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Percentage of part-time lawyers at major firms drops slightly in ‘post-recessionary trend’

Posted Feb 27, 2014 10:49 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Only 6.1 percent of lawyers working in major law firms were working part-time last year, and 70 percent of those part-timers were women, according to the National Association for Law Placement.

Only 2.8 percent of all male lawyers worked part-time, compared to 12.9 percent of female lawyers, according to a NALP press release. The percentage of part-time women lawyers has dropped from 2012, when 13.5 percent were working part time, and increased slightly for male lawyers from the prior year, when 2.7 percent worked part-time. Nearly all major law firms in most markets allow part-time work, either as a policy or on a case-by-case basis.

The 6.1 percent working part-time represents a decline from 2010, when 6.4 percent of all lawyers were working part-time, according to this January 2011 news release.

NALP executive director James Leipold notes the decline. “Given the direction the data is heading, I feel confident calling this a post-recessionary trend at this point," he said in the press release. "We can identify the trend but we cannot say why it is happening. It may be that in this economic climate there is a perceived pressure to not utilize the part-time option. There may also be economic concerns for families that are driving more lawyers to choose to work full-time.”

The percentage of lawyers working part-time lags behind that of the U.S. workforce as well as for those employed in professional positions, the press release says. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 13.7 percent of people employed in 2012 usually worked part-time, as did 13.1 percent of people working in professional specialties as a whole, a category that included architects, engineers, lawyers and physicians.

The NALP data comes from the NALP Directory of Legal Employers, which lists mostly larger law firms.

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