Law has certainly become a more welcoming field for women in recent years, but when looking at your options, do you know the best law firms for women?
We didn't either until we saw the 2012 Best Law Firms for Women survey by Working Mother magazine and a company called Flex-Time Lawyers LLC. The unranked list of 50 firms offers some valuable insight into what makes a firm friendlier to women, and working mothers in particular.
The full list is a good resource for women just starting a legal career or looking to make a lateral transfer. But even if you aren't working at one of these firms, you can still judge how friendly your office is to women (and attorneys with families in general) based on certain policies.
Here are five trends spotted in the Best Law Firms for Women survey:
Female managing partners. There's a lot to be said for having role models within your own firm. Many of the "best" firms had women in top roles, which gives the growing number of female attorneys at firms someone to look up to and ask questions about work-life balance.
Flexible schedules. Firm policies that allow associates to work off-hours or telecommute are especially helpful for working parents who may need to stay home during school vacations or to take a few hours in the afternoon to attend a child's soccer game. Not only do policies that allow this make it easier to take that time, they also show the firm values attorney-parents and makes an effort to accommodate them.
Women on executive and compensation committees. Having women making decisions about firm policies, especially compensation, makes it more likely that those policies will be friendly to women. If those women are also working moms, it makes sense their policies will consider the needs of other working parents at the firm.
Child care and backup care. If you're an attorney with kids, then you know there will be days when the nanny is sick or the babysitter cancels at the last minute. If your firm has on-site or nearby child care, or provides some sort of backup care to deal with the unexpected, it means they want to support you as a parent and an employee.
Generous parental leave. Notice that we didn't say "maternity leave." Many of the firms on the Best Law Firms for Women list have better-than-average maternity leave policies, and also offer paternity leave to new dads in the office. Starting a family should mean everyone in the family gets some bonding time. Firms that respect that dads, too, need time with a new baby are more likely to respect parenting accommodations for mom as well.