Tag Archives: Women

Are Your Associates Exiting BigLaw For Jobs In-House? Diversity, Salary & Leadership Opportunities May Be Why.

Minority women are exiting BigLaw. According to some reports, eighty-five percent of minority female attorneys in the U.S. will quit large firms within seven years of starting their practice.

These days, the image of an all-white, male partnership at a law firm, sitting behind mahogany desks with a nautical office motif is so far from reality, it’s laughable. Or is it?

According to a November NALP press release, at just 2.55 percent of partners in 2015, minority women “continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level, a pattern that holds across all firm sizes and most jurisdictions,” reports the ABA Journal.

There is a variety of reasons minority women are disappearing from BigLaw, and one of those reasons is competition from in-house counsel positions.

Tiffany Harper, esquire, transitioned from law firm life to a post as associate counsel for Grant Thornton in Chicago, for example. She co-founded Uncolorblind, a diversity blog and consulting company after having worked in corporate bankruptcy and restructuring at Schiff Hardin. Her last position was at Polsinelli as in-house counsel, where she looked to broaden her skill set.

“I didn’t see a path for me to partnership at a large law firm. For women of color, there has to be a synergy for you to make partner,” said Harper to the ABA Journal.

“You have to have everything working in your favor at the time you go up for a vote: a practice group that is thriving, the billable hours, people singing your praises, a client base. That has to all come together for you in a way it doesn’t have to for other people.”

But a power shift from large law firms to in-house counsel departments is on the rise for everyone, not just minority women.

“From demands for discounts, using online auctions to select firms, hiring law grads straight out of school, or simply moving more legal work in house, general counsel are pushing back on their outside lawyers,” reports the WSJ Law Blog.

Surprisingly, where salaries for lawyers have generally declined with the economy, compensation of in-house counsel has increased. Where BigLaw is dominated by the same type of person, in-house positions are more diverse in their human resources.

In one survey, 22 percent of in-house counsel are earning more than $300,000 per year in salary, bonus, and other compensation, which is a rise of 16 percent from the previous year, and 57 percent since the previous decade (via WSJ Law Blog).

Casey Flaherty, former in-house counsel at Kia Motors America, says that “in a data-rich world, there’s no reason law departments can’t track diversity using their standard outside counsel management software to establish baselines and measure improvement, just as a law department might track a firm’s efficiency and cost-effectiveness.” That’s why hiring decisions for in-house counsel positions are base don something more:

“Diversity is certainly one of the primary factors you should be considering,” said Flaherty to Law360.

“If you’re not, then it isn’t a priority, and who cares what’s in your policy statement? Who cares if you’ve formed a task force? … To me the diversity discussion and the metrics discussion are the same discussion: What are we prioritizing, and how are we measuring?”

So, if you’re planning a career shift (or have already taken advantage of the recent trend) toward in-house, below you’ll find a few tips for success.

If you’ve changed from a large law firm to corporate counsel, ViXS Systems Inc. general counsel Cheryl Foy emphasizes the importance of learning about the culture of the company you’re working for, including a comprehensive understanding of the needs and challenges of its business.

“Figure out who you’re working with. It’s folly to go in with the idea that ‘I’m the lawyer’—people will argue with your legal opinion. You have to build credibility so assess the culture first,” says Foy (via Canadian Lawyer Magazine). 

In addition, don’t let a power shift in industry dynamics translate to a shift in power at your new position.

When Foy found herself in a situation in a previous in-house job where she wanted to be part of the executive team but wasn’t regarded as such, she received this advice: “You need to be acting like you’re at the table already,” (via Canadian Lawyer Magazine).

Make it clear on hire that a position as in-house counsel is one of management and decision-making. Act like a leader from the outset and you’ll be considered one in-house.

Finally, to fully understand the ins and outs of in-house counsel, remember there’s a big difference between big law practice and a position as in-house corporate counsel.

“Adapt a communication style that reflects that your audience has changed,” advises David Allgood, executive vice president and general counsel with the Royal Bank of Canada (via Canadian Lawyer Magazine).

“Remember it’s the enterprise who is your client now.”

And, with a new 40-60 hour workweek (instead of 60-80 in BigLaw), who can complain about that?



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Is The Law At Odds With Women In The Workplace? How Women Can Become Better Bosses

Some days it’s hard to be a woman and appreciate the law.

Let’s take a recent incident in Iowa, for example.

For an entire decade a man enjoyed the hard work of his female subordinate. Ten years the two worked side-by-side in a dental office without incident. But, following a midlife crisis, failure in his own marriage, or some other unprovoked change of heart, the boss suddenly finds his assistant too attractive to be around. He promptly fires her.

“Dr. Knight said I couldn’t work in the office, because he was becoming attracted to me, and not able to focus on his family, and his family life… I instantly broke down in tears. All I remember is just sitting there, and not able to get up, telling him that I love my job,” explains Melissa Nelson in an interview with “20/20” correspondent Paula Faris, reports ABC News.

A lawsuit was filed on the grounds of wrongful termination due to gender.

Dr. James Knight, the dentist in question, doesn’t agree with Nelson’s claims. Although he doesn’t deny the sexual advances through text message or other incidents, his attorney told ABC News: “… she was not terminated because of her gender, but to preserve the best interest of his marriage.”

Sadly, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed with Knight. The most sympathy they could utter was that Nelson’s one month’s severance pay was “ungenerous” but his actions, legal.

This outcome is less surprising when we consider the justices, David, Daryl, Brent, Bruce, Edward, Thomas, and Chief Justice Mark. More than their verdict, there’s another commonality among these lawmakers—they’re all men.

See, it’s hard to keep track of the whims of men these days.

For every dollar men earn, women still earn just 77 cents. Nonetheless, the majority of Congress is unconcerned.

The Senate was six votes shy of passing the Paycheck Fairness Act this year. Why? Republicans argued that discrimination based on gender is already illegal, and feel their hands are tied to do anything more. If those laws worked for women like Nelson, then that would be true.

What’s sad is that these unjust cases of discrimination or sexual harassment are not new.

Bloomberg Businessweek admitted that an unpaid intern that is not legally considered an employee, and thus cannot sue for sexual harassment in the workplace:

“This discrepancy’s not new: Unpaid interns aren’t covered by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and while local laws can protect them, New York’s state and city laws do not.” In many states, it seems the law does not favor female subordinate employees. But, life’s even harder on female bosses.

Only 4.6 percent of public companies have female CEOs.

“The United States, once a world leader in gender equality, now lags behind other similarly wealthy nations in women’s economic participation. In the two decades from 1990 to 2010, our country fell from having the sixth-highest rate of female labor-force participation among 22 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, countries to 17th on the list,” writes Michelle Patterson, Founder and President of The California Women’s Conference and President and CEO of Women Network.

An astounding 46 percent of Russia’s leadership roles are held by women, 24 percent in Europe, and 31 percent in Turkey. These numbers are significantly higher than North America’s mere 18 percent, according to Career Bright’s article on the marginalization of professional women.

On a list of 200 companies with a workforce of over 1,000 employees, a survey by Glassdoor found only 2 companies with female bosses ranked high on employee approval of CEOs. Forbes, who reported on the survey, asks pertinently: “Do We Hate Female Bosses?

Well, do we?

Some blame confidence. Men are just more confident in leadership roles.

If that’s true, it’s not at all surprising why—given all the legal cards stacked against a women: Don’t look too attractive, don’t look too ugly, don’t be “bossy” or “bitchy” yet still command your subordinates with authority…

How could any woman balance such a heavy double standard?

If there’s one thing a woman in the workplace can do to be taken seriously, it’s speak up—more often and more assertively. Like this blog post. Like today at work.

Are you too nice, too modest or way too quiet when it comes to saying and getting what you want in the workplace? Do you assume the blame when things go wrong? And what about when things go right? Do you credit other people, good luck or circumstances for your success?

You’re not alone. In fact, a recent survey found that half of women managers admitted to feelings of self-doubt about their performance and career, but only 31 percent of men reported the same.

Condescending colleagues, gender bias, and stereotypes can make it hard for women to take credit when it’s due, or steer the company ship with confidence. But a woman’s actions, assertiveness and communication skills—or lack thereof—could also be sabotaging her career.

So, take The Center For Competitive Management’s audio course Friday, July 11, 2014 from 11AM to 12:15pm EST: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Confident, Assertive Leadership.

While it will likely take more time to convince lawmakers that effort and work ethic, not the sexual desires and whims of men, should take priority in the workplace, it doesn’t take much for a woman to ask for promotions, initiate salary negotiations, speak up at meetings, manage subordinates productively and successful manager, and master guiltless self-promotion with gusto.

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The Smart Woman’s Guide To Winning Office Politics

“It’s seen as sneaky, but it doesn’t have to be. And whether you like it or not, politics are important in any office culture,” said Kari Reston, founder and CEO of Boredom to Boardroom, a company that helps young professionals with their careers, to Ruchika Tulshyan at Forbes.

It’s time women become comfortable with office politics.

Office politics is a game. When people discuss office politics, they’re usually talking about underhanded dealings, backdoor deals, and favoritism. But, office politics is also—put more simply—socially networking within a company.

At your law firm—as well as law firms around the world—there are groups of cliques, people who prefer to interact with one another exclusively in and out of the office. These relationships may form between colleagues, clients, or vendors.

To play the game, you need to know the players. So, admit that social networking and office politics are important. Then, make sure you know who are the lynchpin players in managing and manipulating professional relationships.

When you know the players, it will easier to play and—most importantly—win.

Promotion is a politics game. So, now you know who is responsible for professional promotions or bonuses. The question is, how well do you know them? Do you get along? How often do you interact?

Cultivating a relationship to win a promotion, at first glance, seems sneaky. However, cultivating relationships with superiors or people in important positions just helps you bring to their attention your hard work and accomplishments.

“One of the very best ways to connect with people is to offer to assist them in some way. Especially in these challenging economic times, there is no shortage of people who feel overwhelmed and could use some assistance,” said Nina Simosko from Nike, Inc., to Jo Miller for Women’s Leadership Coaching.

“If you are able to authentically connect with and assist folks with things of importance to them, then they will want to repay the favor and will be available to you when needed.”

Were you the senior associate on that high-profile case win? Waiting for somebody to hand you your promotion? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. People in a position of power are not always apprised of the inter-workings of a case matter.

An equity partner may recognize your name without realizing your critical role on his legal team. When you cultivate relationships with the people in power, they will know, first-hand, how many nights you spent at the office, how little sleep you obtained due to work, or how important your contribution was in winning the suit, settlement, or client.

Leadership is a politics game. Be vocal. Ask for assignments, promotions, or leadership roles. Take credit for your wins. You’ll only be viewed as a leader at your firm if you are already acting like one.

“You might be cheery, friendly, fun and likable at work, which is great. But is that the brand that’s going to get you to senior management? Maybe credibility, great analytic skills and strong communication abilities are what you actually want to be known for,” explains Reston.

Women tend to be afraid to “talk themselves up” for fear of looking like brown-nosers. But, their male counterparts are doing exactly that.

As a result, women tend to stay in firms where they’re likely underappreciated and underpromoted. “In my experience, women tend to stay longer than they should in a culture that is not a match, or in positions where a manager is putting a lid on their career development,” concludes Simosko.

“Building relationships and getting to know people better can do a lot to build appreciation of diverse of values and perspectives, so give that a genuine effort for at least a few months.”

For more information, attend C4CM’s online audio conference, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Winning at Office Politics on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 11:00 Am To 12:15 Pm Eastern time, featuring Kari Reston.

This power-packed session will explore the political challenges women face in the workplace, and will identify the attitudes and skills needed to address them successfully, including:

  • How to change your perception of office politics (it’s not a bad thing)
  • Tips to identify the types of power at play in your workplace
  • Communication techniques to help you gain allies, influence others, and build relationships (even with the most difficult people) ·
  • Important lessons on how to actively take the credit you deserve, and create an impactful personal brand · How and why to build a strong network

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Five Reasons To Relax Maternity Leave Policy

Increasing the amount of paid and unpaid maternity or paternity leave is great for working parents. But, what about the firm?

Here are five reasons why relaxing your current maternity or paternity leave policy will benefit your law firm:

1. Retain qualified employees

“In all parts of the world, working women who become pregnant are faced with the threat of job loss, suspended earnings and increased health risks due to inadequate safeguards for their employment,” says F. J. Dy-Hammar, Chief, ILO Conditions of Work Branch, who oversaw the report, Maternity Protection at Work, reports the ILO.

This threat is intensified in law, as women are already underrepresented in the industry.

This is why it is even more important to show female associates that your law firm supports them. In fact, women make law firms more profitable by making teamwork more productive.

“According to [a study conducted by] Professor [Anita] Woolley of Carnegie Mellon, teams that include women would score higher on tasks than a team of all men because they possess the sensitivity chip necessary to communicate and relate to others more effectively,” reports the Levo League and C4CM.

In addition, female partners are vastly undervalued. This means, for the same level of work, a firm pays women less. Economists will tell you, women provide great bang for your buck. Although the reasoning may be crude, retaining female employees will help maintain your firm’s bottom line. That’s the bottom line.

2. Maintain diversity

Diversity is key to success. When your firm desperately needs new ideas to make or break a case, innovation will emerge out of teams of diverse size and organization.

“Creating a diverse environment of both men and women from different geographic regions, ethnic groups, age groups, and from a variety of functions will offer greater insight. This type of crowdsourcing opens the arena for new ideas within the organization,” writes Robert F. Brands for the Huffington Post.

Not only does cultivating diversity among teams grow the idea-generating legal machine, but they also increase the competitive edge of your firm by introducing new products and idea. If you keep losing female associates as a result of deficient maternity leave policy, your firm and its earnings from creativity will suffer.

3. Retract work-from-home

Innovation and change can be a good thing. But, not all firms should look alike. Although flexible schedules is a fad these days, it may not suit the needs of your particular law practice.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny that women benefit the most from telecommuting policies. Young female associates look for firms that offer work-from-home policies so that they can look forward to starting a family in the future.

However, if you’re a company like Yahoo who values face-to-face interaction between colleagues, work-from-home policies may not be the best choice for your firm. If this is the case, how can such firms continue to attract and retain successful female employees?

The answer is superior maternity and paternity leave. By allowing working parents ample time off once per child, you will ease the concerns of soon-to-be parents without having to resort to ill-fitted Flex scheduling on a permanent basis for all employees.

4. What comes around goes around

It may seem like a nuisance to provide a valued female attorney with six or more months of maternity leave. But, when it’s your pregnancy or your spouse’s, what comes around goes around. The policy you implement today will affect how you take advantage of it tomorrow.

So, help others and help yourself.

5. …. Or else!

If your firm doesn’t support working mothers, then working mothers will find innovative ways to support themselves.

“A period away from work,” an article in Stylist explains, “can be hugely positive–time to learn a language, take up a hobby.” In fact, this is why there’s a rise in a new type of entrepreneur, the “mumpreneur.”

If your firm doesn’t work to retain its female associates, the firm will miss out on the innovative ideas and brainpower of this important half of society. These mumpreneurs may even open a law practice down the street from your own. Your firm loses by losing its female employees.

Over 120 countries already provide paid maternity leave. Qualified working mothers have plenty of choices for work these days, both in terms of other firms or other nations.

Furthermore, if your firm provides scant time off, you may find your law practice has turned into a medical practice. Just yesterday a Labor lawyer gave birth in her office.

“The action took place inside a law firm’s office after a fellow attorney in the employee benefits practice started giving birth, presumably while redlining some rider for the umpteen-millionth time,” reports Above The Law.

“The mother, we hear, was due in the next week or so. According to our tipster, mom was hoping to maximize her hours before having to go on leave. Well, she succeeded.”

When it comes to supporting working parents (and still profiting), ask yourself, has your firm succeeded?


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Why Law Firms Should Give Employees A “Safe Space” To Discuss Salary & Benefits

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and are not intended as legal or financial advice.

Does this look familiar?

For businessmen or law firm professionals, the number of disclaimers, italicized provisos, or policy clarifications read on an average day can’t be counted on a single hand.

Sadly, employees learn to ignore the fine print. But, when it comes to understanding (or writing) a productive employee manual, it’s time to put on your reading glasses and pay attention.

Consider the following sample section, “Confidentiality of Salary and Benefit Information.

“Employees are prohibited from discussing their salary or wage levels and company benefits with other employees. Such information is confidential and may not be discussed in the workplace. Any employee violating this policy will be considered to have committed a breach of confidentiality and will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and possibly including termination of employment.”

Most employment contracts or manuals have similar language that’s embedded—somewhere—in type 8 font or smaller.

In fact, it’s likely that most associates already assume discussing and comparing salary and benefits packages among one another is against firm policy.

Some argue that this violates National Labor Relations Act. Read Section 7 and 8(a)(1) of the NLRA and decide for yourself.

For now, the more important questions for employers and employees are (1) Why do employers feel this salary confidentiality clause is necessary? And (2) Why are employees tempted to violate it?

The first question is easy to answer. Employers must protect their competitive advantage.

If all wages, salaries, time cards, benefits packages, etc., are kept confidential, then employees are unable to leverage this information to their benefit, to–say–secure higher year-end bonuses.

“Well, if Bob put in less hours, won less cases, and contributed undeniably inferior work product this year, then why is he being paid more?”

Law firms would be hard pressed to address every issue involving salary comparison. Mostly because Bob is an equity partner’s son. Or, because Bob has some subtle skill unseen by other associates. Or, most likely, because Bob was hired years ago and provided a salary commensurate with better economic times.

Whatever the reason, employee financial information is best kept close to the (three-piece suit) vest.

The answer to the second question is more nuanced.

First, employees are apt to ask one another about salary and benefits numbers for the exact same reason as mentioned above—employees need leverage and perspective when negotiating higher financial packages with firm managers.

However, this is not the only reason for policy-violating discussions.

A second reason employees discuss salary and benefits with one another is because law firms rarely provide a safe space to ask about retirement, financial planning, childcare, or health benefits.

Sure, employees can call the insurance agents. Yes, employees are able to discuss retirement options with their supervisor. But, what about more sensitive topics, like the possibility of expanding medical coverage to mental health, or the average bonus for first-years?

At law firms, where women are already marginalized in top positions, female attorneys are not going to ask about their options post-pregnancy for fear firm managers are already writing them out of the partnership track.

To keep associates from discussing salary and benefits with one another, managers must provide a forum to do so—without threat of repercussion—within the firm.

So, here are a few ways to obtain a balanced competitive advantage between firm employers and employees:

  1. When it comes to rewarding performance or allocating bonuses, make sure employee evaluations are level, honest, and regular.
  2. Invite insurance representatives to the firm to speak about benefits. Organize small groups of similarly-ranked employees to attend at various times throughout the day. Individuals of similar ages will have similar questions and issues. Also, small groups will help employees feel more at ease to ask questions. Finally, make these round-table meetings mandatory.
  3. Create an anonymous feedback box where employees can request additional benefits or suggest ideas for office improvements. Ensure that this box is indeed kept anonymous.
  4. Implement suggested changes at least once a year to send the message to your employees that they are heard and respected.
  5. Whatever the method, newly hired, mid-career, and soon-to-retire employees should each be give an opportunity to ask controlversial questions about salary and benefits. The forum should be frequent and safe, i.e., without fear of reprisal or any assumption by the firm.

Don’t attach a disclaimer to the respect your firm gives its employees and its remuneration for their hard work.


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The Worst Types Of Corporate Culture In Law

Experts agree that it’s typically futile and unwise to try to change a firm’s corporate culture. Corporate culture is the product of time-tested professional relationships and decision-making.

It’s fair to say that, in the least, it would be difficult to undo years of conditioned and accepted professional behavior and patterns.

In addition, business strategy, more often than not, actually benefits from tapping into a company’s corporate culture.

Knowing what motivates or incentivizes your employees—driving employee behavior that benefits clients and increases productivity—is essential for success.

Unfortunately, some types of corporate culture have no upside. In these rare instances, it becomes necessary to re-train your employees and managers and reduce the negative aspects of the office culture.

Below are three of the worst types of corporate culture in law and a few ways to eradicate them from your firm.

Machiavellian (aka Back Stabbing)

When you come up with a breakthrough idea, do you keep it to yourself for fear of theft? Do you worry when your peers lunch with your supervisor, even though you consider yourself an excellent worker? Have you ever received praise to your face from another associate, only to hear second-hand that they’ve sabotaged your reputation or work-product to somebody else?

If the above scenarios are starting to sound familiar, it’s possible you work in a Machiavellian environment.

For managers, this corporate culture is detrimental to employee motivation. Not only is it disheartening for employees to watch their best ideas credited to another person, but when this happens, it de-incentivizes employees to be creative, quick, or hardworking.

To discourage this type of corporate culture, law firm managers should be diligent with performance reviews and status reports. They should always know what employees are working on, in addition to the progress of the project.

Managers should reward group efforts and collaboration. Machiavellian cultures emerge when the individual benefits from a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog bonus system.

Machiavellian systems are easy to identify. Do your hallways have high levels of gossip? Do employees seem friendly in the office, but refrain from socializing outside it? Do certain employees brownnose by constantly talking up the manager or bragging about their achievements?

These are signs that your firm has low levels of trust and teamwork. Strive to eradicate this culture by emphasizing the importance of and recompensing fellowship—there’s a time to lead and a time to follow. Mangers should recognize employees who know how to support their peers with sincerity and in silence.

Misogynist (aka Boys Club)

At the largest firms in America, an equity gender gap persists.

The National Law Journal‘s NLJ 250 survey ranks the largest firms in the United States by headcount. And, data collected from 221 firms show that women represent a mere 15.1 percent of equity partners, and among all partners—equity and nonequity—women still comprise just 18.8 percent.

Of those firms with a good grasp on gender neutrality, with more equal partnership distribution, a culture of inclusion was cited as key.

“Women felt accepted here,” Ice Miller partner Brenda Horn, who started at the firm in 1981, said to the NLJ. Ms. Horn reported that of the four women and three men who started in her class, three of the women and two of the men went on to make partner.

“We were always less conventional [than other firms in Indiana]. Your pedigree and who you played football with didn’t matter here.”

Unfortunately, data suggests that this gender equality and culture of inclusion does not necessarily exist in 81.2 percent of law firms in the U.S.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, law continues to be a Boys Club. But, it doesn’t have to be.

If a misogynist corporate culture is alienating female attorneys at your firm, try creating a mentorship program for women. Also, encourage after-hours activities that are not gender specific.

Finally, keep in mind that language and casual conversation can be the worst culprit in increasing gender discrimination and bias. So, lead by example when interacting with people around the office halls, even when you think nobody’s listening.

Mean (aka Firm Always Comes First)

Do you ever get the feeling your firm policy is spiteful? Do you get the impression meetings are held late on Fridays to deliberately thwart attempts at a personal life? Have you been told “no” when making simple or short vacation requests for key life events—the birth of child, religious holiday, or family emergency?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be that your firm is just plain mean.

It’s unclear why some corporate cultures have embraced a malicious attitude. Perhaps, in the past, employees have abused a vacation policy. Or, previous attorneys have taken advantage of casual Friday and early exits to celebrate the weekend.

It’s possible that the people ahead of you have ruined the corporate culture for those who follow. However, in terms of law firm management (or law), unfair and poor precedent should never prevent positive changes in policy.

If employees are reporting cruel or callous behavior or statements on the part of supervisors at your firm, take complaints seriously.

If somebody—regardless of rank—is adding to the stress or negativity of the office, sign him or her up for leadership and other team-building training.

Bad attitudes are bad for your bottom line—and that’s the bottom line.


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How Women In Law Can Have It All (With A Little Help From Your Firm)

It’s a fact that law firms struggle with gender bias issues. A dual sex workplace inevitably yields questions concerning harassment, wage gaps, and equal paths to partnership.

Within the gender debate, women dominate. After all, it’s the woman who bears offspring, takes maternity leave, and then has years left of biologically-intertwined medical needs with her children.

Law firms worry about hiring young women—aspiring mothers—and, they’re not in the wrong.

Female lawyers are often the first to give up their post in favor of family.

Naturally, having children brings with it a set of new demands and time constraints that certain jobs can’t afford. Plus, being a stay-at-home mom is still a highly respected profession in America.

Julie Turaj speaks out proudly for those former attorneys turned mothers, saying to Parents Magazine, “A job will always be there, but kids grow up in the blink of an eye.”

“I had a demanding job. In one year, I pulled 16 all-nighters and often worked entire weekends. It wasn’t just the long hours that got to me-the pressure was enormous too. I was planning on going part-time after Kaitlyn was born, but I knew even that would be hard to manage.”

As a female attorney, does the story sound familiar?

Of course, Mrs. Turaj expects to work again. But, when she does, it won’t be back in her former corporate office. She says, “I’d like to practice a more emotionally satisfying kind of law, such as being a victims’ advocate or working at a nonprofit agency.”

“My goal is to leave the world a better place—and I’m starting with my children.”

An admirable goal that many women share. Although these parents seem quite satisfied in their choices, law firms decidedly are not.

Firms lose valuable employees year after year in a time when training and rehiring comes at a significant cost. In addition, senior attorneys spend time and effort to mentor and shape associates into future leaders only to discover female attorneys are quitting to do the same (for the next generation).

The idea that the glass roof hasn’t shattered or that women still face difficult career choices is evident in articles like Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent piece in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and rejoinders like Froma Harrop’s “News Flash: No One Can Have It All”.

Yet, men and women are still opting to give two-career marriages a try.

In fact, the percentage of two-income married couples rose 31% in the U.S. from 1996 to 2006. Now, 47.5% of all American married couples are dual-career couples, cites the Harvard Business Review Blog.

Ultimately, female attorneys—like all women in high-powered positions—would like to have their cake and eat it, too. But it’s a team effort.

In marriage, articles like Jackie Coleman and John Coleman’s piece for the HBR Blog, “How Two-Career Couples Stay Happy,” explain how spouses can manage the expectations of their partners when it comes to communication, children, and work.

However, creating a successful work-life balance that accommodates family is not the sole responsibility of married couples. Law firms and corporations play a role in keeping their employees happy because retaining the firm’s most productive associates is a sound business strategy, not just a social service.

Countless studies reveal that great places to work are also the most productive places to work. While this should not come as a surprise, it’s quite surprising that companies and law firms are still slow to adjust to the aforementioned, famous gender issue.

So, here are four simple steps to help retain your female lawyers. It’s not about changing their minds, asking them to raise billable hours and not children. The idea is that mothers—and fathers—can, actually, have it all with your help. Here’s how.

1. Employ Flex Time

Stop fighting the trend. Flex time has been proven again and again to be both an asset to the employee and to the firm.

The 2011 Best Law Firms for Women looked at firms with written reduced hour policies and firms who offered full-time telecommuting. In addition to mentoring circles specifically for women, the working mother’s stated need is flexible schedules. There you have it.

Where Flex time fails is the uneven enforcement and one-size-fits-all policy. Develop a policy that is as elastic as the hours you keep.

The written policy should, however, include parameters for making partner while on the telecommuting path; a coordinator who becomes the point of contact between flex-lawyers and the firm; and a method for tracking and monitoring work product, billable hours, and client satisfaction for those telecommuting attorneys.

2. Give Summer Vacation

Children have summer vacation, so why not parents? It’s important that families spend time together during the holidays, so consider giving extra time off during the summer to all your employees.

Not only does summer vacation correspond with school schedules for kids, but also any lawyer would enjoy (and benefit from) an annual break. Employees will come back refreshed and refocused on casework.

Plus, you’ll find parents trying to take off early anyhow—this way, your firm can preempt the problem and balance the work schedules of its associates to ensure clients are fully covered.

3. Create A Kid Space In The Office

Some firms offer childcare services. But, if your firm is not prepared for this option, or can’t afford it, consider creating a kid space, instead.

A kid space can be a place where older children do homework, play games, or hang out safely while their parents finish up work. A kid space allows working parents to drop by and actually visit with their children before bedtime without leaving the office.

Having an area and even a single room devoted to children also sends the message to female (and male) employees that your firm is family-friendly.

4. Embrace Short-Term Losses For Long-Term Gain

Finally, the reality of working parents means law firms often sacrifice short-term benefits for long-term gain. An absence of a senior attorney for six-months to a year on maternity leave may cost your firm, but losing a valuable employee totally—their potential for partnership or bringing in new clients in the future—is far more catastrophic.

Or, allowing an important associate a few years of part-time status to gain their full-time return later may seem costly now. But, it will certainly redouble in benefits when the individual’s loyalty and appreciation for your firm’s flexibility shows up in superior work product and case knowledge in the future.

Don’t forget that each time an employee leaves and another’s rehired, salaries tend to jump. Retention keeps costs low, employee satisfaction high, and parenting attorneys happy.

In the end, if you make families a priority, your firm will become one.


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