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Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Impact of Children on Lawyer Productivity

Jean Wallace & Marisa Young (both of University of Calgary, Department of Sociology) have published Parenthood and Productivity: A Study of Demands, Resources and Family-Friendly Firms, 72 J. Vocational Behavior 110 (Feb. 2008).  Here is the abstract:

We examine how the presence of children is related to women’s and men’s productivity. We hypothesize family demands, family resources, and family-friendly workplaces are also related to productivity. Productivity for 670 Alberta law firm lawyers is analyzed using a standardized measure of productivity referred to as billable hours. The results suggest that mothers with school-aged children are less productive than non-mothers, whereas fathers with preschool-aged children are more productive than non-fathers. While time spent on household and childcare tasks significantly reduces women’s productivity, we find little support for the benefits of family resources or working in a family-friendly firm for women. Rather, fathers seem to benefit more: family resources are positively related to their productivity and family-friendly benefits allow them more time for leisure. These results support the assumption that having children is negatively related to women’s productivity but challenges the belief that family-friendly policies are primarily beneficial only to mothers trying to balancing work and family.

The study notes that childless female lawyers billed more hours than childless male lawyers (and male and female lawyers with children).  Carolyn Elefant notes:

My biggest gripe with the study is that it uses hours as a proxy for productivity. But as we all know, hours billed don't necessarily correlate to efficiency; indeed, longer hours may signal less productivity, not more. I'd be curious to see, for example, whether women lawyers manage to complete tasks more quickly precisely because they have less time. If that's the case (and I suspect it is), perhaps having children makes them productive, not less.

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Tracked on Apr 9, 2008 2:39:07 PM

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