Susman Godfrey has expanded its parental leave policy for associates, providing unlimited paid parental leave to all new parents, regardless of gender or whether they gave birth or are a caregiver.
Associates can determine the length of their leave, but the hours will be annualized for bonus purposes of up to 18 weeks for women who give birth and up to 12 weeks for any associate. This means their time off will not count against them for bonus purposes. The prior policy provided up to 16 weeks for a woman who delivered a baby and up to four weeks for other parents.
The new parental leave policy follows the Houston-based trial firm’s announcement in 2015 of an unlimited paid vacation policy for associates.
Susman Godfrey partner Erica Harris said the firm’s partnership decided to expand the parental leave policy because the market is moving toward offering additional time for all new parents.
“There’s a recognition that all parents need and want time with their children, and while the fact that you are a delivering mother adds an additional burden that justifies additional time, everybody needed more time,” Harris said.
The new policy was an “easy move” for the firm, she said. In fact, there was such broad support for the proposal among partners that they didn’t even hold an official roll-call vote, Harris said.
“No one objected or spoke against it, so it was adopted by acclamation,” she said.
The firm’s prior policy provided 16 weeks of paid parental leave to women who delivered a baby and four weeks to any other parent. Harris said associates could actually take a longer paid leave under the firm’s unlimited vacation policy, but the new policy formalizes that opportunity as a gender-neutral parental leave policy.
Under the new policy, associates can take a longer period of time off and still get credit for the time for bonus purposes.
Susman Godfrey has often bested the legal market when it comes to associate and partner pay and benefits. In June, the firm adopted a new associate salary scale that tops the Cravath scale adopted by many Big Law firms this year. The firm also in June adopted a policy that sets the mandatory retirement policy at age 100.
Harris said the partners looked at the firm’s parental leave policy after an associate pointed out to a partner that another firm had a parental leave policy that was more gender-neutral. The firm determined that it, too, wanted to adopt a policy that was gender-neutral, but also wanted to offer the most generous policy.
Other firms are indeed sweetening parent leave policies. On Monday, Dechert changed its parental leave policy to provide at least 12 weeks of paid leave for all U.S. lawyers and employees regardless of gender. The new policy provides women who give birth up to 20 weeks of paid leave.
Susman Godfrey has a total of 139 lawyers, including 48 associates, in offices in Houston, Seattle, New York and Los Angeles.