The number of legal professionals who are working part-time or with a kinder, gentler work schedule have dramatically increased over the past 5+ years. The shift is attributed to several factors including: a generation (Millennials) who values flexibility for their diverse needs/wants/interests, a corporate society that caters to and is more socialized and accepting around alternative work schedules, an increasing number of well-qualified women transitioning into and out of the workforce for family reasons; and commuting challenges in major metropolitan cities.
It’s a trend that is here to stay…at least for the foreseeable future. But for those job seekers who seek such professional arrangements, finding the right role with the right schedule with the right employer can be hard to find. So how does a lawyer find such work and is it ok to apply for a full-time job and then negotiate a reduced schedule once s/he receives an offer?
I’ll address your last question first. No, it is not ok to apply for a full-time job and attempt to negotiate a reduced schedule after receiving an offer. Employers put a great deal of time and effort into their search for a colleague who checks the boxes. And in the interview process, they rely on what candidates say…or don’t say to be true. So to enter a process with a plan to switch things up at the finish line is disingenuous and unprofessional. It also is disrespectful of everyone’s time…and can create a black mark on your reputation. Something you should avoid in this Lilliputian world. So I strongly advise to stay clear of this approach.
Now to your first question: where to find part-time/family flex time work? There is no one tried and true way to find what you want. So you’ll need to spread your bets and explore a few paths in order to maximize your options. Below are the main to resources to explore:
Yes, professionals always need to check the job boards when looking for a job…and this situation is no exception. So make it a point to frequently peruse the legal job sites to see whether there are any part-time jobs listed. Also read the job descriptions for full-time opportunities that look interesting and scan for language that communicates “good hours” “flexible hours” “family friendly” etc. These roles are also worth pursuing as they are marketing their kinder, gentler environment. If you do interview, be clear from the beginning about your desired work schedule. The odds of success through this method are fairly low, but they are not zero. So include these resources in your search effort.
Strong networks are always great sources of job opportunities. But what if your network is “eh” or stale or not as relevant for the role you’re seeking? Well then you’ll need to build it. To start, there are zillions of groups out there for virtually any type of professional profile: working mothers, women seeking to re-enter the workforce, men seeking to re-enter the workforce, women’s law groups, practice area specialty groups, minority professional groups, law school alma mater groups and the list goes on…and on. Identify which types of groups with whom you’d like to affiliate then research your options. Ask for recommendations from law school career services, legal recruiters, the parent network at your kid’s school, friends and former colleagues. Research LinkedIn, your local bar association and industry groups. Then, join and start leveraging your new network. Send out an email inquiring about part-time and family friendly legal positions. Tell a little bit about yourself (best stuff first) to highlight your value to a potential employer. Get out in the virtual market and create momentum for your search. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your new comrades will respond.
Legal recruiters conduct searches from time to time for part-time or flex hours roles. So it’s worth your while to connect with the highest quality recruiters in your area. Send them a resume, introduce yourself and be clear about what you are seeking. They may not be able to help now, but may in the future. Establish good relationships with these resources and you’ll stay on their radar.
Law School Alumni Career Services.
Employers occasionally reach out to local law school career services to pass along their job opportunities to the school’s network of high quality alums. Part-time, flex hour and project opportunities can weave their way along this avenue, so tap your law school career services and inquire whether they are aware of any roles that check your boxes.
In house “project work” is on the rise. The term lengths vary and can be as little a few weeks to as long as a several years. For those seeking a part-time or flex schedule, this route is worth exploring. But note, not all project based assignments are created equal. Some require a full commitment with longer and dedicated hours. So assess these options carefully to ensure you are getting the set up you need. To pursue this choice, you have two options: leverage your networks and go it alone or register with an agency/firm that specializes in such work. If you find the work on your own, you’ll be able to change more per hour and keep the entire amount. An agency will bill out your services and keep a healthy portion as part of its fee. There are positives to both options, so assess what works best for you. If you choose to work with an agency, you’ll need to interview for a spot in its stable of lawyers. So contact several and hedge your bets.
Yup. Cold calling. I can feel many of you wincing at the mere thought of this dreadful exercise. But if you want to maximize the likelihood of getting what you want, you’ll need to do everything you can to make it happen. Is there a company or firm you admire? One that inspires you? Is close to home? You always dreamt working for? Even if not, do your research and identify companies/firms of interest in your area. ID the Head Honcho and write him/her an email. Establish a connection and express why you are writing. Short and sweet. Provide your background, creds, experience and inquire whether they could use a part-time attorney or one with family friendly hours. Offer your services on a project basis for the opportunity to work at a great organization. Even if there are no opportunities, express your desire to simply make a great connection. There is value in this exercise for several reasons. And while you may hear a plethora of nos, it only take one yes to change a career. So hold your nose and jump in.
Despite their growing popularity among today’s lawyers, part-time and kinder hours jobs are not inherently easy to find. And in the ever-changing, sometimes chaotic legal profession, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. But fear not! By pursuing the options above with vigor, enthusiasm and persistence, you’ll find the job that meets your needs for the next chapter in your career.