Flexible working for both male and female partners is being introduced in at least one of the Big Five firms.
Linklaters & Paines is introducing a "flexible working" policy for its partners.
The policy is currently at partnership proposal stage and, on approval, is due to be implemented on 28 April - the start of the firm's next financial year.
Managing partner Terence Kyle explained that the policy had been proposed because "the firm wanted to find a way for partners to work as partners and to deal with outside family commitments at the same time".
He added that he hoped it would help encourage partners to stay with Linklaters, as opposed to moving out of private practice or switching firms.
Kyle added that the move was an extension of the existing policy, which applied to other staff. He said it was to be applied to partners because firms "ought to devise a way to get the benefits of the same type of short-term arrangement at that level".
The flexible working arrangements will apply to both male and female partners and, in "appropriate circumstances", allow them "to adapt their working arrangements".
Given the recent move of Simmons & Simmons tax head Stephen Coleclough to Coopers & Lybrand, where "ridiculous hours" of work were blamed, this may be a trend followed by the other major players.
Head of employment law at Simmons, Janet Gaymer, said her firm was also examining this issue: "We are already perceiving a change in the approach to practice. Lawyers are no longer prepared to work the hours they did. Firms that do not look at alternative strategies run the risk of losing a tremendous amount of resources."