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Another Am Law 100 firm is making dramatic changes to its parental leave policy.

On Nov. 2, Fenwick & West announced it is expanding its parental leave policy to 16 weeks of paid leave for its attorneys and professional staff, regardless of gender or caregiver status.

Birthing mothers at the firm will now also receive 22 weeks of paid leave—a combination of the 16 weeks parental bonding time plus at least six weeks of fully paid pregnancy disability leave. Depending on the timing of the pregnancy-related disability, the amount of paid leave could be as high as 29 weeks.

“When I grew up as an associate, you would hear these stories about how some women would give birth one day and be back in the office the next day or two days later, and that’s just not the time we live in anymore,” said Fenwick managing partner Rodger Cole.

“We wanted to give our people the time—and make it very clear that the firm supports them taking the time—and we feel that’s better for their long-term health personally and will, no pun intended, bond them to the firm as well,” he added.

Previously, birthing parents were given 18 weeks of paid leave at Fenwick, and paid leave for non-birthing parents varied. Non-primary caregivers were given six weeks of leave, while primary caregivers were given 12 weeks.

Now, like several other law firms, the Mountain View, California-based firm has removed the caregiver distinction and made its policy gender neutral.

Part of Fenwick’s rationale for the change was to support the firms LGBT community, which has steadily increased over time. But it was also generational.

“We recognize that for this generation, it’s just as important to all genders to spend time with their new kids,” Cole said.

In addition to the updated policies, Fenwick also has a network of support programs to assist new parents in their return back to work.

The firm partners with an outside provider to offer access to parenting and family therapist services and career consultants. It also has a transition mentorship program that allows mothers to select a mentor to support them before, during and after their leave, as well as a parents affinity group. Fenwick also offers several flexible work options, including a reintegration program that allows associates returning from leave to work on a reduced schedule.

All of these programs reinforce the firm’s commitment to having its attorneys and staff actually take advantage of its parental leave policies, which are among the most generous for a Big Law firm, Cole said.

In recent months a bevy of law firms have updated their leave policies to create more inclusive programs for their attorneys and staff.

Last month Dechert announced that it would no longer distinguish between primary and secondary caregivers with a new policy that offers at least 12 weeks of paid leave for all of its U.S. employees—both lawyers and business service professionals. Susman Godfrey announced it would provide unlimited paid parental leave to its associates, regardless of gender or caregiver status.


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