Summary: Recent data shows that more men, anxious to spend more time with their families, have begun seeking work with firms that offer more flexible schedules.
As the number of men in BigLaw who want to spend more time with their families increases, more firms have decided to risk a nontraditional firm model, according to Law360.com.
Many benefits touted by ânew model firmsâ are usually seen as desirable by women. These benefits include control over work hours, rate flexibility, as well as a collaborative environment. However, many of these firms have begun to attract mid- or late-career men who want to be at home more.
Michael Moradzadeh co-founded Rimon PC, a firm in Silicon Valley. He said that they had predicted the firmâs âanytimeâ theory on work schedules would be more attractive to women. However, the firm has actually drawn a number of men, who want to be able to go home for dinner or make their kidsâ after school activities.
Moradzadeh explained, â”I think a lot of people have been told that they had to choose a family or choose a sophisticated practice but they can’t have both. They’re very surprised by the fact that could have that kind of intense practice, bill at the rate they want, and still have flexibility in their own life.”
Moradzadeh himself is a father of two, with a third child on the way. He explained that, while Rimon does not promise fewer hours, it offers more control over when those hours are worked.
When paired with a lean business model, few associates, and a focus on high quality work, this type of firm usually leads to higher pay for many attorneys with practices that do not need a larger attorney population, or the broad types of experience that are usually found in national practices.
Moradzadeh remarked, âThe niche we found … is at the high end and by being a law firm with ambition,” he said. “We’ve also found it’s been very attractive to a lot of male lawyers at the top of their game, men as well as women, partners with a $1 million to $3 million practice who want to keep that going but also be there for their kids.”
Recently, as researchers examined alternative legal businesses, they found a high number of BigLaw attorneys stating that work-life balance problems triggered their move to a nontraditional firm.
Joan Williams, a University of California, Hastings College of the Law professor, said, âThere has been a sharp shift in the past 10 years where we’re seeing more lawyers say, ‘Being a good dad is about being involved in the daily care of my children, and I just don’t see that occurring in BigLaw.”
Many firms have work-life balance policies, but they have failed to make changes in the stigma felt by many female attorneys who reduced their hours or worked around family obligations. For men, the stigma may be even harsher, and has lead to an influx of attorneys into firms that advertise personal flexibility and âsmartâ work instead of spending morning, noon, and night in the office.
Williams said, âI think what we’re seeing is a powerful message for BigLaw,” she said. When profitable attorneys are ready to leave, big firms are “left with a fairly small percentage of a total labor pool that is based not on talent but on schedules, and that’s not a great place for a client service industry to be.”
Flextime and other similar policies have been established in BigLaw firms, but many attorneys do not use them.
In the most recent Best Law Firms for Women survey, the 50 best firms for women and working parents provided 15 weeks on average of paid maternity leave. New mothers used about 14 weeks of that time. Make attorneys, however, who had the option of six weeks of leave usually took just three weeks.
About one-fourth of attorneys at these firms worked on a flextime schedule. Less than half of law firm partners used remote work hours.
Williams said, âA lot of these guys are taking their clients with them and claim to be making as much or more than they were, so what’s not to like? You’ve finally got work-family options that fit in with men’s breadwinner ideology.”
Williams added that most of these men were not looking for part-time work. She explained, âTheyâre seeking 40 to 50 hours a week, they want to work from home on whatever schedule they feel they need to, to regularly be home for dinner and to be able to take their vacations.â
Patrick Lamb is a co-founder of the litigation firm Valorem Law Group. The firm depends on alternative fee arrangements. Lamb commented that there is a false belief that alternative firm structures mean less work for the attorneys. Lamb said, âI don’t see this as a work-life balance issue as much as a ‘control your own life’ issue, and my colleagues here work just as hard as anyone. What we don’t have is a ‘work for the sake of work’ mentality, and there is certainly no risk you face if you want to work at home.”
Lamb noted that many partners in new-model businesses actually take on more responsibility for clients and the business itself, when compared with BigLaw partners. Making the change âisnât an easy step,â Lamb admitted. âI don’t see this as a work-life balance issue as much as a ‘control your own life’ issue, and my colleagues here work just as hard as anyone,” he said. “What we don’t have is a ‘work for the sake of work’ mentality, and there is certainly no risk you face if you want to work at home.”
Photo credit: daddynatal.co.uk, rimonlaw.com (Moradzadeh), valoremlaw.com (Lamb)