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A changing of the guard took place in Benjamin P. Deutsch’s household in May, three months after the birth of his daughter Alexandra. Deutsch’s wife, also a lawyer, returned to her practice in New Jersey. And Deutsch, a litigation associate at New York’s Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, left the firm for a five-week paternity leave in which he took over as Alexandra’s primary caregiver — feeding her, changing diapers, taking her to the pediatrician and getting up with her in the night. “I would do all the things one would do on maternity leave, except breastfeeding,” he recalled with a laugh after he returned to the firm this week. “It’s a surprising amount of work. It has its own set of stresses that are fundamentally different than practicing law.” Those stresses notwithstanding, Deutsch positively gushed about the experience. “I’d recommend it to anybody. You really do get to know your child and they get to know you,” he said. “It’s terrific.” Deutsch’s tale is a reflection of the increasing importance young male professionals of all stripes are placing on spending time with their families. In a recent survey conducted by the Radcliffe Public Policy Center, more than 80 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 39 said they considered a flexible job schedule more important than money, power or prestige. And of those, 71 percent said they would give up some of their pay for more family time. With those kinds of responses as a guide, big law firms have begun to make family-oriented policies like paternity leave a focus of their marketing efforts to law students. Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Davis Polk & Wardwell and Weil, Gotshal & Manges all tout their four-week paid parental leave policy in the recruiting sections of their Web sites. (The federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows new parents to take as much as 12 weeks of unpaid leave.) Even so, the long-held stigma against men leaving work to be with their newborns is still alive. Sara L. Mandelbaum, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in Manhattan, has represented state troopers in Maryland and South Carolina in sex discrimination suits based on their departments’ refusal to grant paternity leave. She said she occasionally receives calls from lawyers who have been discouraged from taking paternity leave and want to know, “What are my rights?” “Law firms, being law firms, have a responsibility to know the law and to educate their employees, and it sometimes surprises me that they don’t,” Mandelbaum said. DEGREE OF TREPIDATION Even in accommodating firms, male lawyers still may approach the idea of paternity leave with trepidation. “There’s a hesitance among males generally to take paternity leave,” Deutsch said. “Both inside and outside the law, there’s a concern that they won’t be taken seriously or that they’ll miss out on assignments.” Reginald Greene, an associate in the business finance and restructuring department at Weil Gotshal, took a month of paid parental leave plus two weeks of vacation after the birth of his daughter last June. He said his decision to take the leave was mostly well-received, although there were a few “naysayers” — older lawyers who had become fathers without taking time off and younger ones concerned about losing so many billable hours. Greene expressed confidence that there would be no backlash against any Weil Gotshal lawyer who took a paternity leave. But he did say he would have expected to hear rumblings about his commitment to the firm if he had been away longer than the six weeks he did take off. On a personal level, Greene was thrilled with the time off and said that the rapport he developed with his daughter is very valuable now that his workload often keeps him away from home. “She recognizes me now because we bonded during that first month,” he said. Nicholas F. Potter, a newly-minted corporate partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, said he was strongly encouraged to take two weeks of paid paternity leave under his firm’s policy after the birth of his son in March. “The stigma couldn’t be too bad because I was made partner two months later,” he said. “I think people would have looked at me funny if I had come right back after the baby was born.” GOOD FOR MARRIAGE Potter said that taking the leave was as vital to his relationship with his wife as it was to his relationship with his son. “Equally important as bonding with the little baby is bonding with your wife and being with her at a time when she really needs your help,” he said. Given the strength in numbers large law firms possess, paternity leave may be one area where they hold a quality-of-life advantage. “It’s one of the weird benefits of working at a big law firm,” Potter said. “Even though we work these grueling schedules, when you need a certain amount of flexibility you can get it.” At smaller firms, the arrangements are surely more difficult but not impossible. Deutsch is one of only four litigation associates in Schnader Harrison’s 20-lawyer Manhattan office, but he was able to break away with just a modicum of preparation. The key is “arranging your case files so the people who are babysitting them can have everything at their fingertips,” he said. ENCOURAGEMENT AT FTC Theodore Zang Jr., a lawyer in the 20-lawyer Manhattan office of the Federal Trade Commission, was in the middle of a merger review when he took his paternity leave. But his office gave him a send-off party that included words of encouragement from the commission’s regional director. “The fact that they did that for someone going out on paternity leave is really indicative of the support of colleagues here for the idea,” Zang said. Joseph J. Kelleher, an associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, took his firm’s one-month paid parental leave and tacked on five weeks of vacation when his daughter was born and left work for two two-week stints when his son was born two years later. “It was fun,” he said, noting that his daughter was quite pleased to have him as a full-time playmate when he went on leave the second time. “Time off to be with your kids. If there’s something better than that, I don’t know what it is.”

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