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Attorney Retention Strategy: Job Sharing

Every month or so, the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) presents a new best practice for law firms looking for effective balanced hours programs that will improve retention and recruitment. This month's practice is job sharing - an arrangement that allows two attorneys to share a single position. We've previously blogged on this idea when we reported on a successful job sharing arrangement implemented by two executives at Booz Allen Hamilton. In another post, we noted that the AICPA's Journal of Accountancy cited "job sharing" as a program that can be used by accounting firms to promote work life balance. Up next: law firms

As PAR explains, in a job sharing arrangement, two attorneys share the responsibilities of one full-time position, each earning pro-rated salary and receiving full or pro-rated benefits. There are two basic job share models: the twins model and the islands model.

Attorneys who use the twins model essentially share everything - clients, projects, and responsibilities - but work on different days of the week. This model requires a high level of communication between the attorneys, but provides the benefits of consistent client coverage, two heads thinking about a legal matter for the price of one, and coverage during vacation and other leave.

In contrast, the islands model requires little reliance on the job sharing partner, as both attorneys handle their own separate caseloads, in essentially two separate jobs. The islands model provides flexibility within a law department to cover different types of practice areas that may not justify a full-time attorney, and also can be structured to assure coverage during vacation.

Part-time attorneys using job sharing arrangements report a high level of job satisfaction, and less stress - since with someone else covering for them in the office when they are "off," they don't get many, if any, calls at home.

To work, a job sharing arrangement requires a high degree of compatibility and communication between the two participating attorneys. Attorneys wishing to pursue a job sharing arrangement should prepare a detailed written proposal for their firm concerning the logistics of the arrangement. Contact PAR for resources to help with this: info@pardc.org.

According to a 2005 NALP survey, 18.4% of private law firms surveyed allow job-sharing on a case-by-case basis. Hopefully this percentage will grow as the benefits of job sharing become more widely appreciated and accepted.

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