Image: Shutterstock

In a new policy dubbed “one for all,” Barnes & Thornburg is expanding its parental leave policy to cover all of its staff, not just its attorneys.

The new policy, which became effective Jan. 1, provides 16 weeks of parental leave at 100 percent pay for all of the firm’s employees, legal and nonlegal staff alike. This new policy also extends to new parents who adopt.

The idea for the updated policy was generated nearly a year ago, when the Indianapolis-based firm launched an initiative to identify barriers to advancement at the firm, especially for women. One of the things that became apparent to the attorney and staff-led committee was the need to revamp the firm’s parental leave policy, said Dawn Rosemond, the director of diversity, professional development and inclusion.

“We wanted to be the best option for our talent—those there and those coming,” Rosemond said.

“The message that we wanted to send was we care about the whole person, certainly care about families and certainly care about the quality of life people have when they come to work for our firm,” said Rosemond, who in 2005 became the firm’s first African-American female equity partner.

Previously, the firm’s parental leave policy allotted 12 weeks of paid leave for attorneys and paralegals. Depending on the type of birth, salaried staff were given six to eight weeks of leave, with its hourly staff receiving reduced pay.

For Barnes & Thornburg, this type of distinction was contrary to the type of inclusive environment it wanted to create in revamping its policy, Rosemond said.

“If we’re going to be committed to inclusion in a true fashion, that meant inclusion relative to our lawyers as well as nonlawyer professionals,” she added.

Barnes & Thornburg is the latest in a handful of Am Law firms that have, in recent months,  extended increasingly generous leave policies to nonlawyer employees.

Dechert announced late last year a new policy that provided for at least 12 weeks of paid leave for all U.S. employees, in addition to doing away with primary and secondary caregiver designations. Fenwick & West expanded its parental leave policy, allowing for 16 weeks of paid leave for attorneys and professional staff.

Wall Street’s Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson also revamped its parental leave policy, abandoning caregiver designations and allowing for at least 12 weeks of paid leave for attorneys and business service personnel.

“When you have policies that divide, you send the message that a group of your contributors are more valuable than the other, and that only works for so long,” Rosemond said.

“We have to challenge ourselves, and I think that’s what you’re seeing right now as folks are realizing that we need to bring everyone along in order for us to be the best company, organization, firm we can be for ourselves, but also for our clients and customers,” she added.


Can New Leave Policies Help Big Law Escape the Parent Trap?