Biglaw, Gender, Kids, Pregnancy / Paternity, Rankings, Women's Issues

The Top Ten Family-Friendly Law Firms (2013)

As many of our readers know, 2012 was the year of the Clifford Chance Mommy. If you’re unfamiliar with her tale, she wrote an epic departure memo that detailed a day in a harried mother’s life (e.g., waking up at 4 a.m. to start her day and going to sleep the next day at 1:30 a.m., only to do it all over again, ad infinitum). This woman made many people question their own sense of work/life balance, and led others to wonder if they could ever have a meaningful family life while working in Biglaw.

At some firms, you’ll have a fighting chance of achieving that goal.

The Yale Law Women are out with their annual list of the top ten family friendly firms. We cover this list every year (see our posts from 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008). This year’s list has changed dramatically from last year’s: only half of the firms have returned, with five new firms joining them.

Which firms made the cut? Which firms had the best options available to both men and women? Let’s take a look at the latest ranking for the most family-friendly firms….

Here’s the list of the most family-friendly firms according to Yale Law Women (in alphabetical order):

Arnold & Porter
Fulbright & Jaworski
Goodwin Procter
Hunton & Williams
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
Perkins Coie
Reed Smith
Shearman & Sterling
Sidley Austin
Squire Sanders

No Clifford Chance. Also absent from the list are the following firms: Crowell & Moring, Latham & Watkins, Littler Mendelson, Mintz Levin, and WilmerHale. These five made an appearance here last year, but were curiously missing in action when it came time to evaluate their family friendliness in 2013. Does anyone have any specific information on what happened at WilmerHale? The Boston-based firm used to be a staple on the YLW list (from 2009 to 2012), but no more. Did a high-profile lawsuit hurt the firm?

The four returning firms are Arnold & Porter (an institution on this list; it’s been recognized every year since we began our coverage), Hunton & Williams (honored for the second year in a row), Orrick (honored for the second year in a row), Perkins Coie (honored for the fourth year in a row), and Reed Smith (honored for the second year in a row). These five are now joined by Fulbright & Jaworski, Goodwin Procter, Shearman & Sterling, Sidley Austin (returning to the list after a one-year absence), and Squire Sanders. Congratulations to all of these firms for their many accomplishments in “developing and implementing family friendly practices and policies.”

Perhaps an even greater accomplishment, however, is being named in not one, but two rankings lists for the best firms in terms of flex-time opportunities. In late 2012, Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers released the list of the 50 Best Law Firms for Women, which included Fulbright, Goodwin Procter, Hunton & Williams, Orrick, Perkins Coie, and Reed Smith.

The ABA Journal has a great round-up of useful information about some of the YLW study’s findings:

• One-third of participating firms offered on-ramp, off-ramp programs. Firms said the programs helped lawyers taking time off stay connected to the firm, offered pro bono and contract work to the lawyers, and eased their transition back to work.

• 93 percent of the firms offered on-site or backup child care, compared to just 70 percent last year. Several firms have expanded their emergency care programs to include adult and elder care.

• All participating firms offered part-time options, and a “vast majority” offered flex-time. A concurrent survey of alumni in the Vault 100 found that flex-time and part-time policies were the most important to lawyers when evaluating family friendliness.

• 78 percent of the firms offered at least 16 weeks of paid parental leave to primary caregivers.

What does this mean for you? While women are still getting elbowed into the pink ghetto, more firms are offering viable programs that will assist them in their transitions back to work after taking parental leave. Almost 100 percent of firms now offer child care options for their employees (and we’ll presumably see fewer departure memos like that of the Clifford Chance Mommy because of it). Lastly, the study reveals at least 10 firms that achieved category honors in terms of gender parity in partner promotions.

When comparing the results of this year’s study to last year’s, things seem to be looking up. Biglaw firms are now paying greater attention to the family needs of their employees, and they’re actually doing something about it. There may yet be hope for this area of the legal profession after all. Let’s see if more firms have what it takes to make it onto next year’s list — or better yet, stay there.

2013 Top Ten Family Friendly Firms [Yale Law Women]
Top 10 family friendly law firms named; part-time work is option at every surveyed firm [ABA Journal]

Earlier: The 2012 Top Ten Family-Friendly Firms According to Yale Law

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