We've all heard a story like this: a motivated, highly successful (generally female) associate at a top-tier law firm earns a reputation for being the ''go-to'' associate in her department, earns rave reviews for her work, and is on the fast track to partnership. Then she has a baby, takes a maternity leave, and returns to work full-time, convinced she can balance it all. However, shortly thereafter, reality sets in—she realizes that balancing a successful career while raising a child is practically impossible to achieve.

Law Firms and Part-Time Attorneys — They Really Can Go Hand in Hand

So she takes advantage of her law firm's part-time policy and reduces her total annual billable-hour requirement. Suddenly everything changes. She is removed from the firm committees on which she sat, soon discovers that certain partners no longer want to work with her because she (allegedly) cannot travel, and finds that the quality of the work she is given has dropped drastically. Worst of all, she quickly learns that partnership, once just about guaranteed, moves farther and farther from reality. The associate may tough it out for a year or two or maybe even longer, but eventually she will realize that as a second-class citizen, she is better off staying home or seeking in-house work.

Thankfully, this is no longer the norm. Many law firms have instituted part-time policies, commonly referred to as "flexible work arrangements," that allow attorneys to reduce their hours and better manage their personal lives while remaining on track for partnership. Moreover, these arrangements provide significant benefits to the firms.

Why Flexible Work Arrangements Have Traditionally Failed