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New Jersey State Bar Association Announces Formation of Work-Life Balance Task Force

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Jersey State Bar Association President Lynn Fontaine Newsome and President-Elect Peggy Sheahan Knee today announced the formation of a Task Force to study work-life balance issues. With the NJSBA trying to attract young lawyers to become more active in bar association activities, and increasing reports of a growing generation of lawyers looking for ways to develop their careers without sacrificing their family lives, Newsome and Knee believe the Task Force will be a win-win for the Association, its members and the law firms for which they work. It will be charged with developing work-life balance initiatives and recommendations for the bar association itself, as well as developing model policies and programs for law firms of all sizes and demographics.

“It has been 15 years since the State Bar Association has specifically looked at these issues,” says Newsome, referring to a series of alternative work arrangement recommendations adopted by the Association in 1993. “This Task Force will begin exploring where those recommendations left off.” While those recommendations included endorsing alternative work arrangements in the legal profession, this new Task Force will be expected to actually develop potential alternative work arrangements for those in the profession to adopt.

Knee, a partner with her spouse in a small firm and the mother of two young children, anticipates the Task Force will assist the Association in developing alternative “activity” arrangements as well. “I expect the Task Force to develop recommendations that the Association can adopt to help make it easier for individuals with competing work and family responsibilities to actively participate in the Association.”

Echoing a similar sentiment, Newsome noted that, during her tenure as Association president, she tried to educate the world that you don’t have to be at the office 12 hours a day to be a successful attorney. She believes the Task Force will be able to hold candid forums about the time pressures faced by today’s attorneys, and provide suggestions for addressing them.

Newsome noted some of the recommendations could include changing the way members are expected to participate in State Bar activities or handle law firm assignments, taking advantage of available technology like electronic communication instead of in-person meetings.

Both Newsome and Knee agree that the Task Force’s work will be focused on issues facing both male and female attorneys.

The New Jersey Task Force follows on the heels of similar studies undertaken in other places, such as the recently released report of the New York State Bar Association’s Special Committee on Balanced Lives in the Law, and the May 2006 study released by the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia entitled, “Creating Pathways to Success: Advancing and Retaining Women in Today’s Law Firms.” Both reports were the result of candid discussions with lawyers and law firms about time, financial, family and work pressures and the importance of balancing them all in a way that makes sense.

Those discussions were begun within the NJSBA at the Association’s 2007 Annual Meeting, where Newsome organized several programs featuring discussions about work alternatives, such as part-time options, telecommuting or even “opting-out” for a time. The Task Force will move beyond those initial discussions to develop practical and useful recommendations.

“The Task Force will help the Association to help itself by showing us how to restructure our work in a more family-friendly way, will help Association members by providing information about various options that may be available for individuals seeking a better balance, and will help New Jersey law firms by providing sample programs and policies to help them achieve a more family-friendly workplace while still maintaining bottom-line success,” said Knee.

The members of the Task Force will be appointed shortly, with a report and recommendations expected by next spring.

The New Jersey State Bar Association incorporated in 1899 is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming and improving the legal system and to aiding in the administration of justice. Visit the Association’s website at