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New Catalyst Study Finds Lawyers Still Worry About Impact of Flex Time Arrangements on Their Careers

Logo_1 Catalyst Canada has just released a new survey of 1,439 lawyers from Canadian firms (consisting of 638 women and 801 men) focusing on their perceptions of, and experiences with, flexible work arrangements. Flexible work arrangements were defined as "explicit conditions of employment involving adjustments of hours, scope, and/or place of work for a sustained period of time (mutually agreed upon) between attorneys and the firm." This definition encompasses part-time or compressed work schedules, but also arrangements such as telecommuting and job sharing.

The major finding of the study (entitled Beyond A Reasonable Doubt: Lawyers State Their Case on Job Flexibility) was that while many lawyers are interested in flexible work arrangements, they also remain worried about the effect it could have on their careers. Specifically, 65 per cent of those who said they wanted to use a flexible work arrangement were concerned that they would be seen as less committed to their firm, and more than half think that taking part in a flexible work arrangement will jeopardize their opportunities for professional growth.

Interestingly, however, there was a difference between men and women attorneys with respect to the experiences of those who had actually taken advantage of a flex time arrangement. Over 60 per cent of male attorneys stated that their participation in a flexible work arrangement had no negative effects on their opportunities for career advancement, while only 31 per cent of women attorneys shared this feeling. Catalyst Canada staff speculated that this was because men are much less likely than women to choose flexible work arrangements that entail reduced hours, and instead are utilizing flex time arrangements such as telecommuting that allow them to put in full time hours, but choose where and when they work those hours.

Among the suggestions for increasing acceptance of flexible work arrangements: making the business case for flexibility, and changing attitudes among firm management about gender, parenthood, and job flexibility.

Click here for Catalyst's press release (PDF) announcing the study.

Click here for the full study (PDF).

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