LWB: The Impact of Children on Lawyer Productivity
Having children impacts lawyer productivity in different ways depending on gender, concludes a recent investigation by the British Psychological Society, reported here. After studying the schedules and billing records of 670 lawyers in Alberta, Canada, researchers Jean Wallace and Marisa Young found that when women lawyers have children, their productivity (or at least hours worked) decreases. The decrease occurs because female lawyers with children usually juggle professional and domestic responsibilities. By contrast, male lawyers with children were found to be more productive than their childless male counterparts, which according to the study " is consistent with the dominant cultural view of men as breadwinners, such that those with greater family responsibilities put in more hours to earn more money." At the same time, male lawyers with children were more likely to have a partner who did not work and could assume responsibility for household duties.
The study also examined the impact of "family friendly" work practices on productivity. Interestingly, the researchers concluded that flexible hours negatively impacted the productivity of male staff, but not female staff.
So which category of lawyers is most productive? That would be childless female lawyers, whose productivity exceeds that of their childless male counterparts and male and female lawyers with children.
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.