BigLaw firms are notorious, whether they deserve the reputation or not, for long hours and cut-throat associates angling for partnership at the expense of their other co-workers and personal lives. In an effort to create a family-friendly atmosphere and more positive work environment, many law firms have instituted affinity groups and generous parental leave policies.
One Vault 100 law firm, Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP, recently announced a new policy that allows attorneys who are primary caregivers up to 22 weeks of leave with full pay. Additionally, the firm will provide two months of job-guaranteed leave unpaid; this means that primary caregivers can focus on caring for their newborns for nine months knowing that their jobs are secure.
Orrick’s chairman and CEO Mitch Zuklie explained that the policy was an effort to address the issues surrounding the retention of female attorneys beyond the junior associate level faced by many BigLaw firms stating the policy was meant to “inspire [women] to stay and lead.”
Zuklie also noted that “creating more opportunities for women will require changes in policy, culture and leadership,” bringing up a concern voiced by many associates who participated in Vault’s 2015 Law Firm Associate Survey--What good are these generous parental leave policies if taking leave is frowned upon or you no longer receive good assignments as a result?
The attitude that parents, particularly mothers, who take leave are somehow less dedicated to the firm and less capable as attorneys needs to change before law firms can truly become “family-friendly” and women with children have the same partnership prospects as their male counterparts. Statements such as the one made by Zulkie that indicate that the firm wants mothers to make partner can go a long way in changing the attitudes of the firm leadership responsible for evaluating associates and making promotion decisions.
Is your firm family-friendly? Is taking parental leave encouraged? Let us know in the comments!
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