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If work gets a bit too intense for Carole Gailor, she takes a “baby break” and walks up to the second-floor loft of her seven-attorney offices. There, in a nursery that Raleigh, N.C.-based Gailor Wallis & Hunt created for the children of its attorneys and employees, Gailor, 61, can visit the small group of babies and their nannies. She gets a reality check before diving back into her work as a matrimonial lawyer. “It doesn’t detract from the bottom line. It enhances it,” said Gailor, founder of the firm, whose partners are all women. While most law firms, including large ones, have not taken the big steps that Gailor Wallis & Hunt has when it decided to gut the loft space over its offices to accommodate two separate nurseries, many firms have added some form of on-site daycare in the last few years. And it appears to be catching on. “It’s being kicked around,” said Marci Krufka, a principal with Altman Weil who focuses on law firm strategy and management. “In strategic meetings, it’s being discussed as an extraordinary benefit that firms would use to distinguish themselves,” she said. Boosting women partners Such distinction was one of the reasons that Atlanta-based Alston & Bird in January was ranked 19th in Fortune‘s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” On-site daycare also was one of the factors that last year made Washington’s Arnold & Porter one of Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers.” Law firms see on-site daycare as a way to enhance a work-life balance at firms and a means to help boost their numbers of women partners by making it more attractive for them to remain with the firm. A study released in November by NALP, formerly the National Association for Law Placement, showed that while women account for 44% of associates, they only make up 18% of partners. One reason for the small percentage is an attrition rate among women that outpaces men. Establishing on-site daycare centers formalizes what already occurs at many law firms, said Cathy Fleming, a partner at Nixon Peabody and president of the National Association of Women Lawyers. “Daycare is de facto at law firms anyway,” she said. Arnold & Porter litigation partner James Cooper said he likes having 3-year-old Claire just steps away from his office. “It allows you to preserve your relationship with your kids,” he said. The law firm’s children’s center is housed in the concourse level of its Washington offices and is licensed for 55 children. One of the benefits is the advantage it gives the firm in recruiting, Cooper said. “It’s comforting to people who are thinking about where they want to go,” he said. It also enhances camaraderie, he said. “I know all the parents of every kid, and the kids all know each other,” Cooper said. “A whole network develops.”

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