Women continue to have a hard time in the law. Whether they’re being told not to show cleavage, dress like “ignorant sluts,” or wear hooker heels, they just can’t the respect they deserve. In an environment like this, where women are perceived as lesser beings and one is expected to bring baked goods to the office just because she happens to have breasts, achieving a sense of work/life balance seems like an incredibly lofty goal.
The Yale Law Women just came out with their annual list of the top ten family friendly firms. We cover this list every year (see our posts from 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008). This year’s list changed very dramatically from last year’s: only three of the firms have returned.
Which firms made the cut? Which firms had the best options available to both women and men? 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
Hogan Lovells (U.S.)
Hunton & Williams
Kirkland & Ellis
Morrison & Foerster
Munger Tolles & Olson
Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe
Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison
Vinson & Elkins
In 2014, the following firms were booted from the list: Fulbright & Jaworski, Goodwin Procter, Perkins Coie (previously honored for four years in a row; so much for the diaper-changing table in the men’s bathroom), Reed Smith (previously honored for two years in a row), Sherman & Sterling, Sidley Austin, and Squire Sanders. Curiously missing in action yet again was WilmerHale. The Boston-based firm used to be a staple on the YLW list (from 2009 to 2012). Does anyone have any specific info on what happened here?
The three returning firms are Arnold & Porter (an institution on this list; it’s been recognized every year since we began our coverage), Hunton & Williams, and Orrick (both honored for the third year in a row). These three are now joined by Baker Botts, HoLove, K&E, MoFo, Munger Tolles, Paul Weiss, and V&E. 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 2013, Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers released the list of the 50 Best Law Firms for Women, which included the U.S. outpost of Hogan Lovells, Hunton & Williams, Kirkland & Ellis, Orrick, and Vinson & Elkins. Very nice work.
Vivia Chen of The Careerist has a round-up of useful information about some of the YLW study’s findings:
• Work/life balance is a hot subject at firms. The report finds that an astonishing 83 percent have committees devoted to the issue.
• Part-time and flex-time work are allowed in most firms. But part-time is definitely a women’s thing: They make up 80.5 percent of those who take advantage of the program.
• Firms offer generous paid leaves. Sixteen weeks to primary caregivers, and 5.6 weeks to secondary caregivers. But only about 50 percent of men take the maximum parental leave, while 90 percent of women do so.
That’s really good and well that all of these Biglaw firms are paying greater attention to the family needs of their employees, but we’d love to know what taking advantage of these opportunities does to one’s professional career track. Considering the YLW report says that “[a]lumni expressed skepticism about the likelihood of remaining partner-eligible after taking advantage of alternative schedules,” we obviously have our doubts as to the firms’ sincere intent to offer genuine work/life balance opportunities.
According to the surveys taken by the Yale Law Women, things are supposedly getting better. “[A]bout 40 percent of attorneys perceived their firms to be more family friendly now compared to last year,” says Luci Yang, the group’s chair. We’ll buy into that when legal professionals — women especially — aren’t being penalized for attempting to attain a sense of work/life balance.
P.S. Take this with a shaker of salt: the workaholic cult of Wachtell Lipton somehow has one of the highest percentages of associates working on part-time schedules.