Monday, November 15, 2004

This morning a sixth-year associate announced that she'll be moving to a "part-time" schedule because she wants to spend more time with her year-old daughter. She's in for a surprise. Part-time has been the biggest boon for the firm since we instituted the policy a few years ago, reluctantly, since a number of our peer firms had done it. What we didn't realize at the time, but has become abundantly clear now, it that all part-time means is that people work 100% of the time they used to work for 80% of the pay. It's a profit center. It's fantastic. Technically, the people working part time don't come in on Fridays. That's the part-time part of it, the 80%. But their clients come in on Friday, and the partners in charge of their cases come in on Friday, and meetings get scheduled on Fridays. So they end up spending a few hours working from home on Friday, so as to not get behind. But then they usually end up coming in over the weekend to catch up too, and in some cases they're here more weekends than the people working full-time. Their "flexibility" just means they substitute some weekend hours for Friday hours, they work just as hard, but they get 20% less salary, and lose pretty much any chance to ever make partner. The truth they don't realize is they could work from home on Fridays as a full-timer anyway if they were careful about which partners they ended up working for. I won't usually tolerate it, but a lot of people here would have no problem if the work product was good. But I think in a way they know this when they go on part-time schedule. They know they're going to work just as hard. They want to work just as hard. But they're willing to spend 20% of their salary just to be able to tell themselves, and everyone they meet, that they work "part-time" for the good of their children. That they're making some sort of sacrifice. It's self-delusion, and it makes them feel better about putting their career first if they can tell their husband / friends / hair stylist that they only work "part-time" and they're giving up such magnificent career opportunities all so they can get by with only one nanny instead of two. Pathetic. But the firm loves it now. The more the merrier.

At my firm I believe part-time associates are paid on an hourly basis in such a way so that its actually not in the firm's financial interest to make part-timers work full-time.
Being able to work "part-time" is a complete fiction, I can't believe anyone buys into it. The only thing I've heard work at all well is when someone works full time for a few months and then takes off a few months.
11:11-- And then they return to find they have no clients?
Hmmm, good point. I only know what self-interested attorneys tell me during recruiting events. ("There are plenty of partners who have worked part-time!" "Don't worry that I am calling from the office at 2 a.m. on a Saturday, very unusual.")
There is an associate at my firm who is on a part-time schedule (she doesn't work Fridays). I saw the monthly billing breakdowns for the entire year, and she bills just as much as I do, and I am here M-F, and usually at some point over the weekend. She just brings her work home; I can call her on a Friday, and ask questions, and she typically calls me when she is not in because her office is right near mine and she sometimes forgets to bring home some papers or a phone number. Since the legal profession is not some 9-5 job where you clock in and clock out, part-time is meaningless. Technically, if I went on vacation for half of a week, I would be "part-time" but still getting paid full time. Why would I give that up? We have another partner with kids. She works here full-time, but just works from home until 10 or 11 am. With phone and email, it is always full-time.
Your life sounds like poop.
I don't know if it's presumptuous to say this. But how can said associate not be in the know about the actual hours that the part-time arrangement entails? Especially since she's been there for like 6 years? For a start, she could observe the hours put in by those already on the schedule, well unless she prefers to trade her weekend hours for a free Friday.
How is Anonymous Wife?
To 5:48 p.m.
To 5:48,
AL said that part-timers know they are going to work just as hard as the full-timers, but nevertheless they sacrifice their salary at the bourgeois alter of faux family values.
Here's what AL wrote:
They know they're going to work just as hard. They want to work just as hard. But they're willing to spend 20% of their salary just to be able to tell themselves, and everyone they meet, that they work "part-time" for the good of their children.
Ahhh... I see.

Thank you, 2.48pm for clearing that up.
I've heard women complaining about this, but I've never heard an employer admit it, or suggest working at home as an alternative. Thanks AL, interesting post.

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