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Work / Life Balance

Study Offers Tips About How Lawyers Can Succeed as Part-Time Partners

Posted Sep 23, 2009 2:35 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Conventional wisdom says that lawyers who cut back on their hours at work, often to make time for their families, also reduce their opportunities to succeed as partners, says Cynthia Calvert.

But that isn't necessarily true, according to a report (PDF) this month by the Project for Attorney Retention, where Calvert is co-director. She is also one of the ABA Journal's 50 Legal Rebels.

PAR is an initiative of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law.

PAR's study is based on in-depth interviews with more than 100 lawyers, 53 of whom are equity partners who work reduced hours, the group explains in a press release. It found that those who work as part-time partners have a substantial books of business, bring in significant revenue and often hold leadership positions in their law firms.

“A decade ago, firms typically took part-time lawyers off the partnership track,” says Joan Williams, a co-director of PAR, in the release. “Now, thanks to the efforts of PAR and others to create nonstigmatized part-time programs, these lawyers became partners, and this study shows the results: a win-win scenario for partners and their firms.”

The report offers tips about how lawyers can plan ahead to promote their success as part-time partners. Among its suggestions: Taking the time to train associates can pay big dividends, because they are then available to handle client phone calls and e-mail.

As one participant in the PAR study explains, "Ever since I was, basically, a fourth-year associate, I started developing people to support me. ... I had this really solid team, and I still do. And to get that and keep that, you really have to develop your associates and train them so that you have this backup so you don't have to physically be there all the time."

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Breaking 24/7 Work Mindset Can Aid Retention, Benefit Clients, Study Finds"

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