In-House Attorneys Stressed by Work/Life Pressures

Lack of equilibrium found between professional ambitions and personal goals

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Oct 7, 2014

Work/life balance was a significant consideration when choosing a job for 62 percent of in-house lawyers who are caregivers, and by 45 percent not providing primary care for others, according to a new report by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC).

The 2014 ACC Global Work-Life Balance Report received responses from 2,004 corporate lawyers in 41 countries. Overall, 58 percent of survey respondents are happy with their work/life balance in their current work setting. Attorneys in Canada and the United States rank work/life balance satisfaction more positively (62 percent and 59 percent respectively) than those in other regions.

"The perception of work/life balance plays a significant role in the career decisions of business executives across the globe, especially those working in the compliance and ethics, regulatory, and employment and labor sectors," said Veta T. Richardson, president and CEO of ACC, in a statement accompanying the report. "In order to eradicate barriers between benefits offered and employees' comfort using them, companies need to encourage participation and educate employees about the long-term benefits. This will also help attract and retain talent and ease turnover costs."

Survey results demonstrated varying levels of happiness by law department size. In-house counsel working in large legal departments (200 or more employees) expressed more favorable views toward the level of departmental support offered to caregivers, compared to those working in small to midsize legal departments.

"Understanding employees' work/life balance perceptions and needs is the first step to building strong diversity and inclusion programs," said David R. Allgood, chair of the ACC board of directors and executive vice president/general counsel of the Royal Bank of Canada. "At a time when caregiving is becoming an increasingly important role for many employees,” he added, understanding “still-unfulfilled work/life balance needs and best practices” can help organizations to better hone their programs.

High-Stress Positions

Industries and practice areas in which a high percentage of in-house lawyers considered searching for another role in anticipation of future parenting or caregiving responsibilities included:

Technology (47 percent of respondents).

Compliance and ethics (44 percent).

Real estate (42 percent).

Employment and labor (42 percent).

In other key findings from the report:

79 percent of respondents who are caregivers were female, compared to 20 percent male.

70 percent of female caregivers believed being a caregiver had a "negative impact" on career advancement. Overall, two-thirds of caregivers indicated that their role as a caregiver has had a somewhat or very negative impact on career advancement opportunities, while only 30 percent believe it has had no impact.

59 percent of caregivers reported difficulty harmonizing between work and personal responsibilities, compared to 42 percent who are noncaregivers.

Telecommuting (91 percent), flexible work schedule (90 percent), and paid maternity or paternity leave (59 percent) were reported as the top three most helpful benefits for employees to manage work/life balance.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

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