Is Your Flex Policy Equal Opportunity?

We talk frequently in this blog about the myriad benefits of having a flexible work policy. It can be a win-win situation when attorneys gain some work-life control, clients maintain team consistency, and firms reduce attrition and thereby retain top talent and reduce recruitment and training costs. Law firm recruiters have traditionally tried to entice female law school grads with promises of flex schedules and family-life balance. It has been an assumption that women want flexible work schedules mostly so they can maintain their career while also having and raising children.

However, in 2016, millennials are becoming new parents and more men are expecting flexible work schedules and paternity leave to have more work-life control and to spend more time with their children. In fact, according to the Families and Work Institute, millennial fathers are now spending twice as many hours per week with their children as their fathers spent with them in the late 70s and early 80s. Research from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association shows that even those millennials who are not parents cite flexibility as a critical factor in workplace satisfaction.

It’s important to remember that while it is the millennials who have made flexible schedules more of a demand, all generations of men want and would use flexible work schedules like reduced hours and telecommuting. A study by Ernst & Young showed that, in fact, “Gen Xers” are the generation of men most likely to walk away from a job where flexibility is not available and the Harvard Business Review has reported that 87% of Baby Boomer men believe work flexibility is important.

It is increasingly clear that firms with strong, non-stigmatized, non-gender-specific, flexible work policies will be the most successful at recruiting top legal talent – both men and women. This month Alliance member Winston & Strawn erased all reference to gender in its parental leave policy, allowing both men and women to take 20 weeks of leave after having or adopting a baby. (Bravo Winston!)

Moving forward, law firms aiming to recruit top talent will need to use their flexible work policies as a recruitment tool for both men and women. This will not only reduce gender bias related to flex schedules but will also send the message that the firm cares about and invests equally in its lawyers, regardless of gender.

Contact us for more information about how flexible work policies can help your organization attract and retain top talent.