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Women lawyers of child-bearing age now account for 43 percent of associate ranks at the nation’s large law firms, according to a survey by the National Association for Law Placement in Washington, D.C. But working women, said Judy Collins, NALP’s director of research, typically assume more responsibility than working husbands for rearing their offspring. Which begs the question: Whither the children? While full-scale daycare centers for children of corporate employees have become common in suburban industrial parks, and while law schools around the country have offered such benefit to students as long ago as 1988, large New York law firms generally take the view that high-salaried associates are able to engage nannies or enroll their children in private facilities, some law firm spokespeople said. In a random, unscientific survey of major firms, the New York Law Journal found that while no firm administers full-scale daycare centers, all offered some manner of emergency service in the event of school holidays, indisposed nannies, or employees stuck with the predicament of evening or weekend work and nowhere to take their children. Two firms — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Cravath, Swaine & Moore — have on-site facilities for minding children of staff on such emergency or long-term temporary bases, at no cost to the employees. Other firms — Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; White & Case; Proskauer Rose; and Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton — provide emergency admission to off-site daycare centers administered by private companies. Nationwide, according to last year’s NALP workplace poll, only 42 percent of large law firms provide daycare for the children of staff. Virtually all such help is of the emergency or back-up nature, firm administrators said in the survey. Some New York law schools, on the other hand, provide the full-scale service enjoyed by some non-law corporations — notably Columbia Law School in upper Manhattan, in conjunction with Columbia University, and City University of New York School of Law in Queens. Cravath’s “Children’s Care Center,” established in 1990 by the firm’s first female partner, Christine Beshar, offers perhaps the most generous program of law firms in the city, some firm spokespeople said. Its on-site facility is administered by the firm itself. Cravath partner Julie A. North, head of recruiting, said the center accepts children from ages 2 months to 13 years, and can accommodate as many as 50 youngsters at a time. “It’s not something that people use as their sole source of child care,” said North. Though the center is heavily used, with 192 children served in February, for example, “It wouldn’t be accurate to say that [staff] can bring their kids for weeks on end.” Still, employees are encouraged to make use of the center, which boasts three computers, a library and arts and crafts instruction by eight adult daycare providers licensed by the New York City Department of Health. “One of the things I personally like about it is that people take their kids to the cafeteria at lunchtime,” said North, noting that the firm’s dining area has abundant booster seats. The center, she added, “provides [parents] with flexibility and peace of mind, and makes them more comfortable being at work.” Skadden offers on-site back-up daycare through its contract with Children First, a Boston-based chain of child-care franchises. Children First maintains one of its Manhattan units in the Cond� Nast Building in Times Square, where Skadden is headquartered. “We started six years ago in New York,” said Kristin L. Morgan, Skadden’s work/life projects coordinator. “In October 2002, we expanded service to our Chicago office, and last year we expanded to all our domestic offices — except Wilmington, [Del.], where we’re still waiting for the need to arise. “It’s something we need to offer our personnel,” she said, “to help them balance what today is such a juggling act, what with two parents working.” The expense borne by Skadden is “not up there with health insurance, but it’s significant,” said Morgan. She declined to offer specifics on costs, as did all other firms contacted. Nor would Clint Poole, marketing director of Children First, offer a hypothetical cost structure. Law firms contract with Children First, he said, on basic “membership models” of about 20 uses per year per person, with variables such as evening and weekend care, as well as courtesy use of out-of-town facilities when attorneys travel from New York with their children. Cadwalader holds an emergency child care contract with Children First, as do other New York firms, including Cleary Gottlieb. White & Case and Proskauer contract with Lipton Corporate Child Care, a similar national chain headquartered in Reston, Va. Robert J. Kafin, chief operating partner at Proskauer Rose, said his firm’s investment in child care is “an employee benefit from which we derive plenty of benefit ourselves [because] it’s kept us from interrupting client service” when associates are faced with the critical choice of attending to business responsibilities or parenting. Bottom line, he said, “You can’t leave your youngsters alone.” LAW SCHOOL DAYCARE Student parents at CUNY Law have perhaps the most comprehensive child care option among New York campuses, some of which offer nothing. The “Children’s Center” at CUNY Law is a combination daycare and pre-school program with large, first-floor quarters for up to 15 children ages 2 1/2 through 6, occasionally including those still in diapers, said Karla McGuigan, the center director. McGuigan is one of three certified teachers at the center, open during school terms from 8:45 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. There is a outdoor playground adjoining the student garden. Parents pay $14 per day, with the balance subsidized by private and state grants. Collins of NALP said she has the impression that daycare services are factors increasingly under consideration by students measuring law firm benefits packages. She suggested this is because about 52 percent of law students nationwide are women, according to recent annual NALP surveys. And in something of an understatement, Cravath’s North said firms offering even emergency care have an increasing return on that benefit investment. “My guess,” she said, “is that it reduces absenteeism.”

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