Forget the bluster about firms accommodating flexible schedules to help lawyers balance professional and family life. The fact is that part-time lawyering is still a rarity at firms and is showing little sign of increase.
A new survey by NALP, formerly the National Association for Law Placement, shows that part-time partners and associates made up 5.6 percent of lawyers at about 1,500 law offices nationally in 2008. That's marginally up from 5.4 percent in 2007 and 4.7 percent in 2005.
And, as has been the case since NALP began gathering statistics, women make up the vast majority of part-timers: 74 percent in 2008. Among women lawyers, 12.8 percent work part time, compared with 2 percent of men. Part-timers make up 12 percent of women partners and 9.7 percent of women associates
Though 98 percent of firms polled say they permit part-time schedules, at least on a case-by-case basis, 52 percent of those with a part-time option do not offer it to entry-level associates. In fact, in the 15 years that NALP has analyzed the data, part-time associate positions have risen barely 1 percent, from 4 percent in 1994 to 4.9 percent in 2008.
The growth rate among part-time partners over the same period has been somewhat greater: from 1.2 percent in 1994 to 3.2 percent in 2008.
The highest rate of part-time work is among of counsel and staff attorneys, almost 20 percent in 2008, up from 17 percent in 2006, the first year that NALP acquired comparable information.
The survey showed wide variation in the availability of part-time employment in different geographic areas. Part-time lawyers are more than twice as common in Chicago and Washington, D.C., at over 4 percent, as they are in New York City, at 1.9 percent.
Part-time partners were found to be most common, at between 6 percent and 7 percent, in Portland, Ore., San Diego and San Francisco. Part-time associates were most common, at between at 8 percent and 10 percent, in Cincinnati, Raleigh, N.C., Richmond, Va., and Seattle.
The survey data for northern New Jersey, including Newark, show 2.1 percent of partners and 6.6 percent of associates are part-timers. For other areas of New Jersey, part-time partners made up 3.6 percent of those polled and associates 5.8 percent.
All of the part-time partners in northern New Jersey are women, as are 91 percent of the part-time associates. In the rest of the state, 75 percent of part-time partners and 93.5 percent of part-time associates are women.
NALP director of research Judith Collins says surveys on part-timers before 2006 did not include data on men, but she says she doubts the ratio has much changed.