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Murtha Cullina eighth-year associate Robert E. Kaelin was at home bonding with his newborn daughter the week after his wife gave birth late last year, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way. It helped, Kaelin said, that the Hartford, Conn.-based firm grants its fathers a week’s paid paternity leave, and that Kaelin, a commercial litigator, cleared his plate at work a full week in advance of the blessed event. But had a short calendar appearance or some similar emergency popped up during the week he was away, Kaelin is confident that Murtha’s partners would have bent over backward not to disturb him at home, he said. Hartford, Conn.-based Day, Berry & Howard greeted Ronald E. Lyles, a member of the firm’s Class of 1995, with the same family-comes-first treatment upon the birth of his second child last summer, Lyles said. Under a policy introduced in November 1998, Day, Berry gives secondary care givers — male or female — two weeks of paid leave after the birth of their children, according to Louise Galvin, its director of human resources. But in Lyles’ case, his time away coincided with a bankruptcy seminar in New York that his supervisors had long wanted him to attend. The firm’s reaction to his wife’s due date: Skip the conference and honor superceding family responsibilities, Lyles said he was told in no uncertain terms. “ALMOST DISLOYAL” Law firms, like the two described above, are catching up to fathers’ growing roles in the rearing of their children. Still, maintained plaintiffs’ employment-law specialist Daniel E. Livingston, legal outfits — like most professional employers — expect their rank and file to log more hours than ever, partly because they are paying them more than ever. A father taking more than a couple of weeks off to help raise an infant, added Livingston, of Hartford’s Livingston, Adler, Pulda & Meiklejohn, is “directly at war” with that philosophy. And while women have long confronted sexism based on their employers’ assumptions that their productivity will take a hit when they begin rearing children, employers tend to be even less understanding when male workers request time off to help fulfill their parental obligations, he said. “In a lot of places it’s getting worse,” maintained Livingston, who, a decade ago, worked part-time from home for two months after the birth of his son. Despite his temporarily reduced schedule that year, Livingston said he more than met his firm’s yearly hours-worked requirement upon his return, and remained on full salary. Though few children have been born to attorneys at Livingston’s firm since then, he is at a loss to name another male lawyer in Connecticut who has taken a similar leave. Often, employees are hesitant to take long paternity leaves for fear that they will be denied promotions later on, according to Livingston. Such claims, however, are hard to prove, he conceded, especially at law firms where decisions on new partners are put to partnership-wide votes. Still, Livingston said he has fielded recent inquiries from a middle-management insurance executive and a few members of academia who believed they were denied advancements after taking paternity leaves. “They felt like it bit them in the ass. It was looked at as if it was almost disloyal” to put their families before their jobs, Livingston said. FATHER FRIENDLY Not at Murtha, according to Kaelin. “There’s no negative connotation whatsoever” to lawyers who take paternity leaves, he insisted. In fact, it’s almost expected that parents — male and female — employed by the firm will take time off upon the birth of their children, Kaelin added. “People here have always realized that there’s more to life than just working.” Beyond initial leaves of absence, Kaelin cites Murtha’s telecommuting and flex-time policies — both of which he helped to establish as a member of the firm’s associates committee — as further proof of its family-first atmosphere. For a little over a year, Kaelin worked a 7 a.m.-to-4 p.m. work schedule two days a week that allowed him to care for his first child while his wife was working nights. “Nobody at the firm has ever had a problem with that,” he maintained. Granted that, during that time, he ate lunch at his desk and often worked from home when he left early. Kaelin also billed more hours during that period than he ever had before, he said. Parental leaves are hardly isolated occurrences at Day, Berry, either. Since Jan. 1, 1999, nearly 20 male employees — the vast majority of whom are lawyers — have taken the firm up on its new parental leave policy, according to Galvin. One male support staff manager took the full six weeks of paid leave that is granted to primary care givers, she added. Paid paternity leave provisions, however, are hardly universal among large and mid-sized firms in Connecticut. New Haven’s Wiggin & Dana, Farmington’s Levy & Droney and Stamford’s Finn Dixon & Herling are among the outfits with no paid leaves for fathers, according to firm officials.

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