Are female attorneys at a greater risk for being laid off during a recession? That is a question explored by Anna Collins in her February 24, 2009 column on TheGlassHammer.com. Some experts say that there is no gender discrimination at work in law firm layoffs. Instead, layoffs are determined by profitability and that those who bill less or at a lower rate are more at risk. However, as 74% of part time attorneys are women, they are at a greater risk during a recession because they are not as profitable as full time attorneys. Payne & Fears attorney Leila Narvid added that women lawyers can also be at risk because "the first industries to be hit by economic downturn are women-dominated industries such as retail, hospitality, and service."
Attorneys who work reduced hours can be an asset to a firm that is looking to cut costs, as long as they continue to invest in marketing and professional development. According to Narvid, "the more one shows investment and interest in a firm's well-being and business development endeavors, the more one is viewed as an asset to the firm, even if she does not work full time." Narvid also has several practical tips for women attorneys hoping to survive the recession. "For associates who receive work from partners, it is important to take the initiative to work with partners who have clients in the more stable industries, which right now are clean technology, life sciences, and biotechnology," said Narvid. And for women who work part time, Narvid advises that they "remind the partners, in subtle ways, of the value they bring to the firm."