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Yale Survey Names Top 10 Family-Friendly Firms

Yale Law Women on Thursday released a survey of the Vault Top 100 Law Firms' work-life balance policies, naming WilmerHale and Mayer Brown LLP among its top 10 family-friendly firms for 2011, though two of last year's honorees — Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Steptoe & Johnson LLP — did not make the cut.

More big-league law firms are adopting policies that accommodate employees with families, from allowing attorneys to leave their jobs temporarily to offering more part-time options to furnishing child care facilities, the survey found.

"As the legal field heads toward recovery after the recent financial crisis, YLW believes that the focus on family-friendly firm policies and policies designed for the retention of women remains more important and pressing than ever," the organization said in a statement Thursday.

Now is an ideal time to implement flexible and family-friendly policies as law firms change their models to meet new market demands, YLW added.

In addition to WilmerHale and Mayer Brown, the family-friendliest firms this year include Arnold & Porter LLP, Covington & Burling LLP, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo LLP, Perkins Coie LLP, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and Sidley Austin LLP.

The firms that also made YLW's family-friendly list in 2010 are Arnold & Porter, Sidley Austin, Mayer Brown, Dorsey & Whitney, Kirkland & Ellis, Mintz Levin, Perkins Coie and WilmerHale.

In addition to the top 10 firms, YLW revealed statistics on work-life balance policies from the surveyed firms. Thirty-six percent of respondents offered so-called off-ramp/on-ramp programs that allow lawyers to leave the firm and return, compared to just 24 percent of the firms surveyed in 2010.

The survey also found that part-time options are considered the norm now, with 100 percent of respondents offering that option and 98 percent offering flex-time.

Many law firms provide care services for the elderly and lactation rooms for nursing mothers, according to the survey. Some firms also reported that they allowed employees to apply for a reimbursement of up to $5,000 of costs tied to adopting a child.

In spite of these gains, YLW said it remained concerned about the paucity of women leaders in firms and the potential that working part-time could have negative consequences.

On average, the survey found that women made up only 18 percent of firm management committees and 27 percent of newly promoted partners in 2010.

The survey also revealed that women take advantage of family-friendly policies more often than men do, with 94 percent of mothers using their maximum amount of parental leave compared to just 85 percent of fathers.

"The disparity of parental leave policies and the possibility of stigma against men who fully utilize the available leave may present significant obstacles to male attorneys who wish to be more involved with their children," the survey said.

Women also made up 81 percent of attorneys who worked part-time, a decision the survey found could have negative consequences for all attorneys who chose it. Just 5 percent of the partners promoted in 2010 had ever worked part-time, the survey said.

"Much more still needs to be done to reduce gender disparity in firm leadership and to ensure that all attorneys can achieve successful careers without sacrificing their commitment to their families," YLW stated.

A representative for YLW declined to reveal how many of the Vault 100 Firms responded to its survey but said the group is "very pleased" with the level of participation every year.