Summary: We have provided a sample childbirth and parenting leave policy that you can use as a reference in developing or fine-tuning your law firm’s policy.

Here is a sample law firm policy for childbirth and parenting leave.


This statement sets forth the firm's policy for attorneys employed by the firm concerning leaves of absence for pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.(2) The object of this policy is to strike a fair balance between the business and economic needs and concerns of the firm, the demands and expectations of its clients, and the needs and goals of attorneys seeking to pursue careers and raise families. Consistent with the following standards, the firm expects to be as flexible as possible on a case-by-case basis.

I. Paid Childbirth and Parenting Leave

A. Childbirth Disability Leave

A woman attorney is entitled to leave at full pay for the duration of her disability related to pregnancy and childbirth. The timing and length of childbirth disability leave are to be determined in each case by the attorney's physician based on individual circumstances, as in the case of other medical disabilities.(3)

B. Parenting Leave

In addition, every attorney employed by the firm(4) is entitled to up to six weeks(5) of parenting leave at full pay following the birth of a child or the arrival of a child in the home in contemplation of adoption.(6)

The right to take childbirth and parenting leave(s) is contingent upon the attorney's advising the firm in advance that she/he intends to return to work upon the completion of the paid childbirth and parenting leave(s) and any permitted unpaid additional parenting leave as discussed below. To the extent feasible, 90 days' prior notice shall be given of the anticipated starting and ending dates of such leave. Subject to these requirements and consistent with the needs of the firm, parenting leave may be taken at any time during the one-year period following the birth of a child or the arrival of a child in the home in contemplation of adoption, and need not be taken immediately following birth or adoption or completion of childbirth disability leave.

During the paid childbirth and parenting leave(s), the attorney shall continue to receive all employee benefits previously provided and shall be eligible for salary increases and bonuses.

The fact that an attorney has been on paid childbirth and/or parenting leave(s) shall in no way be considered by the firm in making its partnership determination and shall not affect the timing of such determination.

II. Unpaid Additional Parenting Leave

In addition to paid childbirth and parenting leave(s), an attorney may request unpaid parenting leave for up to a total cumulative paid and unpaid leave of one year following the birth of a child or the arrival of a child in the home in contemplation of adoption. Each request for unpaid additional leave will be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances of the attorney and the needs of the firm.

An attorney requesting unpaid additional parenting leave shall submit a written request to the firm, to the extent feasible, 90 days in advance of the proposed commencement of that leave. The firm will respond as promptly as possible.

During the period of unpaid additional parenting leave, the attorney shall continue to receive all employee benefits previously provided,(7) except that vacation time shall not accrue during the period of unpaid leave.

If an attorney takes paid and unpaid leave exceeding a total of six months, the length of the leave may affect the timing of consideration for partnership but shall not otherwise affect the partnership determination.

At the end of any period of paid or unpaid leave, an attorney is entitled to return to the same or equivalent job the attorney held at the firm prior to taking the leave.

III. Flexible Work Arrangements

Consistent with the needs of the firm, the firm is committed to assisting attorneys who have taken childbirth or parenting leave to make the transition from full-time parenting to the return to the practice of law and to helping all attorneys balance the needs of their families and the demands of their profession on an ongoing basis. Accordingly, the firm will consider requests by attorneys for part-time or other flexible work arrangements, taking into account the needs and concerns of the individual, the firm and the firm's clients.(8)

Any request to be considered for such an arrangement shall be submitted in writing, setting forth in detail the proposed arrangement and the reasons for the request. The firm will respond as promptly as possible.

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ENDNOTES

  1. The format and some of the text of this Model Policy were adapted from the sample policy developed and adopted by several bar associations.
  2. As used in this policy, "childbirth leave" or "childbirth disability leave" refers to leave available to childbearing women during the period of medical disability related to pregnancy and childbirth, as determined by each woman's physician. "Parenting leave" refers to leave available to women and men, for the purposes of raising and nurturing a child, during the one year period following the birth of a child or the arrival of a child in the attorney's home in contemplation of adoption. Where both types of leave are applicable, childbirth leave and parenting leave are cumulative.
  3. Disability leave historically has covered a six to eight week period following a normal, uncomplicated childbirth.
  4. It is recommended that parenting leave be available to every attorney employed by the firm, without regard to the length of time the attorney has been employed by the firm prior to taking the leave. If, however, for economic or other reasons a firm determines it is necessary to impose a durational requirement for eligibility for parenting leave, it is recommended that the durational requirement not exceed one year.
  5. The duration of parenting leave may be established by each firm. It is recommended that each firm provide a minimum paid parenting leave of six weeks and strongly suggested that each firm consider adopting a policy that provides a longer period of paid parenting leave if it would be economically feasible for the firm to do so.
  6. Because an adoptive child often will arrive in the home, and parenting responsibilities will begin, before completion of the formal adoption process, this Model Policy provides that an adoptive parent is entitled to begin parenting leave upon the child's arrival in the home in contemplation of adoption, rather than upon completion of the formal adoption process.
  7. If this would cause economic hardship to a particular firm, that firm may provide in its policy that during the period of unpaid parenting leave the attorney must pay all or part of the expense, at the firm's group rates, of health, life and disability insurance.
  8. Each firm is encouraged to grant requests for part-time work, a flexible work schedule or job sharing to the extent economically and practically feasible for the firm and is urged to consider adopting more formal policies concerning such work arrangements (stating, e.g., the criteria for granting requests, and the effects on salary, benefits, and partnership determination) and other programs, such as emergency child care, designed to assist working parents in balancing their family and professional lives.