Professionals seek flexible or alternative schedules for a variety of reasons, including as a means of balancing work and family life. Alternative schedules can include non-traditional work schedules, telecommuting, extended workweeks, condensed workweeks, part-time work and job sharing. In 2010 and 2020, women were more likely than men to work alternative schedules irrespective of employment type. However, between 2010 and 2020, the proportion of lawyers who work flexible schedules in Utah declined slightly from 27% to 20%.
In 2010, there were significant gender differences in use of alternative arrangements with 45% of women and 19% of men working alternative schedules. However, the gap diminished over time. In 2020, 52% of women and 42% of men reported working an alternative schedule. In terms of part-time work, women are more likely than men to work part-time schedules; 12% of women work part-time compared to only 7% of men.
Looking back I’m not sure [a reduced hour track] was the best approach to take because I took myself out, took a pay cut. And I’m doing a lot of what most people are doing for partnership anyways but not getting the credit for it... I’m treated a bit differently. My time outside of the office is respected a bit more but I am treated differently. I’m not given assignments that will help me advance.
Several women solo practitioners emphasized the benefits of flexibility of that career type. Many described the ways self-employment was ideal for balancing work and family life. However, among solo practitioners in Utah, women remain underrepresented (7%) compared to men (13%). Many of the solo practitioners explained that they face a tradeoff between greater flexibility and lower earnings. With the high student loan debt facing many law graduates, self-employment may be unequally accessible to new lawyers.
In 2020, men and women lawyers were equally likely to indicate a desire to work alternative schedules. Importantly, the environment for seeking an alternative schedule has improved slightly over time. In 2010, a majority (54%) of attorneys indicated that they would feel uncomfortable requesting an alternative schedule. By 2020, however, only 42% indicated discomfort.
Interviewees expressed concern that some alternative or reduced schedules represent a double-edged sword. Several indicated that those who take a reduced schedule risk losing out on high quality assignments, being denied partnership and facing a greater risk of being fired. Still others noted that a reduced schedule often results in a full-time workload with reduced pay and fewer benefits.