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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