The Part-Time Partner

Joanne Soslow keeps her priorities in order

Published in 2005 Pennsylvania Rising Stars — December 2005

Monday through Thursday, Joanne Soslow is like any other lawyer at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius: She returns calls, drafts documents, rushes to meetings. But on Friday she has other things on her mind. Like Little League.

Soslow is a pioneer in the legal community when it comes to finding time for both her career as a securities lawyer and her family, which consists of husband Tony and two sons, Jack and Robert, 8 and 6. After having her first child, she realized she couldn’t maintain a full-time work schedule. Her solution: less time at the office, more time at home, and the same devotion to her clients. The result: She was named a part-time partner by the firm in 2000, making it in the same amount of time as the others in her class.

She works 80 percent of a regular workweek for 80 percent compensation. “But when I’m working, my clients get 100 percent of my attention,” she points out. “I’m there when they need me. I love what I do, but work can’t be your whole life.”

At 40, slender and stylishly dressed, she literally bounces with excitement as she speaks about her dual lives. She maintains a crisp, professional air that breathes competence, but it’s not hard to picture her scrambling through the grass with her sons. “Aren’t they adorable?” she asks while beaming at a framed photo of her boys at a Phillies game.

Soslow believes reduced schedules are especially effective at a large firm where teams handle the workload. “We work on different pieces. I do what I need to, but I make sure I’m at school that first day, or at a school play.”

Morgan Lewis has a strong reputation as a family-friendly firm. With more than 1,200 lawyers, 81, or 6.5 percent, of its attorneys work an alternative schedule. That’s nearly twice 2004’s national average of 3.9 percent, according to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). But part-time partners such as Soslow are still rare, with last year’s national percentages ranging from 2.5 to 2.8, according to the NALP.

There are many factors that make Soslow’s work schedule possible. One is technology. Never far from her BlackBerry or her cell phone, she keeps in regular contact with the office even while at home. “This is a client-service business and if I don’t provide excellent service, my clients will go elsewhere,” she says. Another is good child care. The others are “a supportive husband — he likes to cook! — and a phenomenal secretary.”

Soslow is an example to others who are considering a part-time work life. “She made partner without delay,” says an impressed Debrah Epstein Henry, founder of Flex-Time Lawyers, a networking and support organization for lawyers who work nontraditional schedules. “I think very highly of Joanne. She’s tremendous as a role model for those who are prioritizing work and family.”

Another admirer is Stephen Goodman, one of Soslow’s partners, who met her when he was chairman of the corporate department at Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen and she was a summer intern. “I thought she was so talented — an exceptional person with good business and legal judgment. I brought her with me after I moved to Morgan Lewis, and it was one of the best things I ever did,” he says.

Clearly, he’s learned what Soslow’s clients have also discovered: You can count on her. You just might have to try her cell on Fridays.

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