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Yale Law Women Announces 2010 Top Ten Family Friendly Firms

Yale Law Women has announced its 5th annual Top Ten Family Friendly Firms List.  The 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


YLW congratulates these Top Ten Firms who are leaders in developing and practicing family friendly policies.

In the aftermath of the recent global financial crisis, YLW believes that the focus on family friendly firm policies and policies designed for the retention of women remains more important and pressing than ever. As the prototypical law firm model adapts to accommodate new market demands, YLW hopes leading firms will take the opportunity to set the example for implementing more flexible work arrangements and career paths for their attorneys. Flexible work arrangements will better able firms to respond to market forces and simultaneously retain their top talent.

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.

Flexible and part-time work options are also becoming the norm: 100% of part-time requests were granted on average at responding firms, and 100% of them automatically grant part-time requests if conditions in a written policy are met. On average, 6.3% of attorneys at these firms were working part-time in 2009.  Many firms have extended formal oversight to their alternative work programs by providing a partner to manage part-time attorneys’ work flow or adopting firm alumni programs.

Despite these gains and innovative policies, YLW remains concerned about the low rate of retention of women, the dearth of women in leadership positions, the gender gap in those who take advantage of family friendly policies, and the possibility that working part-time can derail an otherwise successful career.

Although YLW found that, on average, 44.8% of associates at responding law firms are women, women make up only 19.4% of partners and 18.9% of executive or management committee members. Additionally, women made up just 28% of the partners newly promoted in 2009, on average.

YLW used the availability and use of parental leave policies as a measure of the gender gap in firm leadership. While 37.8% of responding firms have adopted gender-neutral policies in this area, women are allowed more than twice as much parental leave as men on average, with birth mothers receiving 16.4 weeks of parental leave compared to 6.3 weeks for men. Furthermore, while 96.1% of mothers used the maximum parental leave offered, only 51.4% of fathers did the same. Perhaps unsurprisingly, women make up the vast majority (80.6%) of the 6.3% of attorneys working part-time.  

Despite the greater availability of flexible work arrangements, the question of whether part-time work still carries the stigma or career-limiting effect it once did remains elusive. While 100% of the requests for part-time work at responding firms were granted, part-time work is rarely used by attorneys in leadership positions. Of the 6.3% of attorneys working part-time, only 10.7% were partners, a number that may also include partners approaching retirement. Only 6.8% of the partners promoted in 2009 had worked part-time in the past, on average, and only 4.9% were working part-time when they were promoted.  

The question of whether it is possible to truly work part-time also remains. Statistics indicate that while part-time attorneys appear to be fairly compensated, many may work more hours than originally planned. Most firms (86%) provide additional compensation if part-time attorneys work more than the planned number of hours or make part-time attorneys eligible for bonuses (92%). However, part-time attorneys received bonuses at higher rates than full-time attorneys (25% compared to 23.3% on average), suggesting that many part-time schedules may ultimately morph into full-time hours over the course of a year.

YLW is encouraged that many firms are moving in the right direction and hopes that this survey highlights the importance of family friendly policies as well as the areas in need of improvement.  Much more still needs to be done to reduce gender disparity in firm leadership and ensure that all attorneys can achieve successful careers without sacrificing their commitment to their families.

Please visit the YLW website, www.yale.edu/ylw, for key statistics, innovative practices, and survey methodology.  

Many thanks go out to the entire Top Ten List Committee, without whom the Top Ten List would not have been possible.  Please contact us with any questions.

Christine Ku, Co-Chair (christine.ku@yale.edu)
Alice Shih, Co-Chair (alice.shih@yale.edu)
Ruth Anne French-Hodson, Communications Co-Chair
Elizabeth Hanft, Communications Co-Chair
Sarah Kopman-Fried, Publicity Co-Chair
Stephanie Lee, Publicity Co-Chair
Simi Bhat, Statistician
Jeff Love, Statistician
Julie Qian Wang, Survey Design Chair
Julie Duncan, Member
Hayley Fink, Member
Tasha Manoranjan, Member
Eric Merrill, Member
Yannick Morgan, Member
Kathleen Neace, Member
David Perez, Member
Keerthika Suramanian, Member

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