Ten Family-Friendly Firms (new ranking by law students)

The women's student group at my school has just release its second annual ranking of "the top ten family-friendly firms." I did not have any part in preparing these rankings... just passing them along. The press release is here.

According to Yale Law Women and co-sponsoring women's law groups at Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, Boalt, Northwestern, and Virginia, the top ten family-friendly firms of 2007 are...

[More after the jump]

  1. Quarles & Brady (Phoenix)
  2. Proskauer Rose (New York)
  3. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer (Washington, DC)
  4. Jenner & Block (Washington, DC)
  5. Mayer Brown (Chicago)
  6. Covington & Burling (Washington, DC)
  7. Arnold & Porter (Washington, DC)
  8. DLA Piper (New York)
  9. Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, PC (Boston)
  10. Faegre & Benson (Minneapolis)

Congratulations to these firms and the runners-up (see below). Thank you for all that you are doing to make your workplaces more hospitable to women and men and their families and their very full lives!

As with any ranking, the meat is in the methodology. So let's dig into that a bit... These are the top ten firms selected from about 150 firms who voluntarily submitted workplace data to the National Association of Legal Practitioners (NALP) and were ranked among "the most prestigious" or "the best of the rest" law firms by The Vault. Students evaluated firms on the basis of 17 types of NALP data:

  • Weeks of Maternity Leave
  • Weeks of Paternity Leave
  • Whether Attorneys Have Used Maternity/Paternity Leave in the Last 12 Months
  • Whether the Leave Policy Covers Same Sex Employees
  • Existence of Child Care Facility
  • Existence of Onsite Child Facility
  • Existence of Written Alternative Work Policy
  • Compensation of Part-time Attorneys for Exceeding Part-time Hours
  • Bonus Consideration for Attorneys with Alternative Schedules
  • Whether Attorney Working Alternative Schedule has Made Partner within Past 5 Years
  • Percentage of Female Partners
  • Percentage of Female Associates
  • Percentage of Part-time Partners
  • Percentage of Part-time Associates
  • Average Annual Hours Worked per Associate
  • Existence of Same Sex Partner Benefits
  • Existence of Opposite Sex Domestic Partner Benefits

The most interesting part of the study, maybe, is what came next: Yale Law Women surveyed law school alumni who are 5-10 years into practicing law. They asked women lawyers which workplace criteria actually mattered most. Their response rate was about 30%, which is pretty good for a survey, but the resulting sample size was small (about 70 responses). These responses were used to weight the NALP criteria into a formula which then kicked out the top ten firms you just read. In the course of crunching these numbers, they also produced two lists of runners-up...

More family-friendly firms (from the Vault's 100 Most Prestigious):

  • Bryan Cave LLP (St. Louis)
  • Dewey Ballantine LLP (East Palo Alto, CA)
  • Duane Morris LLP (Philadelphia)
  • Foley Hoag LLP (Boston)
  • Fulbright & Jaworski LLP (Los Angeles)
  • Jones Day (New York)
  • Kirkland & Ellis LLP (New York)
  • Latham & Watkins LLP (New York)
  • Littler Mendelson PC (San Francisco)
  • McGuire Woods LLP (Richmond, VA)
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP (San Francisco)
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP (New York)
  • Powell Goldstein LLP (Washington, DC)
  • Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP (New York)
  • Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP (Cleveland)
  • Stoel Rives LLP (Portland)
  • Sullivan & Cromwell LLP (New York)
  • Wiley Rein LLP (Washington, DC)
  • Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP (Washington, DC)
  • Winston & Strawn LLP (New York)

More family-friendly firms (from the Vault's The Best of the Rest):

  • Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP (New York)
  • Clifford Chance U.S. LLP (New York )
  • Cooley Godward Kronish LLP (Palo Alto, CA)
  • Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP (New York)
  • Crowell & Moring LLP (Washington, DC)
  • Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (Seattle)
  • Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (New York)
  • Dechert LLP (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Dickstein Shapiro LLP (Washington, DC)
  • Dorsey & Whitney LLP (Minneapolis)
  • Goodwin Procter LLP (Boston)
  • Howrey LLP (San Francisco)
  • Morrison & Foerster LLP (San Francisco )
  • O’Melveny & Myers LLP (Los Angeles)
  • Patton Boggs LLP (Washington, DC)
  • Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP (Los Angeles)
  • Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (New York)
  • Reed Smith LLP (San Francisco)
  • Ropes & Gray LLP (Boston)
  • Schiff Hardin LLP (Chicago)

Jill Habig and Katie Wilson-Milne (classmates of mine) worked hard to produce this ranking, and Jen Broxmeyer (the 2007-2008 chair of Yale Law Women) rounded up support to release this ranking under the auspices of eight law schools rather than one. (In 2006, Yale Law Women ranked family friendly firms for the first time, and released a top-ten list without co-sponsors.) Their efforts shine spotlights of praise on firms that are treating women well. For that they deserve tremendous thanks.

Still, since I reported on Debbie Epstein Henry's Flex-Time Lawyers/Working Mother Magazine ranking of women-friendly firms last month, I am left with a lot of the same questions. As helpful as these rankings are for some kinds of law students (those who are sure they want to go work for a large, national firm), it feels like these lists leave a lot of assumptions unquestioned. The pool of employers considered for praise was only the biggest, most elite national firms. Why aren't we ever holding large firms up the the standards of small firms and solo practices? Or government offices? Or public interest orgs? Or law schools (as employers)? It feels like leaving "large, national firms" in their own category (which almost invariably gets labeled "most prestigious") cedes way too much ground, in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

By releasing ranking after ranking touting "top" employers--where only large national firms have any chance to count--do we send young lawyers the message that they need to get hired by a large firm at any cost? And if young lawyers are thus prepped, will women too readily pay a high price?



This author's review is very helpful.   The survey does have limitations, and I find the commentary useful.  The author leaves me thinking that getting the "family friendly" value out there has a long way to go.  People pushing forward with this priority/balance are to be respected and supported.  Progress can be made, if not in great battles, in small guerrilla advances.  Thanks for the perspective. 

Write a comment

Please login to comment

Remember Me

Become a Member

FREE online community for women in the legal profession.



Subscribe to receive regular updates, news, and events from Ms. JD.

Connect with us

Follow or subscribe