Survey Finds Positive Trends in Law Firm Flexibility, However Bias Continues to
WASHINGTON, DC, March 22, 2017 — While the availability of flexible work arrangements has increased in law firms, new research released by the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance (“the Alliance”) suggests that not all lawyers and staff are using the policies. The third annual Law Firm Flexibility Benchmarking Survey, released today, examines the availability and usage of flexible work policies in large U.S. law firms.
The survey found that while 26 of 28 participating firms (93 percent) have a formal written flexible work policy, the attorney usage rates remain at or below 8.8 percent for reduced hours, flexible start and end times, telecommuting, annualized hours, and job sharing. Detailed information is available in the report’s Executive Summary.
“While we are optimistic about the growing number of major U.S. law firms that have a formal flexible work policy, the usage rates are a better indicator of a culture that truly supports flex,” said Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. “For a flexibility policy to be successful it must be de-gendered, de-parented, de-stigmatized, and integrated into the cultural norms of an organization. Otherwise many employees, diverse individuals in particular, often face bias and stigma related to working flexibly,” she added. “Our vision for the future is an industry where all professionals are comfortable working flexibly and are confident that they are not impeding their career by doing so.”
Some other highlights from the report include:
– Lawyers of color and LGBT lawyers remain underrepresented among reduced hours lawyers. While the share of lawyers of color and LGBT lawyers who work flexibly increased slightly from last year, both groups are still underrepresented among reduced hours lawyers (13 percent of reduced hours lawyers are attorneys of color and 1.1 percent are LGBT.)
– Gender-Neutral Leave policies are becoming more common, however most firms still have a primary and secondary caregiver designation. Eighty-seven percent of the participating firms that have a gender-neutral leave policy include a primary and secondary caregiver designation and tier the amount of leave accordingly. The Alliance recommends that organizations remove the primary and secondary caregiver designation because it represents an antiquated view of family caregiving roles.
– While there has been an increase in firms with flex attorneys in leadership positions, flex schedules are more common among non-partnership track attorneys. Forty-three percent of participating firms have reduced hours attorneys in leadership roles including Chairs, Managing Partners, Department Chairs, and Office Heads. Yet, while 31.3 percent of Of Counsel attorneys have flex schedules, only 1.2 percent of Equity Partners have such schedules on a formal basis.
– Women constitute the largest share of reduced hours lawyers, yet continue to be underrepresented overall. Thirty-six percent of all attorneys are women, while sixty-eight percent of reduced hours attorneys are women.
The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s 2016 Flexibility Benchmarking Survey Report, which is released in full as a benefit to Alliance member firms, is designed to address the market gap in holistic data about flexibility in law firms by examining usage by gender, race, and sexual orientation in major U.S. law firms. The survey was distributed to all Alliance member firms, as well as non-member American Lawyer (“AmLaw”) 200 firms and other major U.S. law firms, in July 2016. The effective date of collected data was December 31, 2015, unless otherwise noted, and the total number of responding firms was 28, covering more than 18,000 lawyers in the U.S. alone.
The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance is a think tank that collaborates with organizations to develop non-stigmatized flexible work policies that promote inclusive work cultures and help to advance more women into leadership positions. The Alliance provides practical research-based solutions, training workshops, and strategic advisory services that increase organizational effectiveness through diversity and flexibility.
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