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The Top Ten Family Friendly Firms Initiative is an annual policy survey of law firms that rank in the Vault 100.  The survey – which explores important family friendliness indicators such as the billable hour requirement, part-time and flex-time options, parental leave policies, and childcare availability – collects data to capture both the policies at these law firms and their utilization by male and female attorneys.


2013 Top Ten Family Friendly Firms Report

Click here to read the full report.

2013 Top Ten Family Friendly Firms List

Yale Law Women (YLW) is pleased to announce its eighth annual Top Ten Family Friendly Firms List. The 2013 Top Ten Firms, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Arnold & Porter
  • Fulbright & Jaworski
  • Goodwin Procter
  • Hunton & Williams
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
  • Perkins Coie
  • Reed Smith
  • Shearman & Sterling
  • Sidley Austin
  • Squire Sanders

YLW congratulates these Top Ten Firms for their leadership in developing and implementing family friendly practices and policies.

YLW 2013 Top Ten Full Report

This year, our concurrent survey of Yale Law School alumni currently working at the Vault 100 firms revealed that part-time and flex-time policies were by far the most important factors to attorneys when evaluating a firm’s overall family friendliness.  These lawyers felt that firms best advanced family friendliness when they allowed attorneys to tailor their schedules to meet commitments to their clients, colleagues, and families.  Notably, YLW found that billable hours policies were not as important to alumni: just over half of alumni surveyed named billable hours policies as one of the three most important family friendly factors, compared with 80% of alumni who selected part-time and flex-time policies.  This suggests that for lawyers at the Vault 100 firms, when and where they work – and not necessarily how much they work – had the greatest impact on their work-life balance.  YLW applauds those firms that are working to make their workplaces more family friendly and is hopeful that these best practices will foster even more progress in the coming year.


All participating firms provided a part-time option to their attorneys, and the vast majority of participating firms also made flex-time arrangements available. Consistent with last year’s findings, women availed themselves of part-time and flex-time options at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. On average across all participating law firms, 78% of the attorneys who utilized part-time options were women.  With respect to part-time schedules, five law firms reported that at least 40% of the attorneys utilizing this option were male: Dorsey & Whitney, Hunton & Williams, Morrison & Foerster, Perkins Coie, and Squire Sanders.  Five firms approached gender parity in both part-time and flex-time utilization.  At Hunton & Williams, Kirkland & Ellis, Munger, Tolles & Olson, Perkins Coie, and Squire Sanders, men accounted for 45% or more of all attorneys working part-time or flex-time schedules.

On average, an attorney working part-time billed 1,112 hours in 2012, compared to 1,883 hours for full-time associates and 1,682 hours for full-time partners. These figures show that, consistent with the results from last year’s survey, part-time associates worked 60% of the hours of full-time associates on average.

At least one firm required part-time associates to work a minimum of 80% of the billable hour requirement for full-time associates.  Notably, Allen & Overy and Squire Sanders reported the ratio of part-time to full-time billable hours worked by their associates at 50% or less. Reed Smith reported that part-time partners worked half or less than half the hours of full-time partners.  At these law firms, part-time work was meaningfully part-time.

Part-time attorneys were eligible for bonus compensation in all firms surveyed, and all but two firms reported that part-time attorneys were eligible for partnership promotion.  A majority of firms (87%) noted that part-time attorneys who worked more hours than expected received compensation for their additional hours, either as part of their base compensation or in their bonus.

Many firms emphasized a commitment to flex-time options, defined as flexible working arrangements that provide attorneys with freedom to work their full-time hours on a non-traditional schedule, remotely or otherwise. All but one participating firm reported that they offered flex-time options.  Several of these firms noted that their priority was delivering high-quality legal work to clients rather than requiring attorney face time at the office.  A handful of firms reported that they offered mentorship programs specifically aimed at supporting part-time and flex-time attorneys.

Family Care

More than three-quarters of firms (78%) provided 16 or more weeks of paid parental leave to primary caregivers. This represents an improvement over last year’s results, which showed a smaller percentage of firms providing 16 or more weeks of paid leave to primary caregivers.   On average across all participating firms, primary caregivers were offered 16 weeks of leave, while secondary caregivers were offered 5.5 weeks of leave.

With respect to utilization, 8.5% of female attorneys and 5% of male attorneys took some form of parental leave in 2012.  At two firms – Hogan Lovells and Kirkland & Ellis – more than 10% of all attorneys utilized parental leave.  In addition, at six firms, men were equally as likely as women to take advantage of parental leave policies. These firms included Katten Muchin Rosenman, Kirkland & Ellis, Mintz Levin, Munger, Tolles & Olson, Paul Weiss, and Skadden. Despite these advances toward gender parity, the data showed that women were more likely than men to take parental leave.  Furthermore, women who did take leave were more likely to use the maximum amount available: in 2012, almost 90% of women who took leave utilized the maximum amount, as compared with 55% of men.

This year, one-third of participating firms offered “off-ramp/on-ramp” programs to their attorneys.  These firms described the purpose of their ramp programs as keeping firm alumni connected to the firm; providing opportunities for contract and pro bono work while off-ramp; supporting off-ramp attorneys by paying bar dues, providing mentorship, and creating continuing learning opportunities; and easing the transition back to work through alternative work arrangements and progressive return schedules.  A small number of firms also have established communities and networks for young parents to share information and advice about balancing personal and professional obligations.

There has been a trend toward providing support beyond parental leave for attorneys with family responsibilities. For example, 93% of firms offered on-site or back-up childcare – a significant increase over the 70% of firms that reported these options last year. In addition, several firms have expanded their back-up emergency care services to encompass adult care and elder care.  Finally, some firms have moved away from gendered leave policies to provide “primary caregiver leave” and “secondary caregiver leave,” rather than maternity or paternity leave.

Leading and Promotions

In 2012, women comprised 46% of the associate pool but only 31% of partnership promotions.  Of the attorneys promoted to partnership last year, only 11% had previously utilized part-time options or utilized them at the time of their promotion.  Notably, 9 firms participating in the survey achieved gender parity in partner promotions last year.  These firms are Allen & Overy, Cleary Gottlieb, Fulbright & Jaworski, Goodwin Procter, Munger, Tolles & Olson, Paul Weiss, Reed Smith, Skadden, and Wilson Sonsini.  In addition to reaching gender parity in partner promotions, many of these firms had a greater percentage of attorneys, on average, promoted to partner who were working or had worked a part-time schedule at the time of their partnership promotion.

The percentage of women equity partners and executive or management committee partners remained low: only 17% of equity partners at participating law firms were women, and only 20% of their executive or management committee members were women.

Looking Beyond the Vault 100

This year, YLW added a “Beyond the Vault 100” component to broaden the scope of the Top Ten project.  This new initiative surveys legal employers outside the Vault 100 to learn more about their family friendly policies and practices.  YLW sent a short survey to a variety of legal employers – including offices in government, nonprofit organizations, and boutique law firms – to learn about their approach to part-time and flex-time schedules, parental leave, childcare options, and more.

Survey responses highlighted innovative strategies for making legal practice more family friendly.  For example, one non-profit public interest law firm provided its attorneys the opportunity to take a one-month “mini-sabbatical” to avoid burnout and sustain longer and more fulfilling careers.  Multiple employers provided flexibility to attorneys returning from parental leave.  Some allowed attorneys to bring newborn children to work following leave, and others allowed progressive return schedules or flex-time options to ease the transition back to work.  Survey responses also underscored the importance of office management and leadership to an organization’s policies and culture around family friendliness.  One litigation boutique responded that its partnership specifically set aside time at annual meetings to discuss work-life balance.  Those discussions spanned leave policies and attorney work distribution.  This firm also reported that it used anonymous surveys to solicit attorney feedback on the organization’s culture, which then informs decisions by the partnership with respect to family friendly policies and practices.

Executive Summary

Part-time and flex-time policies: a key component of family friendliness

  •  In the concurrent survey of YLS alumni, 80% of respondents ranked part-time and flex-time policies as the most important factors for evaluating a law firm’s family friendliness.
  • All participating firms offered part-time options, and all but one firm offered flex-time options. However, only 22% of attorneys who utilized these options in 2012 were men.
  • On average, part-time associates billed 60% of the hours of their full-time counterparts.
  • Most firms adjusted compensation when part-time attorneys billed more hours than planned.
  • 11% of newly-promoted partners were part-time or had been part-time at some point.

Family care: despite moves toward gender neutrality, disparities persist

  •  Several firms have moved away from gendered leave policies to provide “primary caregiver leave” and “secondary caregiver leave,” rather than maternity or paternity leave.
  • Three-quarters of participating firms offered 16 weeks of paid parental leave to primary caregivers.  The average leave offered to secondary caregivers was 5.5 weeks.
  • Female attorneys were much more likely to take leave and to take the full amount of leave available: 90% of women on leave took the full amount, versus 55% of men.
  • Over 90% of firms provided on-site or back-up childcare, up from 70% last year.

Leaky pipeline: women remain underrepresented at the top

  •  Women comprised 46% of the associate pool but only 31% of newly-promoted partners last year.
  • In 2012, 17% of equity partners at participating law firms were women, and 20% of their executive or management committee members were women.

Read the full report.