The arms race among big law firms over their parental leave policies continued Thursday with Proskauer Rose’s announcement that it will extend benefits for lawyers returning to the firm after taking parental leave.
Under the new program, primary caregivers returning to the firm from parental leave will be able to work on a 75 percent schedule for six months while receiving 100 percent of the pay they got before they took the leave. The firm gives primary caregivers 18 weeks off.
“What associates were telling us is it’s the transition back that’s so difficult,” said Joanne Ollman, Proskauer’s chief professional resources officer. “They have the pressure to keep their hours up when they’re trying to care for a newborn.”
Within 30 minutes of sending out the announcement on Thursday, Ollman said she got about a half dozen emails back from grateful lawyers, and some had already stopped by her office to offer their praise of the program in person.
“As a single mom of an 8-month-old baby, this is a game changer for me,” one Proskauer lawyer wrote to Ollman.
The program is also meant to “telegraph to all lawyers—partners, associates and senior associates—that we embrace flex time,” Ollman said.
Am Law 100 firms are offering increasingly generous parental leave policies as they compete with one another to attract and keep the best lawyers. But some firms have struggled to get new parents to take advantage of the programs because some partners’ expectations have not changed with the times.
This can be especially true for fathers who want to take time off after having or adopting a baby. According to Working Mother, the most generous law firms offer fathers an average of six weeks off, but the men at those firms typically take only half of it.
Ollman said she wanted the new program to make a statement about the firm’s commitment to helping new parents. The idea for the program emerged after conversations within a women’s organization at the firm and had to be approved by the firm’s executive committee.
In a statement, Proskauer chairman Joe Leccese said, “Attracting and retaining the most talented lawyers is essential to our ability to deliver premier client service. Supporting our lawyers’ needs at key stages of their personal life is and will remain a critical component of our talent management strategy.”
Hardly a week goes by without an Am Law 100 firm announcing a new benefit meant to attract and retain young lawyers. Competition for talent between firms has increased as numbers of law school graduates have declined and more firms are recruiting students on campuses.
Contact Nell Gluckman at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @NellGluckman.