Author Topic: Avoiding the "part-time" trap  (Read 19605 times)

Rbuckyfuller

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Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« on: May 30, 2014, 08:26:37 AM »
Like many others, my ideal plan involves maybe one more year of full time work, then 5-10 more years of part-time work and then full retirement.  But "part-time" scares me because every person in my field who I've seen go part-time has actually gone "part-pay" for full-time work.  That is the worst of both worlds.

My field is Big Law, but I imagine this applies in several other industries as well.

I have two questions for you all:
  • For those of you in industries like mine, how do you make the part-time thing work?
  • What industries is doing part-time work actually realistic?

My thought about part-time in law is that it may be more realistic to do part time as 10 out of 12 months instead of 4 out of 5 days, which really ends up being 6 out of 7 days.  What do people think about this?
 

NumberCruncher

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2014, 08:52:27 AM »
Like many others, my ideal plan involves maybe one more year of full time work, then 5-10 more years of part-time work and then full retirement.  But "part-time" scares me because every person in my field who I've seen go part-time has actually gone "part-pay" for full-time work.  That is the worst of both worlds.

My field is Big Law, but I imagine this applies in several other industries as well.

I have two questions for you all:
  • For those of you in industries like mine, how do you make the part-time thing work?
  • What industries is doing part-time work actually realistic?

My thought about part-time in law is that it may be more realistic to do part time as 10 out of 12 months instead of 4 out of 5 days, which really ends up being 6 out of 7 days.  What do people think about this?
 

I'd be interested to seeing responses to this as well. I always got the impression that "part time" Big Law was like a normal 40 hour work week, with "full time" Big Law being 60-80 hours/week.

Engineering fields in general seem fairly open to part time work, depending on company and position.

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2014, 09:12:16 AM »
Like many others, my ideal plan involves maybe one more year of full time work, then 5-10 more years of part-time work and then full retirement.  But "part-time" scares me because every person in my field who I've seen go part-time has actually gone "part-pay" for full-time work.  That is the worst of both worlds.

My field is Big Law, but I imagine this applies in several other industries as well.

I have two questions for you all:
  • For those of you in industries like mine, how do you make the part-time thing work?
  • What industries is doing part-time work actually realistic?

My thought about part-time in law is that it may be more realistic to do part time as 10 out of 12 months instead of 4 out of 5 days, which really ends up being 6 out of 7 days.  What do people think about this?
 

To be clear, after you leave "full time" work, will you be FI? Because that changes a lot of things, not the least of which is what you can demand out of your employment.
Someone who has the option to just walk if the employment does not live up to expectations has a lot more leverage than someone who doesn't.
If you won't be FI before you drop to part time, you might want to consider staying full time until you are. That way, if someone tries to give you full time hours for part time pay, you can just say "thanks but no thanks. I'm outta here..."

former player

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2014, 09:31:20 AM »
Longer hours on fewer days per week can work, for instance 4 1/2 days in 4.  If you are working longer hours per day in any case, the net result is that you work the same hours on days you do work, you get more days off, your pay is reduced but not by as much as only working 4 "normal days".  The trick with this is to be really firm about not working days you are off, or if you do, then scheduling equivalent time off to make up for it (eg you normally have Mondays off and work Tues-Fri, but if you are required to work a Monday, you have the Friday of the same week off instead).  Leave your work phone at work, and disable home access to email.  Obviously there needs to be alternative arrangements for emergency contacts - an answerphone message or autoreply on email giving alternate contact details.  There's not reason why this set-up can't work for a lawyer, particularly in a big firm with resources to shuffle around.  If you have too much work to manage in 4 1/2 days per week, it is exactly the same management issue as having too much work for 5 days a week; it doesn't suddenly become some other order of problem (poor managers may try to make out that it is).

If you can find someone to jobshare with, it does increase flexibility but you need to be careful that you both have the same attitude to work rates and hours, otherwise it can get very unbalanced.

10 months out of 12 may depend on having a reliably cyclical job.


Rbuckyfuller

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2014, 10:18:10 AM »
Like many others, my ideal plan involves maybe one more year of full time work, then 5-10 more years of part-time work and then full retirement.  But "part-time" scares me because every person in my field who I've seen go part-time has actually gone "part-pay" for full-time work.  That is the worst of both worlds.

My field is Big Law, but I imagine this applies in several other industries as well.

I have two questions for you all:
  • For those of you in industries like mine, how do you make the part-time thing work?
  • What industries is doing part-time work actually realistic?

My thought about part-time in law is that it may be more realistic to do part time as 10 out of 12 months instead of 4 out of 5 days, which really ends up being 6 out of 7 days.  What do people think about this?
 

I'd be interested to seeing responses to this as well. I always got the impression that "part time" Big Law was like a normal 40 hour work week, with "full time" Big Law being 60-80 hours/week.

Engineering fields in general seem fairly open to part time work, depending on company and position.

That has not been my experience.  I had two colleagues who were new mothers go part time and work almost as much(though not quite) as the rest of us for 70% pay.  One eventually quit, and the other eventually went back full-time because she was just being underpaid.

DoubleDown

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2014, 10:19:32 AM »
My work was the same way, where part time would have been almost all the same responsibility but with less hours and less pay to get it done. Ultimately I decided that rather than take a part time arrangement, I just continued full time until I had enough padding in my FIRE stash to call it quits completely.

The other aspect that seemed like wouldn't work for me was not being able to just let go of all the downsides to work, even if it was fewer hours or days -- there would still be deadlines at work, people to manage, problems to manage, mandatory training and nonsense meetings, getting up early and getting dressed, commuting through traffic, office politics and bullshit, having to write performance reviews and career development plans even though I'm FI, that "Sunday Evening feel" of knowing you have to go back to work tomorrow.... I just couldn't stomach the thought, even if it was 20-30 hours per week. Now that I've been away from that environment, the idea of going back even part time would be even harder to swallow.

totoro

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2014, 10:20:50 AM »
I tried to go pt working for a law firm and it did not work.  I ended up working almost ft hours for pt salary just as you described.  I, like many lawyers, respond to high pressure to get things done and I could just not turn it off without feeling guilty.

What has worked very well for me is setting up my own firm.  I have no pressure to anything I don't want because I'm the one who has the consequence of this.  It also allowed me to reduce overhead and take specific project that I am interested in on.  I earn much more per hour this way even though I am priced below my level of call at a big firm.  In my case I work from home or the client's office so I need no office space.

I recommend developing a niche of some kind that makes you valuable to clients.  Things that I know of that work well for this include tax, high conflict divorce, and estates.  I'm sure there are many others.

catccc

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2014, 10:27:53 AM »
I have thought about this.  I work in finance, and like you mentioned, one option would be to work as a consultant for a staffing firm, taking 3-6 month contract positions, and working full time when assigned to a client, but taking big chunks of time off in between clients. 

I did work "part-time" at my last job after we had our 2nd kid.  I essentially used FMLA leave to work anywhere from 24-32+ hours, depending on what was needed (accounting workload is cyclical).  I was still considered a full-time salaried employee, but I did not get paid for FMLA leave, so I was essentially paid like an hourly employee.  I do remember thinking 'I could do this forever!"  I think I worked Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at first.  When FMLA started running low, I only took off Wednesdays.  It was really nice only ever having to work 2 days in a row at the most.  I kept very careful track of my time (occasional work from home when workload was up) and informed HR of the FMLA time to use for every pay period, so I got paid for the time I got put in, and it was totally "fair."

vespito

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2014, 10:48:33 AM »
I did this (granted, it was 13 years ago).  It did not go well.  I was very clear that I wanted part time which would mean I would not be making the same contribution (less hours = less work).  They said ok as they did not want to lose me.  A month in, I was getting flak for not doing as much work as I did when I was full time.  I ended up leaving.

Having said that, it probably depends on your relationship with your employer.  Are they smart and honest enough to understand that less hours worked = less work completed (which is not to say less productive)?
« Last Edit: May 30, 2014, 10:50:40 AM by vespito »

phred

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2014, 11:58:55 AM »
no professional should have to settle for pt-time pay for pt-time work.  Remind the bean counters that since they're not paying you any fringe benefits, you are cheaper even at full time hourly pay.

For purposes of continuity and work flow, working full hours part of the year would probably be of greater benefit to the company

dragoncar

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2014, 04:41:52 PM »
My backup plan is one of the (not common, but not rare) smaller firms around here with a model where they just pay you some percentage (25-40%) of your billings.  In theory, this means that there's not as much pressure to bill except for reasonable minimums to offset overhead of office space/staff/etc.  In my field, hanging a shingle for piecework is a possibility with my current clients (I'll do the same work, but for half the price, and we both win -- this only works with clients who do their own docketing).

MrsPete

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2014, 05:57:12 PM »
I don't know how useful this is, but this is my husband and my plan:

- Work a couple more years at our "real jobs", our professional careers for which we went to school. We'll be comfortable financially and won't NEED to work again.
- We intend to work a while at part-time jobs.  Reasoning:  It'll allow us money for extras like vacations, and it'll keep us from reaching into our savings too early.  And it'll give us an excuse to get out of the house regularly.
- We don't want to work at anything remotely resembling our current jobs.  I don't want to bring home work ever, and he wants to do something outdoors.  And we both want to be sure we're making choices that are flexible. 

Daisy

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2014, 08:40:57 PM »
I've wondered the same things about the part-time trap (nice wording). I think I can get my investments to go on autopilot and then make less now for the next couple of years until I can get to really RE. But then I worry that my work load will stay the same and I will just make less money.

My approach is to use my SWAMI-status to try to negotiate some remote working opportunities at work instead, because my commute is actually the worst part of my job. I actually like my job and peers.

However, I don't want to rock the boat too much by asking for part-time or remote opportunities because we are approaching a big layoff and I don't want to put a target on my back just yet. Maybe I'll wait to see if I survive the cut before I ask for too much.

mm1970

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2014, 10:13:59 PM »
Like many others, my ideal plan involves maybe one more year of full time work, then 5-10 more years of part-time work and then full retirement.  But "part-time" scares me because every person in my field who I've seen go part-time has actually gone "part-pay" for full-time work.  That is the worst of both worlds.

My field is Big Law, but I imagine this applies in several other industries as well.

I have two questions for you all:
  • For those of you in industries like mine, how do you make the part-time thing work?
  • What industries is doing part-time work actually realistic?

My thought about part-time in law is that it may be more realistic to do part time as 10 out of 12 months instead of 4 out of 5 days, which really ends up being 6 out of 7 days.  What do people think about this?
 

I'd be interested to seeing responses to this as well. I always got the impression that "part time" Big Law was like a normal 40 hour work week, with "full time" Big Law being 60-80 hours/week.

Engineering fields in general seem fairly open to part time work, depending on company and position.
I'm an engineer and I went part time when I had both my kids.  First company paid me hourly, so 30, 35, whatever, I got paid.

Second company had me on 75% or 80%.  I did work a little extra, but not full time. When I found myself working 36 hours and getting paid for 30 for a month or two, I just went back full time.

Then again, like I said, I have kids.  I have to pick them up at a particular time of the day.  So...I just leave work.  That's how I keep my full time hours at 40 (or less).  I get in when I get in, but there is absolutely no staying late.

Rbuckyfuller

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2014, 06:48:20 AM »
I tried to go pt working for a law firm and it did not work.  I ended up working almost ft hours for pt salary just as you described.  I, like many lawyers, respond to high pressure to get things done and I could just not turn it off without feeling guilty.

What has worked very well for me is setting up my own firm.  I have no pressure to anything I don't want because I'm the one who has the consequence of this.  It also allowed me to reduce overhead and take specific project that I am interested in on.  I earn much more per hour this way even though I am priced below my level of call at a big firm.  In my case I work from home or the client's office so I need no office space.

I recommend developing a niche of some kind that makes you valuable to clients.  Things that I know of that work well for this include tax, high conflict divorce, and estates.  I'm sure there are many others.

I have thought about this.  I'd be interested in hearing more about how difficult it was to make the transition, particularly setting up all the administrative stuff that is necessary for doing it.  I think my field -- patent litigation is probably sufficiently valuable that I can still get clients.

totoro

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2014, 08:30:07 AM »
I tried to go pt working for a law firm and it did not work.  I ended up working almost ft hours for pt salary just as you described.  I, like many lawyers, respond to high pressure to get things done and I could just not turn it off without feeling guilty.

What has worked very well for me is setting up my own firm.  I have no pressure to anything I don't want because I'm the one who has the consequence of this.  It also allowed me to reduce overhead and take specific project that I am interested in on.  I earn much more per hour this way even though I am priced below my level of call at a big firm.  In my case I work from home or the client's office so I need no office space.

I recommend developing a niche of some kind that makes you valuable to clients.  Things that I know of that work well for this include tax, high conflict divorce, and estates.  I'm sure there are many others.

I have thought about this.  I'd be interested in hearing more about how difficult it was to make the transition, particularly setting up all the administrative stuff that is necessary for doing it.  I think my field -- patent litigation is probably sufficiently valuable that I can still get clients.

The admin stuff was not difficult.  There are loads of online guides on what is required to set up a business.  In addition, my provincial law society has a guide and some online courses that count as PD hours.  There are some books published on how to set up a law practice as well.

As far as admin goes, I'm in Canada so it won't be exactly the same but generally you need to reserve the business name, register and get your business number, same for tax number, Westlaw/Ecarswell if needed, Quicklaw or other accounting/time tracking/billing system.
 
Once you have a business number you can set up a corporate chequing account.  You may also need to set up a trust account if you take retainers.  I did not for a bit but have one now as I hold funds in trust for clients for other purposes.  The trust account has some strict accounting and reporting rules.  Also, I did not incorporate right away as there is not really good liability protection for lawyers as we will be held personally liable for errors and omissions and that is covered through professional insurance.  Incorporation in Canada really only makes sense after you net over $100,000.

Other than that, you need to do the annual practice declaration with your law society for your own practice which is slightly more detailed than as an employee.  You need to demonstrate that you have set up the systems and are following them (with a checklist).

You might need a bookkeeper, I have one. 

You know what the hardest thing about the transition was?  It was breaking my feeling that I had to sit at my desk in my home and be there for office hours even though I was working part-time.   It took me a long time to accept that, with a cell phone, I can be anywhere and respond to clients. 

The truth is that I made no more money and gave no better service by imposing office hours on myself.  It probably took a year to believe this.  Now I go for walks, shop, volunteer at the school and just answer calls as they come in during the day.  I never sit at a desk unless I am at a client's office. I don't even have one.  I have a file system and I work from a laptop wherever I am.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2014, 12:09:37 PM by totoro »

dragoncar

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2014, 11:56:47 AM »
I tried to go pt working for a law firm and it did not work.  I ended up working almost ft hours for pt salary just as you described.  I, like many lawyers, respond to high pressure to get things done and I could just not turn it off without feeling guilty.

What has worked very well for me is setting up my own firm.  I have no pressure to anything I don't want because I'm the one who has the consequence of this.  It also allowed me to reduce overhead and take specific project that I am interested in on.  I earn much more per hour this way even though I am priced below my level of call at a big firm.  In my case I work from home or the client's office so I need no office space.

I recommend developing a niche of some kind that makes you valuable to clients.  Things that I know of that work well for this include tax, high conflict divorce, and estates.  I'm sure there are many others.

I have thought about this.  I'd be interested in hearing more about how difficult it was to make the transition, particularly setting up all the administrative stuff that is necessary for doing it.  I think my field -- patent litigation is probably sufficiently valuable that I can still get clients.

The admin stuff was not difficult.  There are loads of online guides on what is required to set up a business.  In addition, my provincial law society has a guide and some online courses that count as PD hours.  There are some books published on how to set up a law practice as well.


If a patent litigator can't quickly figure out the admin side of starting his own firm, I'm not sure I'd want to hire him as my lawyer :-)

totoro

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #17 on: May 31, 2014, 12:10:40 PM »
Yes, but I forgot to mention that litigation is more labour intensive.  You will probably need an admin assistant if you engage in litigation regularly.

Tyler

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #18 on: May 31, 2014, 12:37:47 PM »
I'd be interested to seeing responses to this as well. I always got the impression that "part time" Big Law was like a normal 40 hour work week, with "full time" Big Law being 60-80 hours/week.

Engineering fields in general seem fairly open to part time work, depending on company and position.
I'm an engineer and I went part time when I had both my kids.  First company paid me hourly, so 30, 35, whatever, I got paid.

Second company had me on 75% or 80%.  I did work a little extra, but not full time. When I found myself working 36 hours and getting paid for 30 for a month or two, I just went back full time.

Then again, like I said, I have kids.  I have to pick them up at a particular time of the day.  So...I just leave work.  That's how I keep my full time hours at 40 (or less).  I get in when I get in, but there is absolutely no staying late.

The trick with part-time engineering work is avoiding deadline-driven job roles (often much easier said than done).  For example, in new product development schedule pressures often make it very difficult for many people to go part time.  But other engineers I know in production, sustaining, or quality areas sometimes have better luck with schedule flexibility and making reduced hours work. 

Hedge_87

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #19 on: June 01, 2014, 10:25:52 AM »
I don't know how useful this is, but this is my husband and my plan:

- Work a couple more years at our "real jobs", our professional careers for which we went to school. We'll be comfortable financially and won't NEED to work again.
- We intend to work a while at part-time jobs.  Reasoning:  It'll allow us money for extras like vacations, and it'll keep us from reaching into our savings too early.  And it'll give us an excuse to get out of the house regularly.
- We don't want to work at anything remotely resembling our current jobs.  I don't want to bring home work ever, and he wants to do something outdoors.  And we both want to be sure we're making choices that are flexible.
This... our plan is to move to the lake. I want a part time job where I can wear flip flops, shorts, and sunglasses to work. If I get hot I just go swimming. Something like working in a marina cafe or something. Either that or work in a hardware store. Something where I get to talk to people

FuckRx

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #20 on: June 01, 2014, 01:13:44 PM »
It's very tough going part time in professional fields. I agree with one of the posters that it's critical to be FI before switching down from FT to PT. If you just feel burnt out then a less hectic firm might be a good option when that time comes. In my opinion it would be best to just become a consultant or adviser, professor or other related job to your professional degree when deciding to switch down to PT. For most professionals 40 hours a week is PT so of course I'm assuming you mean you would hope to get closer to the 30-40hrs instead of the 60-80 you might be putting in now.

Bearded Man

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #21 on: June 01, 2014, 03:03:55 PM »
The way to do part time work is to start a small side business or do contract projects, such as is very common in IT. I had a small consulting outfit on the side a couple years ago and could have retired on the 10 hours a month or so I worked. And when I am done with full time work, I might consider doing 2-3 month IT project contracts, which seems to be all recruiters seem to call for these days.

Zamboni

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #22 on: June 01, 2014, 03:53:16 PM »
I agree that it can be a trap.  Watch out for jealous co-workers.

I had one 4 day a week gig that worked out pretty well for several years.  No one seemed to mind that I wasn't working 1000 hours per week.  In fact, several colleagues had set up basically the same schedule, and we all got full time benefits.  Work-life balance.  It was great!  But, alas, I didn't know how rare it was.

When I tried the same set up with another employer, the office manager (not her real title but that's basically what she was) did not like that I was able to negotiate unusual hours as a condition of my employment (4 days per week = 35-40 hours instead of 5-6 days a week = 50-60 hours), so she clearly set herself up as the enemy right from the start.  We were all salary and I got full time benefits, but less pay which was negotiated when I asked for the cap on days of work.  She made regular snide comments about it and would intentionally set up "important" meetings on my day off, but I would never bend and come in for her stupid meetings.  This turned into her telling the boss I wasn't do a good job, and that led the boss to become annoyed at the pace of progress on my projects.  There were no hard deadlines and the pace was fine, and no, I'm not coming in on Saturday (or even Friday, sorry.)  He was then nasty about it and I ended up finding another job and leaving there after only 2 years.

But then my ex-coworkers all told me that a year later, with three other people now working on the same project, the boss vocally lamented "no one has made any progress on this project since Zamboni left!"  He ended up writing me a pretty sweet recommendation letter for my current position.

It was the jealous co-worker who torpedoed the awesome set up.  That is what you have to watch out for.  I think she really wanted to work less and spend more time with her kids, but she was making more than me by design and didn't want to take even the modest pay cut of 80% of the pay for 80% of the working days.  I am certain she did not ask for the same situation, so it's not like she asked and was denied (I know the boss would have let her do it if she'd asked as he was Mr. Flexibility and he was traveling all the time anyway, so he didn't really care which days we were there.)

Undecided

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2014, 12:06:14 PM »
Much of the advice here, while perhaps well meaning, is not relevant to a career in big law. Ideas on how you might transition out of that environment are a different matter, of course.

Does your firm have any people in a similar practice and/or at a similar level of seniority who work part time, and do you know whether their arrangements are viewed (on both sides) as successful or not?

In my experience, the only part time arrangement that works in big law on an extended basis is one where the part-time attorney works just like a full-time one with respect to any given matter, but takes on fewer matters (either at any given time or by not taking on matters during a portion of the year). Generally rigid schedules ("Friday is my day off!") produce a lot of dissatisfaction on both sides. I think it's also far easier for someone with difficult-to-replace skills or experience to make this work for an extended period.

Chuck

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #24 on: June 02, 2014, 12:49:45 PM »
What is wrong with just working full time until you can call it quits on a dime?

Alternatively, maybe you should switch over to small law and get a job at a boutique firm?

Undecided

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #25 on: June 02, 2014, 02:27:06 PM »
What is wrong with just working full time until you can call it quits on a dime?

Alternatively, maybe you should switch over to small law and get a job at a boutique firm?

In my experience, working full time on the schedule that big law demands (particularly of associates, notwithstanding that the OP hasn't said what his or her seniority is) is something that's tolerated by fairly few people. There is no limit to the amount one can work (well, 7x24x365 (or 366 in leap year) has to be a limit). Even billing 2300 hours/year, while by no stretch a monster year, means a lot of late nights and weekends (because it's not like work comes in ten-hour packages that can be scheduled to occupy the time between 9 and 7 on the days Monday through Friday). With an explicit part-time arrangement in place, though, one may have an agreed target (annually, in the cases I am familiar with) that can be substantially more of a reduction from "full time" than the pay cut that one takes (although there are trade offs, to be sure). For example, 1500 billed hours may mean a 25% pay cut, but for 35% fewer hours. That's one of the major reasons why part-time arrangements only seem to work in the long run for someone whose time isn't seen as entirely fungible (the firm has to have a reason to want to keep that person, even at lower profitability).

PDX Citizen

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #26 on: June 02, 2014, 05:27:30 PM »
Wondering if there is anyone with a story where it did work out to shift into part-time employment (and stay there)?  This has been my plan (I'm not a lawyer, but rather in a hybrid tech/environmental position).  Reading the responses here have made me think that maybe I should reconsider.  It just seems healthier to me overall to "phase down" work over time, rather than work very hard and then quit cold turkey.  But, lots of good points here why it might not work as envisioned...

Left

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #27 on: June 02, 2014, 05:59:27 PM »
though I'm not close, my plan is to just work 1 or 2 13-week contracts when I retire until I get bored. It isn't the same as part time since I work full time hours but since the contracts end after 13 weeks, I can just choose to not do more of them hence "part time" of the year

Undecided

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #28 on: June 02, 2014, 06:19:42 PM »
Wondering if there is anyone with a story where it did work out to shift into part-time employment (and stay there)?  This has been my plan (I'm not a lawyer, but rather in a hybrid tech/environmental position).  Reading the responses here have made me think that maybe I should reconsider.  It just seems healthier to me overall to "phase down" work over time, rather than work very hard and then quit cold turkey.  But, lots of good points here why it might not work as envisioned...

Yes. My particulars fit into the generalities I described above, but many of the specific factors that I see as key to my situation working reasonably well are so rare as to be irrelevant to others.

Rbuckyfuller

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #29 on: June 02, 2014, 08:11:18 PM »
What is wrong with just working full time until you can call it quits on a dime?

Alternatively, maybe you should switch over to small law and get a job at a boutique firm?

In my experience, working full time on the schedule that big law demands (particularly of associates, notwithstanding that the OP hasn't said what his or her seniority is) is something that's tolerated by fairly few people. There is no limit to the amount one can work (well, 7x24x365 (or 366 in leap year) has to be a limit). Even billing 2300 hours/year, while by no stretch a monster year, means a lot of late nights and weekends (because it's not like work comes in ten-hour packages that can be scheduled to occupy the time between 9 and 7 on the days Monday through Friday). With an explicit part-time arrangement in place, though, one may have an agreed target (annually, in the cases I am familiar with) that can be substantially more of a reduction from "full time" than the pay cut that one takes (although there are trade offs, to be sure). For example, 1500 billed hours may mean a 25% pay cut, but for 35% fewer hours. That's one of the major reasons why part-time arrangements only seem to work in the long run for someone whose time isn't seen as entirely fungible (the firm has to have a reason to want to keep that person, even at lower profitability).

This is true.  The other point about a 2500 hours/year issue is that there is a LOT of pressure from partners to shave hours.  So even if I put in a legit 12 or even 14 hour day (i.e. I actually worked 15-17 hours but some of that wasn't productive), I get raked over the coals if I bill more than 9  hours in a day.

In response to your previous post -- there is one person who works part time at my current firm who sort of makes it work.  She originally went part time, but was working constantly anyway, but then told them she was quitting about 2 years later.   She was valuable enough that they said "OK, we'll let you go part time for real" so she works about 40hrs/wk.  The fewer matters thing only works if they don't immediately transition you onto something else when your case is slow or settles.  But I think that one could make that work if you were really assertive about it.

Undecided

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #30 on: June 02, 2014, 08:31:55 PM »
The fewer matters thing only works if they don't immediately transition you onto something else when your case is slow or settles.  But I think that one could make that work if you were really assertive about it.

This may depend on practice area and/or seniority---I typically work on 12-25 matters in any given week (obviously in a relatively small role) and have already worked on at least 200 distinct matters this year. With so many small pieces, I can manage the overall flow fairly well (although of course there are exceptions), and it's a key part of how I make it work. Is that a possibility in your practice? If your role in a small number of matters keeps you fully occupied, then I agree it would be much harder to smooth the flow.

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #31 on: June 02, 2014, 08:54:41 PM »
It's a trap!    I've watched a few coworkers switch to part-time.  One staffer only came to the office part of the workweek, and a couple associates cut their hours back without a definite schedule.  No-one bothered to remember their schedules, or adjust workload or deadlines for the fact that they weren't in the office certain days or being paid for a full workload.    Between new HR and heavier workload, our part-timers eventually ended up working full-time hours for their negotiated part-time pay.  Not good.

I've seen one "part-time" arrangement that seemed to keep everybody happy.  During a slow period when no-one had enough to do, one of my coworkers negotiated taking (unrelated) online classes during the workday.  Coworker was present and available by phone/email (so the bosses were happy), but otherwise occupied.  I think this one only works if there isn't enough work to go around, though, and it might count against you when the layoffs begin.

I have had some projects that could be done as part-time or work-from-home.  If I were financially ready to retire, had one of those assignments, and enjoyed it, I'd consider making an arrangement.  But realistically, the Powers That Be are going to prefer someone who's around and available full-time.

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #32 on: June 02, 2014, 08:59:53 PM »
I work less than 20 hours a week and have for the last seven years.   As a self-employed lawyer my expenses are approximately 5% of my income. 

In less than 20 hours per week I earn 2.5 times the median amount a full-time lawyer of my call earns per year in Canada (5 times if you account for the pt status by taking only half their salary as a comparison).  It would be much more I imagine if you break that down hourly given that ft lawyers generally work more than 40 hours a week. 

I also pay much less tax than I did as an employee due to the use of a corporation.

I have no pension, but I do have benefits, including a health savings plan.

So, it can be done, but, as I said, I only succeeded by leaving a firm and going on my own.  Working 40 hours and being called part-time is not what I'd call success.

Law is a profession, but it is also a business.  You need to understand the business side well to know what is possible.  You probably don't have to wait for retirement to downshift if you understand how the business of law works, how to get and retain clients, and come up with a good business plan.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #33 on: June 03, 2014, 06:56:06 AM »
I've worked part time for years, but it's in retail sales. Well, sales in general would be amenable to PT work, especially an outside sales rep.

My wife has a non-standard job title, but basically she does a mixture of QA/Six Sigma lean manufacturing/on the job training for a single company. They've been good to us, but I think her plan when we are at or near FI is to start her own consulting business and take as many or as few jobs as she wants. What she does is ideal for temporary contracts. E.g., company X brings her in for so many weeks to overhaul their training, or a specific process, etc.

She gets a lot of good feedback at outside seminars and conferences. She is starting to be asked for speaking time.

She absolutely loves the problem solving and solution proposals. What she hates is the office politics and high school drama.

I'm much better at finance than she is, so I'd probably end up being her staff accountant.

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #34 on: July 29, 2014, 09:12:34 AM »
Great thread!

MayDay

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #35 on: July 29, 2014, 09:49:44 AM »
I worked as an engineer for a F50 company.  If my first role, it was a young organization led by a working mother whose own husband had a part time schedule and was the primary caregiver of their kids.  So she was extremely supportive.  My direct boss worked 80% and when I had a kid! I worked 60% for a year! then 80%.  I had to take a very occasional teleconference on a day off, or sometimes rearrange my work days if we had plant trials on a certain day, but I basically worked my correct hours. 

Then I was involuntarily transferred to a new department full of old men, and the PT schedule was gone in a flash. 


CommonCents

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #36 on: July 29, 2014, 10:06:32 AM »
Another former biglaw associate: You're right, it's a part-time trap and the odds are substantially against you that it'll work for any length of time.  Those I knew that did it either went back to full-time to get paid for the extra work they were doing, or left.  They also weren't able to negotiate a straight time/pay cut such as 25% less time for 25% less pay - it was skewed to less pay compared to the hours, to make the business model successful (in supporting the overhead costs and the partner pyramid).

I recommend either working full-time until you are FI or downshifting to a different type of legal job.  I work government, 9-5 for perhaps 40% of what I'd make in my base salary at a firm, but I get a pension, a true 9-5 job, I'm paid for overtime (and they can't "make" me work it and are appreciative when I step up).  For the most part (97%), I'm really off when I'm off - after work, weekends, and on vacations.  Oh, and people thank me and tell me I'm doing a good job.

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #37 on: July 29, 2014, 10:54:57 AM »
Can you work PRN instead of part-time? I'm not sure if there's a difference but I can pick the days I can work as PRN so I can pick how many hours I work too. But for those hours, I'm getting my normal pay

DoubleDown

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #38 on: July 29, 2014, 10:57:50 AM »
I work government, 9-5 for perhaps 40% of what I'd make in my base salary at a firm, but I get a pension, a true 9-5 job

IANAL, but I'm guessing that your hourly rate ends up being about the same? That is, you're earning 40% compared to a firm, but also working about 40% of those hours? Especially when you throw the pension into the overall compensation...

tanhanivar

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #39 on: July 29, 2014, 03:43:05 PM »
A friend of mine was a senior associate in a largish firm - before she left, she told the partner that when she worked part time in a newsagents she earned more per hour, had more respect and less responsibility.

I'm in public service now - pay cut per annum, massive pay rise per hour!

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #40 on: July 29, 2014, 04:07:56 PM »
WE both left our f.t. careers because there was no way to go p.t. with our employers. We then looked for p.t. work in same/similar fields.  I ended up doing some consulting & teaching one college class online. My hubby is an engineer & works p.t. for a new company.  There are occasions where he will work f.t. when the company is really busy but it is not all the time.

CommonCents

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #41 on: July 29, 2014, 04:22:37 PM »
I work government, 9-5 for perhaps 40% of what I'd make in my base salary at a firm, but I get a pension, a true 9-5 job

IANAL, but I'm guessing that your hourly rate ends up being about the same? That is, you're earning 40% compared to a firm, but also working about 40% of those hours? Especially when you throw the pension into the overall compensation...

Quite possibly, although I never calculated it.  And the lowered stress and increased appreciation was a substantial non-monetary "bonus".  And as a friend still working in a large law firm recently noted, hours 40-80+ should have a higher pay rate than hours 1-40, because of the overall impact to your life - family, friends, activities, health etc.  So if you factor that in, my hourly rate was much improved.

ETA: If I calculated it, I suspect it would just match hourly rate for base.  The bonus blows it out of the water.  I think my friend is getting $100k for a bonus this year.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2014, 10:19:02 AM by CommonCents »

Zamboni

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #42 on: July 29, 2014, 06:42:47 PM »
If you think $$$ per hour, then teaching at a law school might be a winner for you if that is something that would interest you.

Big law sounds like it really sucks . . . I thought "The Firm" was fictional, but maybe not?

tanhanivar

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #43 on: July 29, 2014, 07:23:33 PM »
Big law sounds like it really sucks . . . I thought "The Firm" was fictional, but maybe not?

Heheheh-nope.

Though I always found Wolfram & Hart (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfram_%26_Hart) the most true-to-life.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2014, 07:26:07 PM by tanhanivar »

theincurableapprentice

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #44 on: July 29, 2014, 07:42:34 PM »
To be clear, after you leave "full time" work, will you be FI? Because that changes a lot of things, not the least of which is what you can demand out of your employment.
Someone who has the option to just walk if the employment does not live up to expectations has a lot more leverage than someone who doesn't.
If you won't be FI before you drop to part time, you might want to consider staying full time until you are. That way, if someone tries to give you full time hours for part time pay, you can just say "thanks but no thanks. I'm outta here..."

Totally agree with this point.  The more leverage you have the easier it is to ask for what you really need from your employer.  I have a couple ideas I would love to take advantage of (but I am 5-6 years away from this.)

straight up part time - work 20 hours
job share program - would need to find someone else interested in partnering with me
project by project work - with time off in between

maybe I am too confident - but I think my job would be willing to work with me on at least one of the ideas above.

DecD

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #45 on: July 29, 2014, 08:03:29 PM »
I am an engineer.

When I first started with my current company, I worked part time for the first 9 months as I was still at home with my second child.  I was paid hourly, and I was writing a document for them, so no real deadlines.  It worked great.  I worked 10 hours/week and never had scope creep.

I now work full time for them, and plan to for the next few years.  Once we hit FI, I may ask to go part time again, simply cause they pay quite well and I enjoy the work, and it's a great company.  So an extra few years of making our living expenses on part-time work I enjoy would help add extra cushion.  And since we have kids in school, we won't be taking off for extended vacations durning the school year anyway.  As long as I'm enjoying it, why not?

It's one of possibilities out there for me.  Good thing we are still a few years away from FI, cause I'm not yet sure what life will look like after.

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #46 on: December 09, 2014, 04:36:57 PM »
Revisiting this one, because I'm trying to negotiate a part time situation right now.  Not sure how it will work, because this isn't commonly done here. 

Where do you think the sweet spot is for part time work?  25%  50%?  75%?  I probably can't go below 50%, but I might be happy doing it indefinitely. 

"I" am FI, but my wife is not (i.e., together we're not, but I saved a bunch before marriage).  So I'm looking for something in between outright retirement and working like a dog well past my original target.

TerriM

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #47 on: December 09, 2014, 05:16:02 PM »
Revisiting this one, because I'm trying to negotiate a part time situation right now.  Not sure how it will work, because this isn't commonly done here. 

Where do you think the sweet spot is for part time work?  25%  50%?  75%?  I probably can't go below 50%, but I might be happy doing it indefinitely. 

"I" am FI, but my wife is not (i.e., together we're not, but I saved a bunch before marriage).  So I'm looking for something in between outright retirement and working like a dog well past my original target.


First question is whether you need benefits.  If you need benefits, there will be a minimum number of hours they expect you to work to get it.  If you don't need it, or if they don't want to give them to you for part time work, there will be a number of hours BELOW that number they will want you to work.  After that, it's generally what gets things done promptly enough for them.  What's the minimum caseload you can take and how many hours a week would it take you?  Is that less hours than you'd like to work or more?  If more, that's your minimum, if less, then multiply by 2 or 3 or whatever as needed.  Also, part time work is often feast or famine, so keep in mind that there may be weeks or working more or less. 

lhamo

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #48 on: December 09, 2014, 09:27:35 PM »
I would aim for a schedule where you work X number of full-time days, typically 60-80%, though in some jobs 40% might be viable.  This helps to prevent the urge to say "just a few minutes longer" on a day when you are only supposed to be working part time.  Learned this the hard way myself.  I had a 60% part-time schedule for a year after my second child was born, but ended up working more like 80-90% (for the 60% of original pay) because it was often hard to leave on time and then I would also get sucked into emailing or calls once I was home.  It was kind of necessary due to childcare issues (b-feeding, primarily), but even so if I had a do-over I probably would have asked for a 3-day/week schedule and just enjoyed those two full days off a week.

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Re: Avoiding the "part-time" trap
« Reply #49 on: December 09, 2014, 09:30:34 PM »
Many large firms (Littler Mendelson and Pillsbury come to mind) are migrating to a model of using lower-paid staff/flextime attorneys with much lower billable requirements (something like 30 hours). Not sure how those are actually working out, but compensation is generally in the 70ish range. That's where I'll be looking when I get ready to downshift.