The social benefits of on-site day cares in law firms, as briefly mentioned in my previous post, include reducing the stress, discrimination, and, ultimately, the attrition experienced by female and mother-lawyers. On-site child care offers a way for law firms to change the negative trends they experience with their women lawyers. In Gender in Practice: A Study of Lawyer's Lives, Hagan and Kay (1995) report that "a large percentage of women leave the profession dissatisfied and distressed or seek part-time solutions, and those women who do stay in practice often find there is a ceiling on their status and monetary compensation." (Hagan & Kay 1995). The responsibilities that mother-lawyers have to their children lead many women within law firms to adopt unhealthy and detrimental patterns. In a Legal Times article entitled "Can On-Site Day Care Stem Lawyer Attrition?," Debra Bruno, when discussing mother-lawyers, states, "Unless they have a working spouse or partner with the kind of job that allows that other person to reliably handle the end-of-the-day pickup, many attorneys with young children solve the problem by tacking on work hours at home" (Bruno). On-site child care is a family-friendly service that gives mothers flexibility by providing child arrangements that are both guaranteed and nearby. Therefore, rather than having to take long breaks away from their work in order to nurse their children or to drive them long distances to and from daycare, mother-lawyers feel less stress and have more time to devote to their billable hours. The adoption of on-site child care would also persuade fewer women to make use of reduced hours and flextime policies. In this way, more women would stay on the partnership tack at law firms instead of opting out and accepting non-partnership positions or leaving the legal profession entirely. Wallace writes that a 2007 study at the MIT Workplace Center "found that women are more likely to stay at firms that help them balance work and family" (Wallace). Law firms with on-site child care have low female attrition rates because they practically and effectively address the needs of their women lawyers. In a National Law Journal article entitled "On-Site Day Care Starting to Catch On at Law Firms," Leigh Jones argues that it is important for law firms to see on-site day care as a way to enhance work-life balance and as a means to help boost their numbers of women partners by making it more attractive for them to remain with the firm (Jones). She goes on to report, "A study released in November by NALP, formerly the National Association for Law Placement, showed that while women account for 44 percent of associates, they only make up 18 percent of partners. One reason for the small percentage is an attrition rate among women that outpaces men" (Jones). On-site child care can be seen as an effective preventative measure that reduces the attrition of women lawyers who face family-related challenges within law firms. Law firms that have on-site arrangements for the children of their lawyers provide a meaningful service for mothers that has the social benefits of reducing female attrition and increasing the diversity among partners at law firms.
Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) is an organization based at Stanford Law School. BBLP is a national grassroots movement that seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms. For more information, visit BBLP's Web site at www.betterlegalprofession.org.
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