Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe Reverse Their Policy on Parental Leave
Summary: Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe have made a radical reversal on their parental leave policy.
As is not too uncommon in the business world, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe have made a radical reversal on their parental leave policy. Formerly against Ellen Pao in a gender discrimination suit, they have felt the general dissent of the world looking on, and decided to reverse the things that went before.
That’s why as of May 1, their lawyers can expect an eligibility of 22 weeks of paid leave and nine months of job protection, an increase of four weeks paid and two weeks unpaid leave to their prior policy. A smooth way to appease their critics. In their explanation of why they are doing this, the firm noted that women account for 47 percent of law graduates, but only 17 percent of equity partners. According to a 2007 report by M.I.T., the explanation is to be found in women’s propensity to become mothers. Women do not become partners because “the difficulty of combining law firm work and caring for children in a system that requires long hours under high pressure with little or inconsistent support for flexible work arrangements” makes it too hard. So the hours are crap, the demands are high, and the only way to get young mothers to succeed in this nonsense is to ease up on the expectations. Which is what Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe are doing. In questioning this narrative, we might wonder why young mothers should be succeeding in this capitalistic contrivance of 60 to 70 hours a week lawyering to make money for the rich, or how getting equal numbers of women and men in such positions would count as any sort of success for those hoping to secure women’s rights. There is also the business of human rights in general, and what it means to be a human being in today’s global economy. For the so-called “millenials,” those under 30, “Firms should know that the millennials have no interest in making work / family trade-offs. They look at the sacrifices the generations above them, even their own parents, have made, and reject this path fully,” as professor Kellie McElhaney, founding director of the Center for Responsible Business at Berkeley-Haas School of Business, told Mitch Zuklie, Orrick Chairman and CEO, in a recent conversation. “Before making job choices, millennial couples specifically discuss and consider together, their ability to share equally child-reading responsibility. To be clear, this is not an indication that young female professionals are less ambitious to make it to the top ranks. This is an indication that they expect their male partners and their employers to help support this success.” Why child-rearing responsibilities should be “equal” rather than partitioned bespeaks the rhetoric of equality so dominant in today’s dialectic. That some partners require “help supporting their success” while others do not bespeaks more of the same. Whatever the case, Orrick knows which way the wind blows, and so has overhauled their parental leave policy to make it all come together in a manner looking to be the cutting edge in the field.
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