The PAR Research Institute has studied and developed model part-time policies for law firms and in-house legal departments alike, which have been implemented nationwide. In the last five years, The PAR Research Institute expanded its study beyond issues of workplace flexibility to understand how compensation systems and performance evaluations affect women in the legal profession.
The PAR Research Institute was founded by Joan C. Williams and Cynthia Thomas Calvert in 1999 as the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) and has played a leadership role in developing best practices to retain women—and to improve work-life balance for men as well as women–in the legal profession.
The PAR Research Institute's current research focuses on two areas:
New Models of Legal Practice. A market failure has existed in the legal profession for over two decades: many lawyers desire better work-life balance than is on offer either at law firms or in house, yet no organizations arose to fill that demand. Suddenly, in recent years, a wide variety of new models of legal practice have arisen that offer attorneys better work-life balance. These include:
Virtual law firms composed entirely to telecommuters who set their own schedules and annual hours;
Organizations that place experienced in-house lawyers in corporations, either for short-term stints or for longer-term engagements lasting many months;
Small firms, often composed of refugees from Big Law, that link better work-life balance for their attorneys with lower overhead for their clients.
With generous funding from LEXIS-NEXIS, Joan C. Williams and Aaron Platt, a graduate student in sociology from University of California at Berkeley, are studying new models of legal practice.
Double Jeopardy. WorkLife Law's signature approach to gender bias goes beyond the insight that implicit bias affects everyone to document in detail the specific ways gender bias affects everyday workplace interactions. Our approach documents the four basic patterns of gender bias.
Once the social science has been organized in this way, one can begin a project that is long overdue: to study how the experience of gender bias differs by race. WorkLife Law is currently doing ground-breaking research on this issue, exploring how the experience of gender bias differs by race among women scientists of color, with the support of a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The PAR Research Institute currently is seeking funding to explore this issue among women lawyers of color, as the first step towards integrating the literatures on gender and racial bias. Organizations and individuals interesting in participating in this effort should contact Joan C. Williams, at williams(at)uchastings(dot)edu.
History of The PAR Research Institute The PAR Research Institute was founded by Joan C. Williams and Cynthia Thomas Calvert, who had just resigned her position as a litigation partner at Miller, Cassidy, as the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR). The PAR Research Institute has played a leadership role in developing best practices to retain women, and to improve work-life balance for men as well as women, in the legal profession since its founding in 1999.
When The PAR Research Institute was founded, part-time lawyers typically were taken off partnership track and paid 60% of the pay for 80% of the work. The PAR Research Institute's model part-time policy, which keeps women on partnership track and pays them proportional to their hours of work, has spread to law firms throughout the U.S. The PAR Research Institute has provided resources for law firms to develop work-life policies and advice for individual attorneys seeking to work successful part-time schedules.
The PAR Research Institute also studied, and developed best practices, for in-house legal departments. The PAR Research Institute's influential studies led major corporations such as Allstate Insurance to completely revamp, and expand, their part-time programs.
The PAR Research Institute's focus gradually expanded to other issues relevant to women in the legal profession. In 2008, The PAR Research Institute wrote the new edition of the ABA Commission on Women's Fair Measure: Toward Effective Attorney Evaluations, incorporating both best employment practices and 35 years of studies on gender bias into a performance evaluation manual designed for law firms.
In 2010, The PAR Research Institute incorporated its signature approach to gender bias into its study, co-authored with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, of the impact of law-firm compensation systems on women. This study provided a crucial tool for women partners to insist that their firms begin to benchmark the proportion of women among their top earners.
In 2007, The PAR Research Institute invited law firms and corporate counsel departments to join as members. Its highly successful membership program, which ran from 2007 until 2012, gathered best practices, reviewed law member firms' part-time policies, and provided teleconferences on women's advancement of work-life balance. In 2009, its Diversity and Flexibility Connection brought together the chairs of 12 major law firms with general counsel of 12 major companies to work together on increasing diversity in the legal profession by spurring the adoption of model part-time policies.
In 2012, Manar Morales, appointed as Executive Director in 2011, founded the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, which took over the membership functions of The PAR Research Institute. Today, The Project for Attorney Retention's traditional role as a leading research institute on the study of the legal profession, and the leading author of best practices for the legal profession, is carried on by The PAR Research Institute, which is part of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
For over a decade, The PAR Research Institute has studied the retention and advancement of women attorneys as well as work-life issues in legal employment. As a result of our research, we have developed best practices for law firms and legal departments in the following areas, which are available in the document below.
Download our compiled best practices here.
White Papers & ReportsDiversity & Flexibility Connection Best Practices
New Millennium, Same Glass Ceiling? The Impact of Law Firm Compensation Systems on Women
Summary of Findings-Denver Law Firms
Part-Time Partner Report
BooksFlex Success: The Lawyer's Guide to Balanced Hours
By Joan C. Williams and Cynthia Thomas Calvert, PAR 2011. Available from amazon.com.
Solving the Part-Time Puzzle: The Law Firm's Guide to Balanced Hours
By Joan C. Williams and Cynthia Thomas Calvert, NALP 2004. Solving the Part-Time Puzzle provides a clear roadmap for law firms that want to create and implement an effective, non-stigmatized part-time policy. Available from NALP and amazon.com.
Fair Measure: Toward Effective Attorney Evaluations
What is an "effective bias-free evaluation process" and does your law firm have one?
Corporate Counsel ProjectBetter on Balance? The Corporate Counsel Work/Life Report (2003)
Part-Time Partner Report Executive Summary
Law Firm ProjectBalanced Hours: Effective Part-Time Programs for Washington Law Firms
(First Edition, Second Edition , Appendix)
Many lawyers have moved from law firms to in-house corporate law departments in an effort to find a better balance of work and life.
Articles"Opt Out" or Pushed Out?
How the Press Covers Work-Family Conflict
Retention and Reduced Hours
The Untold Story About Why Women Leave the Workforce
The Business Case for Reduced Hours
by Linda Bray Chanow
The practice of law is particularly easy to carry out on a reduced hours basis