At the begining of 2011, there were a bunch of stories about Biglaw women and their struggles to have (or produce) a family while hanging onto their jobs. We saw some important information about the rampant sexism in the legal profession. And there were the familiar cries from women who professed to “have it all” (because there always have to be some women who make all the other women feel bad).
But yeah, from the prospective of January 2011, it looked like Biglaw women were really ready to think critically about what they wanted both professionally and domestically, and how they were going to force some change onto the system.
Then, ostensibly the holiday hangover wore off and everybody got back to work grinding away the hours. Spring bonuses showed up, the masses were placated and the machine kept rolling on.
Well today, the day before spring bonuses actually hit the bank accounts of most of the people lucky enough to get them, the Yale Law Women are out with their annual list of top family-friendly firms. You’ll note that most of the firms on this year’s list are not exactly “market leaders” when it comes to total compensation. In fact, most of the firms on this list had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the spring bonus party, if they are paying bonuses at all.
And so ladies (and gentlemen who want children that have the ability to spot “daddy” in a lineup), here’s a pretty interesting choice. Do you have a preference for these family friendly firms? Or do you just want to go to whatever place pays you the most amount of money at all times?
Here’s the list in alphabetical order. You’ll see what I’m saying in terms of total compensation:
Arnold & Porter
Covington & Burling
Dorsey & Whitney
Kirkland & Ellis
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
Many of these firms eventually got to market compensation, but boy was it a struggle. On the flip side, arguably here is a list of ten firms you can go to and not get bad reviews from partners who are trying to lay the groundwork to can your ass the moment you decide to have a baby. These are the places you can go to where you can say “I’ve got to leave early to pick up my kid from practice,” without your frat boy colleague saying: “Oh, I get it. I have to
‘pick up my kid’ too… I’ll meet you a Rick’s for happy hour.” These are firms where it might still be a struggle to balance your work and your life, but maybe they won’t be in open conflict against each other 24/7.
So do you care if they give you a crappy or nonexistent spring bonus?
Well, of course you do. But that might have something to do with the fact that choosing the most “family friendly” Biglaw firm is kind of like choosing the best position to be in the HUMANCENTiPAD (note: It’s not the middle). Accordingly to the Yale Law Women, Biglaw still presents a pretty horrific gauntlet of family obstacles:
Despite these gains and innovative policies, YLW remains concerned about the low rates of retention for women, the dearth of women in leadership positions, the gender gap in those who take advantage of family friendly policies, and the possibility that part-time work can derail an otherwise successful career.
Although YLW found that, on average, 45% of associates at responding law firms are women, women make up only 17% of equity partners and 18% of firm executive management committees. Additionally, on average, women made up just 27% of newly promoted partners in 2010. We hope that firms will continue to pursue policies which enable them to retain women and which promote women’s ability to join the leadership of their firms.
YLW used the availability and use of parental leave policies as one measure of the gender gap in firm expectations. While 70% of responding firms offer more than 16 weeks leave to primary caregivers, women are allowed more than twice as much parental leave as men on average: birth mothers receive 17 weeks of parental leave compared to 7 weeks, on average, for men. While 94% of mothers used the maximum parental leave offered, 85% of fathers did the same. The disparity in parental leave policies and the possibility of stigma against men who fully utilize the available leave may present substantial obstacles to male attorneys who wish to be more involved with their children.
These statistics suggest that Biglaw won’t really let you have it all, but you are more than welcome to die trying.