Why Female Lawyers Switch Firms?

May 17, 2009

Female lawyers are more likely to quit their job if their company does not offer them flexible work schedules, found a new survey of women lawyers that was released earlier this week. The Rutgers University's Center for Women and Work presented the results of a survey that was carried out for the U.S. New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission Council on Gender Parity in Labor and Education that makes the case for law firms that provide their employees with work and personal life balance.

Almost two-thirds of more than 520 female lawyers who took part in a survey, said that they were satisfied with the hours at their current jobs and the ability to integrate work with family life. However, almost half of them reported that they had to switch firms in the last seven years in order to find the job that fit their needs the most; nearly 25 per cent changed employers twice. Of those who made a move, 70 per cent said that their former employers were not supportive of full-time flexible options, or the option to work from home from time to time, whereas only 30 per cent described their current boss as not supportive of such arrangements.

The most common reason for dissatisfaction with a previous employer, reported by 41 per cent of the surveyors was a generation gap in which senior women partners, who started their careers in late 80s, when women lawyers were rare and they had to be more men than the men themselves. Poor promotion opportunity was the second main reason for quitting, cited by 40 per cent of the respondents.

The surveyors were allowed to state more than one reason. These were followed by 33 per cent wishing for better wages or benefits at the next job, and more challenging work opportunities, cited by 30 per cent. Next came explicit work/life worries - long work hours (30 per cent), difficulty to combine work with family or personal life (29 per cent), and a lack of flexible schedule at workplace (29 per cent).

Thirty-four per cent of female lawyers in the study said that they did not expect to make any partner, another 34 per cent reported that they did not know whether they would make partner or not, and 32 per cent predicted that they would make partner. The women also reported to be uncertain about the length of the partnership path.

Nearly 50 per cent of the lawyers in the survey reported that their firms allowed flexible hours so they could work part-time, work from home, or choose hours that fit both, their job and family schedules. They said that the freedom to be able to do the work from home helped them balance raising children and being a lawyer.

The report notes that women comprise nearly 45 per cent of the associates in New Jersey law firms, which matches national figures. But women comprise only 17 per cent of law firm partners in New Jersey and 19 per cent nationally. Eighty-one per cent of the respondents in the survey were working in law firms, 10 per cent in corporations, 6 per cent in government and 3 per cent in public interest agencies.

Tags: Career & Money

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