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Linda Rost was a research scientist in re­combinant DNA technology before be­coming an associate at Ropes & Gray in Palo Alto, Calif.

But about five years ago, she encountered a challenge far more complex and demanding than animal cloning or multimillion-dollar intellectual property disputes: She gave birth to a baby boy.

“It was soon obvious the demanding work hours were taking a toll on my health,” Rost says. “Frank­ly, I worried about how I would be perceived if I asked for help. Would I still get exciting work? Would a decrease in hours hurt my career?”

This fall Ropes & Gray launched Impact, a new program that allows firm lawyers to significantly change their schedules to accommodate family, health or other needs for flexible work schedules without sacrificing their long-term career goals.

“Impact directly reflects the associates’ opinions and views of how a reduced-time program should work,” says partner Gaby Higgins, an Im­pact committee co-chair.

While Higgins declined to say what billable-hour minimum Ropes & Gray expects from associates, she notes that the program allows attorneys to individually tailor their work schedules. The firm also is providing an in-house administrator and back-up day care options to smooth out any bumps.

Rost says the program allows her to combine telecommuting with truncated work hours so seamlessly that clients had no idea she was working part time. She was part of the team this Jan­uary that helped Purdue Pharma convince a U.S. District Court that its OxyContin patents were enforceable.

And in the surest sign that the program is working, Rost feels free to occasionally bring her 2-year-old daughter to work. “She even has a little office job; she brings water to people so they don’t have to leave their desks for a drink.”

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