Over at Legal Blog Watch, Carolyn Elefant posted about very interesting British study with intriguing--and somewhat controversial--findings: that childless women lawyers are the most "productive" workers, while women lawyers with young children are the least "productive". And, fathers were more "productive" than their childless male counterparts.
As Carolyn aptly noted, the way that "productivity" was measured--the amount of hours billed--was a questionable methodology, since:
(A)s we all know, hours billed don't necessarily correlate to efficiency; indeed, longer hours may signal less productivity, not more.
Another interesting point from the summary of the study:
Further analysis showed that female lawyers with children usually had to juggle professional and domestic responsibilities because they tended to be married to a partner who also worked. On the other hand, male lawyers with children were likely to have a partner who did not work, and who was therefore able to take responsibility for domestic duties.
Wallace and Young said another unexpected finding was that family-friendly organisational work practices had a negative effect on the productivity of male staff but not female staff. Moreover, the sexes used the benefit of flexible hours differently - professional fathers spent the time pursuing leisure activities, whereas for professional mothers this time was spent largely on domestic duties. It seems the old adage 'a woman's work is never done' still rings true in the twenty-first century.
Mark Cohen at the Minnesota Lawyer Blog had this to say about the discrepancies in the "productivity" of lawyer dads vs. lawyer moms:
One wonders if this "productivity" isn't a means of dodging out on domestic chores. Billing an additional hour may not look so bad when the alternative is to go home and change a diaper ...
He raises a great point that brought to mind something that occurred early on my legal career. A male lawyer with kids and a stay-at-home wife was one of the only lawyers to make it into the office during one of the worst snowstorms that we'd ever had in Upstate NY and made a telling comment that I'll get to in a moment.
But first, the storm. I grew up here and was used to driving in snow, snow and more snow, and for the first time in my life, after nearly sliding off the road three times and passing 6 ditched cars, I had to turn my car around and head home after driving only 1/2 mile. It was the only time that I've ever found myself unable to navigate safely in the snow.
I eventually made it into the office around 10 a.m. and there were only 4 (out of 20) lawyers there. This particular lawyer was one of them and he told me that he'd been the first to arrive at 8 a.m. I asked him how he even made it in, and he replied, "Are you kidding?!? The alternative was being stuck in the house with my wife and three kids on a snow day. Hell.on.earth."
I've never forgotten that comment.
And, after hearing it, I noticed that the male lawyers with kids were always the first into the office--and upon arrival, sat around in their offices drinking coffee, feet on the desk, reading the newspaper for the first 45 minutes or so. One wonders what justification was offered to their stay-at-home wives as they "rushed" out the door before the kids awoke.
But, alas, I digress.
More on this study can be found at the following blogs (and of course, the comments following some of posts are full the seemingly obligatory tidbits about women lawyers taking up the space of a more worthwhile and more qualified guy):