Orrick Goes to “22 & 9” on Parental Leave

Setting Industry Benchmark for Investing in Women’s Advancement

Orrick is pleased to announce a new parental leave program designed to provide unprecedented support to women lawyers. The firm will offer its U.S. 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.

“Look at the numbers: our profession is facing a crisis if we cannot find ways to inspire women to stay in law firms and advance to leadership roles,” says Mitch Zuklie, Orrick’s Chairman & CEO. “Creating more opportunities for women will require changes in policy, culture and leadership. Our expanded parental leave program is one way we are investing in women. It is inspired by programs recently announced by our clients, and also by conversations with our European colleagues. (The United States is the only developed nation that does not mandate paid leave.) We hope our move sparks more conversation in the legal profession about ways to invest in women’s advancement.”

In addition to providing 9 months of job protection, the firm will enhance the support it provides to parents upon returning to practice, including: building on its industry-leading onramping program that allows parents to increase the intensity of their practice at their own pace, strengthening its Flexible Work Arrangement program, creating the role of “Leave Liaison” who will coach parents in transitioning back to practice, and providing training for leaders and sponsors in how to support working parents.

“We believe this program will provide a meaningful new level of support and enable more of our women lawyers to advance in their careers at Orrick,” noted Chief Talent Officer Siobhan Handley. “This is about giving women more individualized options – length of leave, pace of return, intensity of work commitment – so they can continue to grow as professionals and leaders while caring for their families.”

Women represent 17% of law firm equity partners, 21% of Fortune 500 general counsel, and 34% of the legal profession as a whole, despite constituting nearly half of law school graduates.1 

The firm has also increased paid primary caregiver leave for staff to 14 weeks, with a total of up to 7 months job protection.

[1] A Current Glance at Women in the Law, ABA – Commission on Women in the Profession, July 2014, http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/marketing/women/current_glance_statistics_july2014.authcheckdam.pdf.