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How to Ask for Part-Time Work at Your Law Firm

It's not too late, but you probably should have asked about part-time work at your law firm a while ago.

That's because most firms today have part-time policies, and it's one of those things you can know even before you start a job. So if you are just starting to think about it, relax because there are plenty of law firms that even encourage part-timers.

But when it comes down to it, asking for part-time is about asking at the right time. Timing, of course, is everything.

Sooner the Better

The best time to plan for a part-time job is before you take that full-time job. Go for the law firms that have open policies about part-time opportunities so you will know what you're up against when the time comes to go part-time.

If you foresee child-rearing or other time demands in your future, put yourself in the best position before you are in an uncomfortable one to ask for part-time status. Ask early, too, because as time goes on it often gets tougher to go part-time for practical reasons.

Ellen Ostrow, PhD, has counseled many lawyers who have struggled going with part-time professions. She says they often wait too long to deal with it.

"If I coach such a lawyer early in her career, we usually can develop strategies that work, at least well enough," she says.

Open Communications

Audrey J. Lee, in her study on negotiating part-time work at elite law firms, said lawyers and their firms should have a transparent process for part-time options permitted by their firms. First, she says, it allows attorneys seeking part-time work to better understand possible arrangements.

"Second, a more open approach to part-time work at firms may reduce tension among colleagues," she wrote in the Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Journal. When attorneys know the terms in advance, they also know what they can get and what they will have to give.

In any case, going part-time doesn't mean it's easy time. Sam Glover, who has tried it full-time and part-time, says its all work.

"You need to dive in, headfirst, and work your butt off with whatever time you have for your practice," he wrote for the Lawyerist.

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