5 Ways Law Firms Can Support Struggling Parents

While spring has brought the promise of widespread vaccination, the light at the end of the tunnel is still a long way off for many parents working in your law firm. Whether their children have been able to attend school in person or had to learn remotely, the end of the school year is on the horizon, and that means the end of most structured activity outside the few camps with the space to operate in person. That means employees of your firm will continue to struggle to find childcare.

As we all know by know, this phenomenon has hit women particularly hard. According to the Harvard Business Review, in September 2020 alone, 865,000 women left the U.S. workforce. By comparison, only 216,000 men left. Exhausted under the strain of the new normal’s impossible demands, many of your high-potential attorneys may need continued support to ensure you can retain their talent. A recent piece in Law360 outlines some ways firms can better assist working parents until those lawyers can rely on their village again. Here are some takeaways:

Encourage communication. Ask parents on your team how they feel and what they need. Show concern about their comfort level with the current remote work arrangements. Start your virtual meetings with a simple check-in to see how your team is doing. Actively listen to their concerns. Showing compassion improves relationships, builds a sense of community, and lowers turnover.

Form a support group. Create a working parents affinity group. Choose firm leaders who will support this group and encourage parents to stay highly engaged. Such a resource group should allow firms to roll out initiatives, highlight resources, uncover common problems, and develop webinars that explore how parents can handle issues they are facing.

Adjust expectations. Consider a break from billable hour requirements. Reducing or eliminating concerns over billable hours removes the stress and fear surrounding not hitting minimums set by firms. If that’s not an option, offer a self-evaluation process to provides management with a broader picture of why an employee’s performance has changed. This may give comfort to parents who are concerned about negative reviews that could impact future raises or promotions.

Provide marketing support. In addition to their worry around serving current clients, overburdened parents know they have to find ways to keep developing business. Your marketing professionals can help attorneys stay in touch with key clients through social media and pursue opportunities to publish their thought leadership on the firm’s owned channels (the website or in client alerts) or in publications targeting prospective clients. Marketing support can help them keep their practice going until their life outside of work shifts back to some form of normal.

Supporting lawyers who are parents is not just a generous act — it is an investment in the talent your firm worked so hard to recruit, and a statement about your firm’s continued commitment to making sure women stay in the profession.