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Just the FACTS, Ma'am

As we've posted here, law firms continue to grapple with the problem of addressing work/life balance, with ideas like getting rid of the billable hour or subsidized daycare.  But perhaps all law firms need is just the FACTS, ma'am -- that is, to implement the "Fixed, Annualized, Core, Targeted and Shared Hours" program that Deborah Epstein Henry details in her just just-released article at Flex-Time Lawyers.  Under Henry's novel concept, firms would offer a menu of choices to lawyers who desire alternative work schedules, which would include:

Fixed Hours -- predictable, lower-profile work, such as that typically assigned to contract attorneys;

Annualized Hours -- fewer hours in exchange for lawyers' willingness to work a more erratic schedule;

Core Hours -- which would enable lawyers to accept quality work with less conventional hours, or through telecommuting, provided that lawyers are willing to commit to working some core hours in the office;

Target Hours -- the amount of hours determined by the management and lawyers that serve as the basis for salary and partnership.  But under Henry's model, target hours do not relate to where, when or how the work gets done;

Shared Hours -- which involves a job sharing arrangement between two attorneys with compatible practices.

What's especially unique about Henry's approach is that it's not just intended for female attorneys.  Henry recognizes that many lawyers, male and female, have grown increasingly dissatisfied with long law firm hours and are willing to sacrifice salary for better quality of life.  Henry anticipates that firms would make the FACTS model available not just to women, but to all attorneys.

But at the end of the day, will firms adopt Henry's model?  I'm attracted to Henry's idea because of its sophistication, yet, I realize that the model's complexity (and the added resources needed to implement it) may give firms an excuse to reject it out of hand.  And while Henry is on track in selling the model as a way to facilitate work/life balance to all lawyers, and not just women, in some ways, I wonder whether that will make the model a tougher sell.  I'm guessing that some more conservative lawyers might believe that while flexible schedules are "alright for women," that they're not appropriate for men. 

What's your view?  Can this model work for large law firms and help them retain associates who want a better quality of life?  And if not, what's the alternative?  As Henry points out, associate attrition rates are costing law firms substantial revenue.  Though implementing Henry's plan may involve additional law firm resources, the cost of not making any change is ultimately much greater.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 6, 2007 at 05:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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