For the past five years, Yale Law School has produced a list of the top “family friendly” law firms. And for the past five years, men have acted like “family” issues are something only women need to worry about.

Maybe that’s true if you are a committed bachelor who never intends to procreate or know the love of a real woman. Maybe that’s true if you subscribe to some kind of 1950′s television ideal where the man works and the woman is exclusively a stay-at-home mom. Mind the pool boy, fellas.

But the majority of men will one day marry and spawn. In many cases, they’ll marry a woman of equal career ambitions. At that point, being able to take some paternity leave might be very important. Maybe their wife won’t even be a lawyer, and thus make more money than her husband (have you seen what legal salaries are like these days). Most likely we will see more and more male primary care givers, and the firms will have to adjust. We’ve heard a lot about the “mommy track,” in our professional lifetimes one expects the “daddy track” to become just as important.

So which firms are already ahead of the family friendly curve?

There are some familiar names on this list. I hope partners and associates at these firms are proud of their place of business:

Yale Law Women (YLW) has announced its fifth annual Top Ten Family Friendly Firms List. The 2010 Top Ten Firms, in alphabetical order, are:

ARNOLD & PORTER
DEBEVOISE & PLIMPTON
DORSEY & WHITNEY
KIRKLAND & ELLIS
MAYER BROWN
MINTZ, LEVIN, COHN, FERRIS, GLOVSKY & POPEO
PERKINS COIE
SIDLEY AUSTIN
STEPTOE & JOHNSON
WILMERHALE

I’ll note that many of these firms have sizable presences in D.C. or Chicago. It’s entirely possible that the very nature of New York City is not conducive to raising a family.

Hopefully, next year the YLW will also include a list of “most family unfriendly” law firms. Obviously, these things change from year to year. Check out last year’s top ten list, and note the firms who didn’t make the cut after a year of recession:

The YLW don’t go into detail about why some firms dropped off the list. Instead, the organization notes some overall positive trends:

In its fifth annual survey of the Vault Top 100 Firms, YLW found that many firms have already embraced more flexible career paths. 24% percent of firms who responded to our survey offer formal “off-ramp / on-ramp programs,” which allow attorneys to leave the firm for a number of years to pursue other types of legal practice or to take time off to spend with their families. In addition, some firms have created child care facilities and Work-Family Balance Groups to discuss issues concerning work-life balance. To further facilitate a family-friendly environment, firms have organized formal and informal mentoring relationships to support attorneys to stay long-term and advance within the firm.

We’ll see if Yale Law students (men and women) hold firms accountable to family policies by voting with their feet. Yale doesn’t send a huge percentage of its graduates directly into Biglaw so firms really compete to get the few who do. If firms see that this is one factor that top recruits are looking at, even more significant change could be on the way.


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