Siobhan Handley Discusses Parental Leave Program


Orrick Chief Talent Officer Siobhan Handley recently spoke with Law360 and Daily Journal regarding the success of Orrick’s parental leave program. Last year, Orrick set the legal industry benchmark for parental leave by offering its US lawyers paid primary caregiver leave of 22 weeks, with the option of taking a total leave of up to 9 months before returning to work. In the Law360 article, Siobhan shares that there has been an overwhelmingly positive response from Orrick lawyers, clients as well as other law firms.

Siobhan serves as the firm’s "leave liaison," counseling new parents on everything from career strategy to child care advice. She also supports the practice group as they prepare to navigate the temporary loss of a lawyer on leave. Addressing the leaves from both sides is key to the success of a program like this, she noted.

She talked about the way the options for Orrick lawyers managing careers and parenting have changed, “You have to account for the fact that your career might not look like someone’s who hasn’t gone on extended leave, but the impact is incredibly manageable. … It’s anticipated, planned for, talked about and built into your career plan in a way that years ago it was not. We have the data to back up that it doesn’t take you off track.” She added, “It really is not an either/or proposition anymore, where either you have kids and you don’t make partner or you make partner and you don’t have kids.”

Siobhan noted that this kind of flexibility is one way Orrick is addressing the values of the newest generation of talent: “I think that typifies the outlook of a lot of younger lawyers: ‘My family is as important as my job, and I want to be someplace that recognizes that’.  They are really focused on that, and I give them credit. It’s smart, it’s sustainable and they’re not asking for anything unreasonable.”

Siobhan told Daily Journal, “There's a real need for lawyers to feel they can balance their strong desire to have a successful career and a family. When you have a baby it's one of the times in your life that is most intense.”

"It wasn't like apples to apples, but I got back to the level I wanted to be,” Siobhan continued. “And that's part of what I coach people on. That's part of the choice people make. Inevitably people have life events, whether it's a wedding or a honeymoon... And for the most part, people are pretty accommodating.”

See here for additional information about Orrick’s “22 & 9” parental leave program.