Kirkland & Ellis’s Parenting Link program provides a support network for lawyers and their families, helping them share parenting information and bond over the challenges and successes that accompany having children.
Being able to talk with other lawyers about what you’re going through and how to best navigate the work-life balance “takes the stress out of what should be an exciting time for a family,” attorney Daniel A. Guerin, the program’s co-chair, told Bloomberg Law.
Parenting Link is likely part of the firm’s long-term strategy to position itself competitively in the future, law firm consultants told Bloomberg Law.
Eye to Future
“Large law firms are competing aggressively for talent” and will have to “cater to the increased demands for a more balanced lifestyle,” particularly from millennials, Marcie Borgal Shunk told Bloomberg Law.
Kirkland has experienced “top growth” and could be “investing more in programs such as this one that will help position it more competitively in the future,” said Shunk, founder of The Tilt Institute, a company that advises law firms.
Kirkland is “a very well-run law firm that’s focused on executing on a long-term, disciplined strategy,” William D. Henderson told Bloomberg Law. There’s probably a “good business reason for Parenting Link,” said Henderson, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law who focuses on the legal profession.
Large law firms offer generous parental leave policies and support upon returning from leave to attract and retain the best legal talent, Eve Howard, Hogan Lovells’ regional managing partner for Washington, told Bloomberg Law last year.
Hogan Lovells’ agile work program for attorneys returning from leave can include remote work, a flexible schedule, or reduced hours.
Reed Smith allows returning lawyers to work a reduced schedule for three months at a prorated salary and also contracts with a company that ships breast milk for nursing mothers on business trips, Michael Lynch, Reed Smith’s chief human resources officer, told Bloomberg Law last year.
Kirkland’s Parenting Link encourages communicating with other Kirkland parents via a listserv and by holding discussions and lectures on various topics including:
- The ins-and-outs of getting children into preschool/grade school/high school
- Understanding children’s social and behavioral changes
- Handling children’s food allergies
- Sleep-training new babies
- Internet safety
The firm’s parental leave policy is on the “cutting edge” but that doesn’t necessarily mean attorneys take much parental leave, Guerin said.
Kirkland offers partners up to six months of parental leave and associates 18 weeks plus an additional four weeks of paid time off if they’re not yet ready to return, a firm spokesperson told Bloomberg Law in an email.
Guerin’s focus has been on making other men in the firm feel comfortable talking about parenting challenges and that it’s OK to take parenting leave.
Like other large law firms, Kirkland is a demanding place to work, Guerin said.
This, coupled with the fact that men haven’t traditionally taken much parental leave, if any, makes them worry about the negative repercussions of doing so, he said.
“I think the main fear among male attorneys is that they will miss out on great opportunities while they are out of the office,” Guerin said.
Talking with others helps put things into perspective and reassures people that they’ll “be able to jump right back into the swing of things without missing a beat if they want to spend some meaningful time with their families after the arrival of a kid,” he said.
Guerin, who has four children under age seven, took a month off after each birth.
Guerin participated in a panel discussion with other attorneys on how to coordinate leave. They gave tips on how to discuss taking leave with a partner you’re working with on a case, whether to share this information with a client, and what to put in an out-of-office email.
The Chicago office recently hosted Dr. Thomas W. Phelan, who came up with the “1-2-3 Magic” parenting program. Kirkland invited clients to the talk and streamed it to the New York office.
Parenting Link is available in those offices.
With assistance from Gayle Cinquegrani.