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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why Part-Time Is Big Time

Lego Office
(Image by Gerard Bierens, CC by-nc-nd)

Cynthia Thomas Calvert over at the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) blog has a response to my recent Dicta column (Rare Birds). She explains why men and part-time schedules are an important indicator:

Why the big emphasis on the number of male part-time lawyers? Two reasons: first, PAR has identified the number of males working part-time as a key indicator of the health of a firm's part-time program. If males at your firm are afraid to reduce their hours, then your firm's part-time program is too stigmatized to be an effective recruiting and retention tool for any lawyers. Second, it is very important for males to be able to have work/life balance, as PAR has been advising for years through its principle of "universal application" for part-time programs. It is important for their mental health, for their families' lives, and for eventual gender equality.

On the last point, please see Monica Bay, Bob Abrogi, Chere Estrin, and this August U.S. Census report (PDF) on the 51% across-the-board gender pay gap in the legal profession. I don't know how you address this until the male part-time stigma goes away and work-life balance begins to mean the same thing regardless of gender. (E.g., having a ready book stash under your desk to occupy little ones during a quick morning blog post...)

Cynthia links to PAR's chart tracking (among other things) the number of part-time men and women at various firms, which is interesting to scroll through. There are zero to a small percentage of part-time men at most firms, though at Alston and Fullbright for example it's a dead heat, and at Arent Fox part-time men outnumber women. As Cynthia points out, "perhaps not all [of these part-time men] are dads, and perhaps some are working part-time as they near retirement, but their numbers both show and contribute to a change in law firm culture." She says PAR is "in the midst of a study of part-time partners, and the part-time dad partners are lining up to be interviewed," so we can look forward to that. In the meantime, thanks to all the male lawyers who've emailed to say they're looking forward to the de-stigmatization of part-time work for men, and/or that they've abandoned BigLaw to chart their own, more participatory course.

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