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Reduced Hours for Associates Instead of Layoffs?
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Billable Hour watchThe Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), an initiative of the Center for WorkLife Law at University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, is suggesting to struggling law firms that they cut associate hours rather than laying off lawyers completely.

“I think if firms aren’t thinking about such a program, they really should,” consultant Charles Santangelo told the NLJ. “A number of firms are already talking about it, and it’s happening for some paralegals. It may or may not work, but they should consider it.”

The PAR has long advocated for reduced hours as a way for law firms to retain attorneys, particularly women and minorities.

  
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Associates working reduced hours would see corresponding reductions in their compensation, which would help firms cut their costs without firing associates.

It remains to be seen if the reduced-hours schedule idea will catch on with law firms.

The PAR does not have any statistics on the number of firms using reduced hours as a response to the economy, because the trend is fairly new. But a growing number of firms have contacted the PAR since this summer to ask about reduced hours and how such a program could be implemented.

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Michael Nannes of Dickstein Shapiro said he doesn’t foresee a wave of law firms looking to reduced hours solely as a cost-savings move. The reality, he says, is that having associates work fewer hours doesn’t provide the same level of savings as layoffs.

It costs a law firm less to have three associates working 2,000 than to have four associates working 1,500 hours because the law firm must pay for office space and benefits for that fourth, reduced-hours associate. That added cost is eliminated in the layoff scenario.



On the other hand, Nannes said, clients value continuity among attorneys, and reducing associate hours would help protect the continuity that is disrupted by the layoff process.

Via NLJ.



 

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