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August 01, 2005

Bar Adopts WIP's Model Parenting Policies

Bar Adopts WIP's Model Parenting Policies

Late last year, the Association's Board of Governors unanimously adopted the Women in the Profession Committee' s Model Employer Policies for Parenting Lawyers.

The policies are the culmination of the committee's work, led by Marianne E. Brown and Dana B. Klinges, to update the Bar's existing policies and serve as new guidelines for law firms and other employers who are committed to ensuring their own compliance with federal law, particularly in the area of disability leave as a result of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions and the Family Medical Leave Act. The policies also seek to remove unfair barriers to the advancement of women lawyers and to assist all lawyers who seek better balance of their family, personal and professional responsibilities.

Committee Co-Chair Jane Leslie Dalton spoke about the substance of the policies, which deal with four issues. First is the issue of disability for women lawyers as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. Dalton added that the other three model policies--on child-care leave, family-care leave and alternative work arrangements--can affect both men and women equally.

She explained that the model policies first deal with the issues that must be worked out between employees and employers. "These are important issues in attracting and retaining lawyers in all areas of professional life," she concluded.

In revising the model policies, the committee, its Advisory Council and its Junior Women Task Force studied the issue, reviewed existing policies of law firms and local bar associations and met with part-time employees for their perspective.

The policies were presented to the Board by Dalton and 1999 Committee Co-Chair Kathleen Wilkinson. Wilkinson explained that since the Bar's first policies on these topics were finalized in 1989, more women have entered the workforce, and workplace trends such as part-time and flex-time work and telecommuting have become common. But, she added, many women told the committee that their firms still had no policy regarding maternity leave or that there was little opportunity for part- or flex-time work.

Wilkinson told the Board that the policies are aspirational in nature, that they are suggested policies and that firms can pick and choose from them to suit their situation.

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