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New Statistics: Part-Time Lawyers Are Small in Number and Mostly Women

I just read a new press release by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) that I would like to share with you. Entitled “Most Lawyers Working Part-time Are Women – Overall Number of Lawyers Working Part-time Remains Small,” the release highlighted statistics featured in the 2009-2010 edition of the NALP Directory of Legal Employers. NALP discovered that 5.9 percent of lawyers worked part-time in 2009, up from 5.6 percent in 2008. This information was based on data from 1,475 individual law offices and firms and more than 140,000 lawyers. (By the way, the percentage of part-time lawyers is far below the percentage of part-time employed individuals in the U.S. workforce as a whole, which was estimated to be nearly 14 percent in 2008.)

As noted by a related article in The National Law Journal (NLJ) entitled “Number of Part-Time Attorneys Sees Slight Boost,” the increase from 5.6 percent to 5.9 percent of lawyers working part-time “reflects the fact that some lawyers — usually women — have no choice but to go on a part-time schedule or quit their jobs because of family obligations.” The percentage increase probably would have been bigger if the economy had been stronger.

Of particular importance, the NALP statistics indicate that women work on a part-time basis more than men. For example, 13 percent of women lawyers work part-time, compared to 2.4 percent of male lawyers. Approximately, 73 percent of all part-time lawyers were women — and women accounted for nearly 90 percent of part-time associates and 66.1 percent of part-time partners. The number of part-time women lawyers varied geographically. For example, approximately 16 percent of women partners worked part-time in Chicago and Washington, DC, while less than 8 percent of women partners worked part-time in New York City.

The NLJ article notes that some flex-time advocates believe that part-time schedules for lawyers should be encouraged in a weak economy. “Lawyers can get the schedule flexibility they want while firms can reduce their salary costs at a time when workloads tend to be lighter.” Plus, part-time work may reduce the need for layoffs.