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On Monday, the President and First Lady hosted The White House Summit on Working Families to kick start the "conversation on working families for a 21st century workplace." The President's remarks showed his commitment to working families, and focused on four issues: paid maternity leave, workplace flexibility, childcare, and wages.
Earlier this week we provided a recap of President Obama's priorities and initiatives. Now, we'll look at how your law firm can help #FamiliesSucceed.
Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.If you want to be part of the solution, and not the problem, you need only look to the President's suggestions. While his initiatives will only apply to federal employees, there's nothing to stop you from being a progressive law firm that leads by example. In fact, many of the things that some make BigLaw firms the best places to work for women take into account the other roles women play in their lives as a whole, and incorporate many of the President's suggestions. If it's good for the federal government and BigLaw, maybe it's good for your law firm too.
1. Paid Maternity Leave
Paid maternity leave is a benefit just like other employee benefits you give your employees like paid time off and sick days. You don't need a law to require you to provide paid maternity leave -- you could just choose to provide that as an employee benefit. While it seems like an expense up front, you will get rewarded with happier, more productive employees that don't leave -- so you'll save on hiring and training costs too.
2. Workplace Flexibility
Providing workplace flexibility so employees may not need to "home from work" or could see their children in the school play or soccer game will not only mean you'll have happier employees, but they will be more productive because they can focus on their assignments rather than the guilt about not making it to their child's school function. While there's no way around court deadlines, does it really matter if your associate drafts the brief at 10 p.m., rather than 10 a.m.? Figure out where flexibility can work, and ease up a little.
3. Access to Childcare
One way your law firm can provide access to childcare is to actually provide on-site childcare. If that's too much too fast for you, you can take a cue from BigLaw and subsidize the cost of childcare for your employees.
4. Equal Pay for Women
It's a little crazy that we're still talking about this, but the sad reality is that women attorneys make less than their male counterparts -- for doing the same work. As an employer, you can put an end to that problem. Simply don't do it. Pay your men and women equally, of course depending on their associate level, and make sure that discretionary amounts such as bonuses, or negotiations, are not tainted by gender stereotypes.
We have a long way to go in reaching the goal of prioritizing the needs of working families, but as lawyers who often have a high profile in our communities, we have a responsibility to lead by example. By running your own law firm, you can begin by implementing some procedures that would further policy goals that help all families, and society as a whole.