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Generous Parental Leave Policies Spreading in Law Firms

Gayle Cinquegrani bol.bna.com

Lawyers typically work long hours that don't leave much time for personal pursuits. When they have a baby, however, they may need to slow the pace for a while, and many firms are helping them do that with generous parental leave policies.

Large law firms generally offer 16 to 18 weeks of paid leave for mothers and approximately six weeks for fathers, Bloomberg BNA found by contacting several major firms. Many firms also allow lawyers to add paid sick or vacation leave or unpaid leave to extend their time off.

It's fairly common for major law firms to offer lawyers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, but there's "a little bit more of a range in paternity leave," Stephanie Biderman, a managing director at legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 3. "Typically, I see at least one month" for paternity leave, she said.

Bloomberg BNA contacted 31 major law firms. Of the 10 that responded, the most common lengths of parental leave for lawyers in the U.S. were 16 to 18 weeks for mothers or primary caregivers and four to six weeks for fathers or secondary caregivers. "Some firms are no longer characterizing it as maternity or paternity leave but are describing it in a gender-neutral way," Biderman said.


Fear of Taking TIme Off

Expectations may differ for male and female lawyers. "Generally, speaking, I think there's less of a stigma for women taking maternity leave" than for men taking paternity leave, Biderman said. "I think it comes down to "Is my team going to think I'm committed if I take paternity leave?" I think there is hesitation on how they will be viewed."

An associate's use of parental leave may depend on the stage of his career. "I see the younger male associates being more willing to take paternity leave than the associates closer to partnership" consideration, Biderman said. "I think this generally applies to paternity more than maternity leave."

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