What Does Family Friendly Mean for Male Attorneys?

Published: May 09, 2011


In Yale Law Women’s (“YLW”) sixth annual ranking of the best family-friendly law firms, the following BigLaw firms made the Top Ten (in alphabetical order):

•Arnold & Porter
•Covington & Burling
•Dorsey & Whitney
•Kirkland & Ellis
•Mayer Brown
•Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo
•Perkins Coie
•Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
•Sidley Austin

According to this year’s survey, (which covered the Vault Law 100 Firms), many law firms are open to flexible career paths and flexible work arrangements, have been more open to programs through which attorneys return to the firm after leaving for a period, offer elder-care and child-care services, have lactation rooms, and provide support for those with family responsibilities.

These findings are positive, but YLW also found that,

Despite these gains and innovative policies, YLW remains concerned about the low rates of retention for women, the dearth of women in leadership positions, the gender gap in those who take advantage of family friendly policies, and the possibility that part-time work can derail an otherwise successful career.

Although YLW found that, on average, 45% of associates at responding law firms are women, women make up only 17% of equity partners and 18% of firm executive management committees. Additionally, on average, women made up just 27% of newly promoted partners in 2010. We hope that firms will continue to pursue policies which enable them to retain women and which promote women’s ability to join the leadership of their firms.

In addition, YLW concluded that although firms often grant flexible work arrangements, the majority of lawyers who work part-time are women, and only 11 percent of those working part-time were partners. Further, only 5 percent of those who made partner in 2010 had worked part-time at some point. Many who work flexible hours also find that they work more hours than they had expected.

While these findings aren’t exactly shocking, they highlight that law firms are trying—and indeed are making some strides—but still have work to do when it comes to making these policies acceptable tools on the path to career success. YLW also raised a subject not discussed often enough: “While in practice, firms with family friendly cultures are likely to be particularly successful in retaining and promoting the top women attorneys, we believe that family friendliness is important to both men and women’s abilities to maintain successful careers and fulfilling family lives.”

Many male lawyers have families too—their children, parents, and other relatives get sick, have t-ball games and need assistance. Yet, male attorneys are far less likely to work flexible hours, are given significantly less parental leave and are less likely to use all of their parental leave. Perhaps the numbers are based on stigmas within the workplace or within society in general, but firms should address them nonetheless. Family is not a women’s issue—it’s a people issue. Accepting women’s requests for family-friendly policies but rejecting men’s requests (or making them feel ashamed or uncomfortable for making such requests) reinforces the idea that women should handle family issues, which then continues the cycle of women requiring even more balance and flexibility.

Yale Law Women source

Read More:
Law Firm Diversity: Views from Female Insiders
Should Companies Demand Diversity from their Outside Counsel?
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