This spring, in partnership with behavioral health company AbilTo, the firm introduced a program called Momentum One to help new parents transition back to work.
The program pairs new moms or dads with one of AbilTo’s transition specialists, who are also licensed clinical social workers. Meetings via videoconference are set up once a week for eight weeks--four before the new parent returns to work, and four after.
When O'Melveny announced Momentum One in April, it presented it as a way "to help new parents recognize and successfully manage the challenges of transitioning from parental leave back to work." The firm said the program was "aimed at retaining, developing, and supporting new parents at the firm."
Sounds good, right? Well, skeptics that we are, we decided to check in with some of the program's participants. Four months later, has this "innovative initiative" lived up to its expectations?
So far, five new moms have completed the program. The four we talked to raved about its benefits.
Counsel Alicia Hancock, who works in O’Melveny’s Century City, California, office, was one of the first lawyers at the firm to enroll. “It was a big help because my consultant asked practical questions that I hadn’t thought of, like what would I do if my nanny called in sick?” says Hancock. After that conversation, Hancock signed up for backup care provided by O'Melveny. When her nanny became ill a few weeks later, she was all set. It was also nice, adds Hancock, “to talk to someone about the transition who wasn’t a family member.”
Abby Johnston, counsel in O’Melveny’s New York office, talked with her AbilTo specialist about drawing boundaries between her role as a lawyer and her role as a mom. She devised a plan that allowed her to leave work every day around 5:30 or 6. From then until 8 was family time. After that, she would plug back into work for a few hours. She made sure her colleagues were aware of this schedule.
“My consultant suggested I make it as nonnegotiable as possible,” she says.
Counsel Catalina Vergara says her consultant helped her work through the difficulty her older daughter had with her return to work. “I didn’t think me going back to work would be so hard on my 3-year-old. She’d basically forgotten that I’d ever had a job after my maternity leave,” says Vergara. Her consultant suggested that she create new rituals with her toddler to try to offset her return to work, she says.
Rochelle Karr, director of O’Melveny’s attorney professional development and alumni relations, introduced Momentum One to the firm and completed the program herself. “Lawyers, by nature, have more unpredictable schedules, and children, by nature, love predictability,” Karr says. The program, which costs the firm $1,925-$2,700 per participant, helps parents balance their obligations, she says.
When O’Melveny first announced Momentum One, it was AbilTo’s only law firm client. Since then, the idea hasn't exactly caught fire: Just two more law firms have signed up for the program, says Margaret Klein, program director at AbilTo.
If you're asking, "Where do I sign up?" we're right there with you. But can it really be that easy to predict and conquer all the challenges of mixing a little baby with Big Law?
Probably not. But what new parent can turn down extra help if it's offered?