It is rather fitting that the day America gets one step closer to finding out who will become The Voice, we get one step closer to understanding the male/female dynamic at small law firms. Well, at least we get to see the results of what over 200 small-firm attorneys have to say about what happens at their firms. Last week, I asked you to take a survey, now I’ve got some results.

Some of the results I would have predicted, but some results were surprising.

As most of you may have noticed from the tone of the survey, I assumed (based on personal experience that turns out to be the exception, not the rule) that there were very few small-firm female partners, the ones who were partners worked full-time and had delegated child-rearing to someone else. To my surprise, the survey suggests that the majority of small firms have female partners (63.6%). And, the women are adequately represented (22% of those surveyed work at firms where females make up 25% of the partners).

Let’s unpack some more numbers…

The part-time situation is (somewhat) more in line with my experience. The survey found that while over 50% of small firms have a part-time policy, only about a quarter of small firms have part-time partners. The part-timer partners, however, are not all female (12.8% are male) and they are not all mothers — almost 12% are not. The part-time associates are not all mothers either, 29% are not.

There are several small firms who have made workable part-time policies. Only 5% of respondents reported that their firms required part-time attorneys to be in the office 5 days a week, 35% of firms allow part-time attorneys to become partners and 33% of respondents reported that the part-time attorneys are not viewed as second class citizens.

What should we take away from this survey? A number of small firms are exploring part-time policies (for both men and women) and finding workable solutions. I think this is great news, but personally I think small firms should be even more accommodating to non-traditional work arrangements. Small firms pride themselves on their ability to innovate and offer unique solutions for clients. Shouldn’t they do the same for their associates? Luckily, many of them are.

If you have views on part-time attorneys/partners at small firms, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you have suggestions on how to improve the situation for part-timers I am all ears. And, if you can explain to me what was up with that awful Team Blake/Team Xtina group number, I AM DYING TO HEAR FROM YOU.


When not writing about small law firms for Above the Law, Valerie Katz (not her real name) works at a small firm in Chicago. You can reach her by email at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ValerieLKatz.


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