We are not just a traditional law firm with a work life balance policy. Instead, work life balance forms the fundamental underpinning of our firm. We have a innovative model of legal practice, centered on the concept of how to enable work life balance for all. We are currently an all-female firm, specializing in wills and estates, family law and mediation. Technology plays a critical role in our success.
A February 2007 cover story of California Lawyer magazine was entitled “We’re Outta Here: Why Women are Leaving Big Firms.” The article noted the serious issue of high attrition rates from the legal profession:
“The past few years have witnessed the highest levels of associate attrition ever documented, with an average annual attrition rate for both sexes of 19 percent, as recently reported by the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education. Within five years of entering a firm, more than three-quarters of associates leave. Female associates were nearly twice as likely as males to depart to pursue a better work/life balance.”
The article’s key quote was:
“If law firms want to get the best and brightest young women to join them and stay, they will likely need to change radically and adopt different definitions of sacrifice and partnership.”
It bears noting that work life balance is not just a woman’s issue. Particularly among Generation X and Y lawyers (generally thought to be people born between 1965-1980 and 1981-1995 respectively), there seems to be an increasing emphasis from both men and women on their wish for work life balance and the flexibility to enable them to also pursue family, community and personal health goals.
In May of 2008, the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Retention of Women in Private Practice Working Group produced a report identifying best practices to promote the retention and advancement of women in the private practice of law. The report noted that the oft cited barriers to work life balance in large law firms are the unavailability of support and benefits such as part-time partnerships, part-time employment, predictable hours, job sharing and flexibility in hours. Women in small firms or in sole practices were noted to face challenges such as lack of income or benefits during leaves and lack of assistance to maintain the practice during absences.
Heritage Law certainly doesn’t provide an example on how to stem the tide of lawyer attrition from big law firms. We do provide a successful example of female lawyers and staff in a small firm who are happily remaining and thriving in the practice of law. We have built a system of support for each other to facilitate flexibility while maintaining high service levels to clients.
In short, we have developed a sustainable law firm model that respects the well being of our staff while striving to do the very best for our clients. Both the professionals and the clientele of Heritage Law benefit as a result.