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Yale Picks Top Ten Family-Friendly Firms

Vivia Chen

May 1, 2012

SmilingWoman:baby©Yuri Arcurs_Fotolia.comYale Law Women must be a tireless bunch—the group has released yet another report. This time it's Yale's much anticipated annual top ten list of family-friendly firms. (You'll recall that Yale Law Women just released its fascinating report on how men dominate classroom discussions.)

So which firms made the cut?  This year, the winners are:

Arnold & Porter

Crowell & Moring

Hunton & Williams

Latham & Watkins

Littler Mendelson

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe

Perkins Coie

Reed Smith

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr

With the exception of A&P, Mintz Levin, Perkins Coie, and Wilmer, all the firms are new on this year's coveted list (click here for last year's list).

Yale 2-L Marvin Lim, who spearheaded this year's list (yes, it was headed by a male!), says the survey measured availability of part-time/flextime work; extended leave for family care; child care provisions; billable hour requirements; women's partnership promotions; and women's representation in firm leadership. "The top ten excelled in those categories," he adds.

Much of the findings, as you might suspect, are predictable—depressingly so. Here's what the report says:

    - Part-time is still a female ghetto (80 percent women);

    - Promotion to partnership is "skewed toward male attorneys and attorneys who do not utilize family-friendly options."

    - Women's representation among equity partners and executive management members remain painfully small : 17 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

So where's the good news? The big improvement, says Lim, is that there's been a jump in the number of firms that offer "off/on ramp" programs— 36 percent in 2011 to 46 percent this year.

Moreover, the report lauds several firms for special mention:

    - Squire Sanders and Vinson & Elkins achieved gender equity in part-time/flex-time use, with men accounting for half of the users.

    - Squire Sanders (again) and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom offered part-time work that YLW found "meaningfully part-time"—meaning that lawyers in those programs actually billed less than 50 percent of what full-timers did. (YLW notes that on average, part-time lawyers billed 1,130 hours, compared to 1,912 hours for a full-timer, and that some firms regard working 75 percent as "part-time.")

Not to be a pill, but I'm not sure I see any major progress in this year's report. But Lim is a bit more optimistic: "It's slow but steady progress. On the aggregate, there's progress, though for individual firms, there's some regression."

Of course, it's a bit of a miracle that these family-friendly initiatives survived the recession at all. Which bring up another question: Can law students who aren't at ivory towers like Yale even afford to be concerned with these perks?

"We recognize we have market power," says Lim about the desirability of Yalies in the legal marketplace. "We can't make big changes, but at least we can make a difference in the margin."

Next post: Can you rely on those "best" firm lists?


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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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