Knowledge Center

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Building the Business Case for Flexibility

In the last 20 years, through our research activities, member outreach, and extensive advisory services practice, Catalyst has learned that the first step in making organizational change is to understand and widely communicate the “business case” for change. In the case of law firms, the first step in dealing effectively with the dilemma of how to improve work-life balance while succeeding as a firm is to understand the dimensions of the work-life balance issue. This study lays the foundation for the business case by exploring perceptions of associate work-life balance and calculating the impact of associate turnover

A web-based survey was fielded to lawyers in more than 100 Canadian law firms in the fall of 2003. More than 1,400 lawyers participated in the survey, including 846 associates. The cost of associate turnover was calculated based on data from four case study participants.

Sixty-two percent of women associates and 47 percent of men associates intend to stay with their firms for five years or less. However, associates with positive perceptions of the work-life culture at their firm intend to stay longer than those with negative perceptions.

Both women and men cite an environment supportive of work and family commitments and more control over their work schedules as two factors they would consider if they were to chose to work for another firm.

These results, coupled with our model of associate turnover which demonstrates that it costs firms $315,000 (or approximately twice the average associate’s annual salary) every time an associate leaves, suggest strongly that work-life balance is an important issue for firms to address.

Lead Sponsors: Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP; Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP; McCarthy Tetrault LLP; Ogilvy Renault; Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, LLP

Participating Sponsors: Blake, Cassels & Graydon, LLP; Borden Ladner Gervais, LLP; Goodmans LLP; McMillan Binch LLP; Torys LLP