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Top Law Firms Named for Working Moms; 62% Allow Full-Time Telecommuting

Posted Aug 11, 2009 10:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A bad economy may be hurting law firms, but it’s opening up more flex-time opportunities for male as well as female lawyers.

Working Mother magazine reports on the trend in a story accompanying its list of the top 50 law firms for women. Nearly all of its top 50 firms offer reduced-hour schedules, 62 percent offer full-time telecommuting and 42 percent have written flexible-schedule policies. Eight percent of the lawyers at the top firms work reduced hours, compared to 5 percent nationwide, the story says. And 20 percent of the equity partners at the top firms are female, compared to 16 percent nationwide.

Several large law firms on last year’s list didn’t make it this year, including one law firm that has since dissolved: Heller Ehrman. Two other law firms that missed this year’s list, Arnold & Porter and Bingham McCutchen, were on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 best places to work. Arnold & Porter also made a list of the nation's 10 most family-friendly law firms compiled by Yale Law Women.

Other law firms on Working Mom’s 2008 list that didn’t make this year’s list are: Baker & McKenzie; Bricker & Eckler; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Farella Braun + Martel; Fenwick & West; Hogan & Hartson; Hunton & Williams; Kutak Rock; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Patton Boggs; Shearman & Sterling; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

The story identifies these work-life strategies that its winning firms are using to “survive and thrive”:

• Reduced hours. At Minneapolis-based Lindquist & Vennum, lawyers can work only 60 percent of their usual schedule and still retain health benefits. The tactic is an alternative to layoffs. New York City-based Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is also trying to keep jobs by switching lawyers in some practice groups to 90 percent schedules.

• Hourly paychecks. Law firms such as Pillsbury and Alston & Bird are paying some of its lawyer moms by the hour.

• Secunding. Littler Mendelson has hired a reduced-hour contract lawyer to send to clients to cover lawyers’ maternity leaves.

• Alternative billing: Law firms such as Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe are exploring alternatives to the billable hour.

• Pro bono. Some law firms are sending lawyers to nonprofits, while paying them less money, in an attempt to avert layoffs.

A press release lists the top 50 firms, along with their base location and number of lawyers. They are:

Alston & Bird; Atlanta – 933
Andrews Kurth; Houston – 425
Arent Fox; Washington, D.C. – 340
Bass, Berry & Sims; Nashville, Tenn. – 254
Chapman and Cutler; Chicago – 225
Covington & Burling; Washington, D.C. – 771
Davis Polk & Wardwell; New York City – 680
Debevoise & Plimpton; New York City – 570
Dorsey & Whitney; Minneapolis – 623
Drinker Biddle & Reath; Philadelphia – 687
Foley Hoag; Boston – 250
Folger Levin & Kahn; San Francisco – 61
Fox Rothschild; Philadelphia – 466
Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz; New York City – 57
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; New York City – 539
Frost Brown Todd; Cincinnati – 376
Gibbons P.C.; Newark, N.J. – 230
Goodwin Procter; Boston – 941
Gray Plant Mooty Law Firm; Minneapolis – 165
Hanson Bridgett; San Francisco – 162
Holland & Hart; Denver – 441
Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn; Detroit – 239
Ice Miller; Indianapolis – 260
Jenner & Block; Chicago – 484
Katten Muchin Rosenman; Chicago – 653
Latham & Watkins; Global. – 1,714
Lindquist & Vennum; Minneapolis – 187
Littler Mendelson; San Francisco. – 722
Lowenstein Sandler; Roseland, N.J. – 276
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips; Los Angeles – 389
McGuireWoods; Richmond, Va. – 854
Miller & Chevalier Chartered; Washington, D.C. – 96
Morrison & Foerster; New York, N.Y. – 976
Munger, Tolles & Olson; Los Angeles – 219
Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg; Chicago – 199
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; New York City – 815
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; New York City – 530
Perkins Coie; Seattle – 720
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman; San Francisco – 929
Quarles & Brady; Phoenix – 499
Shook, Hardy & Bacon; Kansas City, Mo. – 511
Sidley Austin; Chicago – 1,598
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; New York City – 821
Smith Moore Leatherwood; Greenville, S.C. – 181
Steptoe & Johnson; Washington, D.C. – 465
Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox; Washington, D.C. – 99
Vinson & Elkins; Houston – 704
Weil, Gotshal & Manges; New York City – 1,394
WilmerHale; Boston – 1,085
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; Palo Alto, Calif. – 670

The list was based on a 2008 questionnaire of law firms with more than 50 lawyers that submitted applications to the magazine.

Updated at 3 p.m. to correctly indicate that Wilson Sonsini is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. Updated on Aug. 14 to indicate that Perkins Coie is headquartered in Seattle.

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