Multinational law firm Shearman & Sterling has boosted its parental leave policy, increasing paid primary caregiver leave to 20 weeks for all U.S. lawyers.
Previously the general practice firm, headquartered in New York City, which employs about 850 lawyers, gave primary caregivers 18 weeks of maternity leave.
In addition to the change to the policy for U.S.-based lawyers, Shearman & Sterling also significantly increased primary caregiver leave for its U.S. business services staff. Those employees now can take 14 weeks of paid time off, up from zero weeks for hourly employees and six weeks for salaried staff.
For secondary caregivers, the firm will provide eight weeks of paid new childcare leave for lawyers and business services, regardless of the parent’s gender, following a birth, foster or adoption. Shearman & Sterling had previously offered four weeks of paid paternity leave.
The new policy went into effect Sept. 1.
“Our enhanced parental leave policy allows us to further support our people at key stages of their life by increasing the length of paid leave and by providing greater support throughout,” says Creighton Condon, senior partner of Shearman & Sterling.
Condon also noted that the firm will make it a point to encourage staffers to utilize the offered time off.
Though law firms generally offer generous parental leave for their employees, many new parents don’t use all the time offered. According to a 2016 survey by Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers, law firms, on average, offer 15 weeks of maternity leave and seven weeks of paternity leave. But new mothers working at law firms take an average of 14 weeks off, and fathers just four weeks, on average.
“The next important step is to continue to enable our people to use this new policy to the fullest extent,” Condon says.
Law firms have increasingly been joining the parental leave movement. In June, New England law firm Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC adopted a paid parental leave policy that will give new parents up to 12 weeks off.
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