Jeff Gearhart, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.  “We understand how important flexibility is to retention, and stable relationships with our outside counsel are good for our business.  I hope that everyone reads this report – it will open their eyes.”

More than a hundred lawyers were interviewed in depth for the groundbreaking study.  Study participants – who included 53 equity partners who work reduced hours – were asked about career history, firms, schedules, practices, clients, compensation, business development, colleagues, satisfaction, and personal lives.  PAR also interviewed more than 30 women partners of color, working both full-time and part-time, as well as managing partners.

The study’s interviews with partners of color also yielded unexpected results: 26% of the partners of color were working part-time.  Said study co-author Linda Bray Chanow, “The data demonstrates that partners of color experience significant work-life conflict.  Unfortunately, we spoke with partners of color who felt that reducing their hours would negatively impact their careers at their firms.  These women said that when part-time was stigmatized, participating was not a risk that they were willing to take, given the challenges they felt they already faced as partners of color.” 

The report concludes with best practices for structuring part-time partnership, and guidance for part-time partners.

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.  For more information or to obtain a copy of the report, visit PAR’s website at www.pardc.org.

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