Thursday, September 24, 2009
Part-Time Partners, Full Success: PAR Releases New Study
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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