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Best BigLaw Firms for Moms; How Your Firm Can Do Better

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By William Peacock, Esq. on May 10, 2013 12:58 PM

Mother’s Day isn’t just about phone calls, cards, and chocolates. It’s about taking the time out to appreciate what our mothers (and if applicable, the mothers of our children) do for us. It’s also a great time to look at what we can do for them.

Working Mother’s “2012 Working Mother & Flex-Time Lawyers Best Law Firms for Women” list details what many of the BigLaw firms are doing for their female attorneys. Though the list appears to be in no particular order or ranking, here are a few standouts that smaller and mid-size firms can learn from:

  • Baker & McKenzie launched a global gender initiative in 2011 that aims to help more of its female lawyers advance into its highest ranks. It also offers workshops and webinars, formal coaching by equity partners, and flexible scheduling options, like telecommuting, shortened workweeks, and reduced billable hours.
  • Chapman and Cutler appointed diversity champions to each practice group, provides 12 to 16 weeks of birth and adoption leave for primary caregivers (plus 2 unpaid weeks), and gave their main lactation room a face-lift.
  • Dorsey and Whitney has an incredibly robust mentoring program for junior female associates, monthly luncheons for female attorneys, and networking groups for new female partners.

If your firm is like many small firms, you may not have the infrastructure to set-up these types of programs. After all, you can't have a networking group for female partners in a three-person firm. Still, there are some things you can do to help your working mothers:

  • Flexible scheduling, such as telecommuting, flexible birth and adoption leave, and reduced workweeks or billable hours;
  • Encourage networking outside of the firm. Your firm may be small, but there are relevant bar luncheons, practice groups, and Lean In circles that can help your attorneys' careers (and maybe lead to referrals).
  • Build self-confidence through constructive evaluations and positive feedback. The most controversial point in Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In was that internal obstacles hold women back. Women lower their expectations of what they can achieve in order to be "liked" by coworkers. Your firm should push your female attorneys to set expectations, and achievements, at higher levels.

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