2019 was the year that expanded parental leave became a real trend in Biglaw. But just because the year is closing doesn’t mean parental leave is done having its moment in the sun. Just last week, another Biglaw firm announced an expanded policy — effective in 2020 — that’s applicable to all of its employees.
Biglaw firms should now know they need to offer some pretty good parental policies in order to stay competitive with their peer firms. We are seeing more and more firms offering their attorneys generous paid leave, and the programs are increasingly gender neutral and offered without a primary caregiver stipulation.
The latest firm to offer improved parental leave is Sheppard Mullin. As their announcement notes, the new policy is designed to take the needs of all employees into account:
We are pleased to announce the Firm will be enhancing our parental baby bonding leave policy to support our SMRH employees (qualified attorneys and professional staff) as their families grow. We recognize that every family is different. We want our parental baby bonding leave policy to reflect the needs of each employee.
The highlights of the new policy include:
All new parents can take up to 12 weeks of paid parental baby bonding leave for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child.
Birth mothers will receive an additional 6-8 weeks paid disability leave for childbirth recovery depending on the period of actual disability.
Paid bonding leave must be initiated within the first six months of the birth, adoption or foster care placement and completed within the first year.
Ramp Time: Attorneys and paraprofessional timekeepers planning for a parental leave that is eight continuous weeks or longer, will have a reduced hours expectation of 60% of his or her full time equivalent (FTE) during a ramp down and ramp up period of 6 weeks before and post leave. This ramp up/ramp down will have no negative impact on a potential hours-based bonus.
The firm also circulated a list of best practices for taking leave to ensure that employees that take leave are put in the best possible position:
Communication is key! Partners and supervisors are encouraged to speak to the attorney or professional about their expected departure and return date.
Those planning to go on leave should provide a status report and project list to their supervisors.
TM/HR will send regular notice of pending and current leave dates, and expected return dates to Practice Group Leaders, Office Managing Partners, Office Administrators and/or Chiefs.
As this is a leave of absence, no work should be given to the attorney/employee. If there are extenuating circumstances, the supervisor should first speak with the PGLs or Chief to see if there is additional coverage, then with the CHRO, and finally with the attorney/employee.
Folks at the firm seem very pleased with the change. From a tipster:
Sheppard Mullin continues to make itself a premier place to be an associate. It’s amazing how much effort they put into listening to associates and actually implementing feedback.
Kudos to the firm!
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).
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