New Survey Shows Promising Trends in Law Firms’ Commitment To Flexible Work Schedules
WASHINGTON, DC: February 9, 2016 – A new report released by the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance (the “Alliance”) shows an uptick in the share of law firms that have formalized flexible work policies. The Alliance’s 2015 Flexibility Benchmarking Survey Report reveals that virtually all – 92 percent – of participating firms have formal, written flexible work policies that include one or more of the following: reduced hours schedules, telecommuting, flexible start/end times, annualized hours, or job sharing. Reduced hour schedules are the most common offered and used type of flexibility, with reduced hours lawyers making up just over eight percent of lawyers at participant firms with a reduced hours policy. This statistic tracks the 2014 survey results.
Other key findings of the survey include:
– A majority of participants report having more than one type of flexible work as part of their formal policy. Yet, full-time flexibility usage, which includes telecommuting and flexible start/end times, has fallen relative to the 2014 survey results. All participant firms, however, report that they have lawyers who telecommute informally.
– Women constitute the largest share of reduced hours lawyers (68%) yet continue to be underrepresented among participant law firm attorneys overall, relative to their share of law school graduates. Lawyers of color and LGBT lawyers are generally underrepresented among flex lawyers relative to their share of lawyers overall at participant firms.
– Just under half of the participant firms report having a flexibility program manager, but slightly more than half have partners who serve as ambassadors for the flexibility program.
The report also shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of firms that have committed to an automatic (but voluntary), gradual return to work after a leave (called “on-ramping”). “Consistent with Alliance guidance on on-ramping, these firms demonstrate an understanding that making on-ramping automatic helps to retain top talent in a relatively inexpensive way at a pivotal point in an attorney’s career,” says Manar Morales, Alliance President & CEO. “As with on-ramping, we will continue to provide research and solutions that firms can use to promote greater usage of holistic flexibility – that is, reduced hours and full-time forms of flexibility – on a formalized, trackable basis, which will help to reduce stigma and foster consistent expectations and experiences around flexibility,” she adds.
Another important finding of the survey is that reduced hours lawyers made up 8.4% of those promoted to partnership in firms that promoted both full-time and reduced hours lawyers to partnership in 2014. In addition, reduced hours schedules are also represented among firm leadership in 10 participant firms, including firm chairs, practice group leaders, and office heads.
“The goal of this survey is to provide the legal market with data on flexibility programs to promote the retention and advancement of top, diverse talent in the legal profession,” says Morales. “While we still have a great deal of work to do before all law firms have effective and inclusive cultures that leverage diversity and flexibility, these promotion and leadership data in particular indicate a gradual shift away from outdated bias towards flex schedules,” she adds.
The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s 2015 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. Alliance member firms in the United States, as well as non-member firms, were invited to participate in the survey. Twenty-five firms completed the survey, encompassing over 18,000 lawyers in the U.S., and the data reflect an effective date of December 31, 2014.
The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance is a think tank dedicated to creating work environments centered on inclusion and innovative thought leadership. The Alliance provides practical solutions that increase organizational effectiveness and create high performance cultures leveraging diversity and flexibility.
The report’s Executive Summary and more information about the Alliance can be found at dfalliance.com.
President & CEO