The Georgia Association for Women Lawyers recently released a new survey entitled IT’S ABOUT TIME II: Examining Flexible Work Arrangements from the Attorney’s and the Firm’s Perspective – A Study of Part-time Policies in Georgia Law Firms, which studies the challenges facing women lawyers who must juggle work and other responsibilities.
The report concluded that flexible work arrangements are crucial to gaining and retaining female lawyers. It also found that women make up half of the law school graduates, but only 17 percent of partners in law firms.
Of the approximately 400 lawyers surveyed across 84 Georgia law firms, more than 60 percent of the female attorneys leaving law firms cite needing a different schedule or, more generally speaking, professional dissatisfaction. Almost all of the respondents look favorably on firms allowing for part-time and/or flexible work schedules.
New York attorney Susan Dempsey, who has practiced full-time at Monfort, Healy, McGuire and Salley in the Garden City for about 20 years, noted that managing her family and job takes a understanding or partnership and being a little creative.
“You have a little bit of flexibility with billable hours,” Dempsey explains. “If you work around your conferences and [deposition] you can include the important things with your kids.”
One of those things for Dempsey, when her son William was younger, was doing lunch duty once every three weeks. While some people in the office would jokingly ask her if she brought back any macaroni and cheese, she says that she never had to specifically tell people where she was going or have her schedule reviewed.
“It takes a partnership with the firm,” she adds. “You have to make sure you keep up your end.”
But Dempsey says that once she established a level of trust with her firm, she could handle serving macaroni and arguing her cases. She was able to, as she put it, “keep multiple balls in the air.”