Reduced hours?

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Reduced hours?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:18 pm

I am a mid-level associate in a somewhat niche practice area. I’ve been with my lower tier v100 firm for about a year. It pays below market but I am very happy with the salary and it is not an up-or-out firm. I have no debt and a decent nest egg. I am really starting to burn out and am considering my options. I have received very positive reviews despite my low hours this year. In fact, my hours have rarely been brought up, although I’m sure this partly has to do with being relatively new and COVID hitting. Overall I think I would be hard to replace, at least right now.

My firm officially offers a reduced hour associate track. I think it’s primarily for associates with families, not someone like me who just wants to work less, but there is nothing that would preclude me from participating (officially, at least). I would love to work 1500 or 1600 while still making a healthy income (maybe $150,000?). Has anyone tried actually making the ask? My work flow tends to be very consistent and non-urgent (think regulatory), so i think I’d be a prime candidate. I’m fine working one month more than the next when things are crazy, it’s just the constant grinding that is getting to me.

I know I could try to just coast, but it’s really not in my DNA. I feel guilty already about my low hours, and that is a major contributor to my stress and burnout.

Thoughts?

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Re: Reduced hours?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:29 pm

YMMV, but I did this as at my firm as part of a corona-related thing and it turned out to be 100% availability for 80% pay. Partners did not respect the reduced hours load at all. I think a lot of firms will make you whole if you bill over your percentage, but that only works if you actually stick around until bonus time or whenever the additional pay comes (and is probably subject to good standing, merit qualifications, etc.). I ended up leaving to go in house before that time so any extra hours were not compensated.

Your practice area sounds like a better candidate for this kind of agreement than mine, so maybe you will be able to make it work.

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Re: Reduced hours?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:42 pm

Thanks for the info. Were you nervous that asking would imply you weren’t committed to the firm? Was the discount in pay equal to the discount in hours (e.g., 80% hours, 80% pay)? How was your request received? Happy to send you a DM instead.

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Re: Reduced hours?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 1:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:29 pm
YMMV, but I did this as at my firm as part of a corona-related thing and it turned out to be 100% availability for 80% pay. Partners did not respect the reduced hours load at all. I think a lot of firms will make you whole if you bill over your percentage, but that only works if you actually stick around until bonus time or whenever the additional pay comes (and is probably subject to good standing, merit qualifications, etc.). I ended up leaving to go in house before that time so any extra hours were not compensated.

Your practice area sounds like a better candidate for this kind of agreement than mine, so maybe you will be able to make it work.
What would happen if you scheduled, say, 15 weeks of vacation, 3 weeks at a time, to better put into practice the reduced hours. Could that work from your experience?

Only working 4 out of 5 days each week seems next to impossible for many corporate deal based practices.

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Re: Reduced hours?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:28 pm

My group has several associates who have taken this path. It’s often structured as 80% pay for only a four day week, but they will make up time you go over. A good number end up going over.

Very practice and client dependent. You have to fight very hard to protect your days off or your reduced hours, as people absolutely won’t respect it. You will lose out on the ability to work on certain matters because some people will not want to work with you.

I think this really only works in corporate practices that aren’t deal focused. Ultimately this is a client service industry, and as you get more senior, it becomes harder to ignore clients when they give you urgent work on off days or in off hours. If I was serious about pursuing this path I would leave biglaw and look for a smaller firm or a smaller market where there isn’t such a mismatch between the number of hours you want to work and the number the firm expects the average associate to bill.

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Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Reduced hours?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:42 pm
Thanks for the info. Were you nervous that asking would imply you weren’t committed to the firm? Was the discount in pay equal to the discount in hours (e.g., 80% hours, 80% pay)? How was your request received? Happy to send you a DM instead.
Nervous - yes. But it was received well since demand was (and remained) down due to COVID. I do not know how it would have worked out long term in terms of retention/security/promotion as I did not stick around long enough to find out. Discount was the same as hours reduced.

They would not have accepted a 4 day on / 3 day off schedule. Despite the way the firm sold the schedule adjustment, it was later clear that the arrangement was never intended to be favorable to associates and that many partners had no intention of changing anything at all in terms of management. In fact, one partner told me I still needed to be aiming for 2000 hours even though I was on a 1600 schedule, and even though I ran my hours reduction by this partner before deciding to do it! This partner was notorious jerk, but he held the keys to my advancement at the firm and people like him exist in biglaw, so beware. Assholes aren’t going to stop being assholes just because you’re on a different schedule.

I would talk to the partners in your group and feel them out first, and think long and hard whether the adjustment would be respected. In a practice with few fire drills and generally lower workflow (like many regulatory practices) I think it could be a smart move, but for most practices I would advise against it.

Anonymous User
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Re: Reduced hours?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:07 pm

I know a couple of people who have made this switch but they were all at V20 firms. Their reduced hours seem to be respected, but I believe they took a heavier salary cut. They seem to be happier with that arrangement, but they also have working partners that also have decent incomes so while I'm sure it was an adjustment, they're still in good spots overall. One was a 7th yr who decided they didn't want to pursue partnership and had done good work at the firm and the firm valued them. The other I believe asked after 4yrs at their current firm and didn't receive much pushback. Another guy requested this at his firm as he was beginning the switch from a midlevel associate to senior and I think their firm had a "process" to allow people to do this but it wasn't very utilized, and at least not by men. He's loved it so far though and I don't think has had many issues. I'm fairly positive that he took the largest paycut though, and he's only been in this role for a little over a year so once things get a bit more back to normal who knows if he'll still be able to maintain his reduced workload.

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