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I’ve always been in awe of one of my old friends, Y, who’s negotiated reduced work hours at numerous Big Law firms in a major market — and advanced while doing it. I reached out to her to ask for her top tips on negotiating reduced work hours and her own thoughts on the journey. Below, we present Part 1, Y’s thoughts on negotiating reduced work hours — you can find Part 2 here, where we look at her thoughts on being a successful part-time associate. Thank you so much, Y! – Kat
Working mothers can’t have it all. I truly believe that. Something’s gotta give, and when I had my first child I wondered what that would be — and how much. There are obviously many answers to that question — there is no “one-size-fits-all.” For me, the answer was asking for a flexible work arrangement at the BigLaw firm where I was a second-year associate, so that I could continue in my career while also having time to spend with my family.
I remember when I first negotiated for reduced work hours. I had been on maternity leave with my first child and knew right away that I could not possibly raise a tiny person and also work full-time (which in my job meant being on call 24/7). After contacting the powers that be at the firm about discussing a potential flexible work arrangement, I received a call from a partner, and the conversation was not nearly as scary as I thought it might be. That may also be because I went in with zero expectations, figuring that if the firm wouldn’t agree to a flexible working arrangement, I would walk. At that point in my life, working full time at an AmLaw 100 firm was not on the table for me.
By that time, I had done my homework and knew that some women were already working at the firm on an 80-percent basis. (Depending on their practice area and reason for working part time, they either worked reduced hours on a relatively regular schedule or committed to billing 80 percent of a full-time associate’s yearly billables, even if that meant working long hours on a deal one month and taking time off the next.) When I stated that I wanted to work four days a week and be home in the evenings with my baby, the partner agreed to offer me an 80-percent arrangement. He added that there were no guarantees with regard to the bonus but that the firm would aim to give me one that was prorated.
Having heard horror stories of women who officially worked part-time and were paid accordingly but billed just as much as a full-time associate, I asked what would happen if I ended up billing more than 80 percent of what a full-time associate would. Would I be reimbursed at the end of the year? The answer was no. While it didn’t seem equitable, it did incentivize me to stick to my reduced schedule rather than revert to my type-A personality and try to do it all (despite my cognitive recognition that, as a mother who wants to remain intimately involved in her child’s upbringing, I could not). “One last thing,” the partner said as we continued to talk. “I’m not saying that we’d definitely never make a part-time partner, but we most likely wouldn’t.” I just said “fine” — it was not even remotely on my radar at the time, let alone something that would have influenced my decision.
That started my long journey as an associate with a reduced work schedule.
Here are some tips I would offer to anyone thinking of requesting a similar part-time arrangement:
1) Do your homework. Find out what your company and peer companies have offered in the way of flexible work arrangements so that you don’t ask for something outside your company’s comfort zone.
2) Pinpoint your priorities as they relate to the flexible arrangement you’re seeking and determine what, if anything, is non-negotiable. For me, it was getting home to put my kids to bed most nights (even if that meant logging back on later) and spending time with them on the weekends.
3) Determine whether it makes sense for you to negotiate a commitment with regard to a bonus and/or career advancement. This will depend on how much these matter to you and whether you think what you’re asking for is realistic, considering the company and industry norms.
Ladies, have you considered negotiating for reduced work hours? What were your priorities, first steps, and more?
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Sales of note for 11.30.23…
(See all of the latest workwear sales at Corporette!)
- Nordstrom – Limited-Time Sale of 11,000+ items; up to 25% off select women’s coats & jackets (ends 12/6); Nike up to 25% off (ends 12/2); markdowns include big deals on UGG, Natori, Marc Fisher LTD, Vionic and more!
- Ann Taylor – Up to 40% off sale styles
- Banana Republic – 40% off your purchase, including cashmere; up to 60% off sale styles
- Banana Republic Factory – Up to 50% off everything; extra 25% off $125+
- J.Crew – 50% off women’s styles; extra 30% off sale styles
- Lands’ End – Up to 70% off everything; free shipping (readers love the cashmere)
- Summersalt – 30% off everything; up to 60% off select styles (this reader-favorite sweater blazer is down to $75)
- Talbots – 30% off entire purchase, including all markdowns — readers love this cashmere boatneck and this cashmere cardigan, as well as their sweater blazers in general
- Zappos – 35,000+ women’s sale items! Check out these reader-favorite workwear brands on sale, and some of our favorite kid shoe brands on sale.
- BabyJogger – 25% off 3 items
- Crate & Kids – Toy & gift event: up to 50% off everything; save 10% off full price items
- J.Crew Crewcuts – 50% off everything; extra 30% off sale styles
- Ergobaby – 40% off Omni Breeze Carrier, 25% off Evolve 3-in-1 bouncer, $100 off Metro+ Strollers
- Graco – Up to 30% off car seats
- Strolleria – 25% off Wonderfold wagons, and additional deals on dadada, Cybex, and Peg Perego
- Walmart – Savings on Maxi-Cosi car seats, adventure wagons, rocker recliners, security cameras and more!
See some of our latest articles on CorporetteMoms:
And — here are some of our latest threadjacks of interest – working mom questions asked by the commenters!
- If you’re a working parent of an infant with low sleep needs, how do you function at work when you’re in the throes of baby’s sleep regression?
- Should I cut my childcare down to 12 hours a month if I work from home?
- Will my baby have speech delays if we raise her bilingual?
- Has anyone given birth in a teaching hospital?
- My child eats everything, and my friends’ kids do not – how should I handle? In general, what is the best way to handle when your child has some skill/ability and your friend’s child doesn’t have that skill/ability?
- ADHD moms, give me your tips to help with things like behavior in the classroom, attention to detail, etc?
- I think I suffer from mom rage…
- My husband and kids are gone this weekend – how should I enjoy my free time?
- I’m struggling to be compassionate with a SAHM friend who complains she doesn’t have enough hours of childcare.
- If you exclusively formula fed, what tips do you have for in the hospital and coming home?
- Could I take my 4-yo and 8-yo on a 7-8 day trip to Paris, Lyon, and Madrid?