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Work Life Winner: Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham: A Balanced Hours Policy That Works

KirkpatrickWhile most major law firms have flex-time policies on the books, the sad truth is that most don't work well in practice. Among the problems cited by attorneys who take advantage of such policies are "hours creep" (i.e., actual hours worked exceed hours budgeted) and a cultural bias at firms against part-timers in terms of partnership. As a result, just 4 percent of lawyers work part time, compared with about 14 percent of professionals in engineering, medicine, or architecture (source: Association for Legal Career Professionals).

Not so at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham, a law firm with 1,000 lawyers that says that "dozens" of lawyers work reduced hours and that their numbers have risen 40 percent since January 2006.  The firm's secret? According to a recent article in The Boston Globe, an in-house advocate to help people find the right part-time arrangement for their needs, broker the change with management, and monitor its success (as we've mentioned in the past, hiring such an advocate - often referred to as a "balanced hours coordinator" - is a "best practice" strongly advocated by the Project for Attorney Retention for firms looking to reduce turnover - see prior post here).

It's also significant that working part time at Kirkpatrick won't ruin a lawyer's chance at partnership. Take Kirkpatrick partner Irene Freidel who made partner at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart in 2000 as a part-timer, but then quit in 2004 due to a lack of flexibility, especially when it came to telecommuting. Now she is back at work four days a week, including two telecommuting from home, pursuant to a schedule that she worked out with Roslyn Pitts, the firm's balanced hours coordinator.

Balanced hour coordinators are a win-win for both attorneys and the firms that hire them. Kudos to Kirkpatrick for paving the way - a true Work Life Winner.

See the complete Boston Globe article on Kilpatrick's balanced hours program here.

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