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Paternity Leave at Law Firms

Most articles on work/life balance focus on moms, rather than dads -- and I admit that I'm equally culpable of omitting the interest of fathers when it comes to the discussion of flexible schedules at large law firms.  So I was glad to see Denise Howell take on the topic in this month's installment of her American Lawyer column, Dicta

Howell begins:

Twenty years ago, a father who took paternity leave was the stuff of urban legend: Though rumors of the species circulated, proof remained elusive. Lawyers who became fathers got less sleep and made more runs to the grocery store, but they kept coming to the office.

Times have changed - a bit. Today, the leave-taking lawyer dad is on par with the orange-faced honeyeater, the first species of bird identified in New Guinea in over 60 years. He's rare, but he's been spotted in the wild and is starting to be documented and studied.

Howell writes that while men are starting to take paternity leave, on balance, they are "still pursuing the traditional breadwinner role, as opposed to breadwinner-plus."  Nor do men worry as much about balancing work and family as women.  As a result, most firms aim their work/life balance initiatives at women rather than men. 

Do men care less about work life balance -- and if so, why?  Is it because men aren't genetically wired to want to spend time with children or because in most families, mothers are more inclined to assume responsibility for children than their spouse?  And what's it going to take to make law firms more family friendly -- more women advancing to the top, or more men taking time off to stay home and raise the kids?  Personally (and somewhat ironically), I think it's the latter.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 3, 2008 at 08:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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