Reed Smith aims to retain women through parenting perks

Reed Smith has introduced new measures to accommodate new mothers in the law firm with the aim of supporting them and retaining their best women lawyers.

The firm now provides breast milk shipping for lawyers on business trips, using a company called Milk Stork, and they have installed hospital-grade, multiuse breast pumps in its offices’ lactation centers. Reed Smith already had designated lactation areas due to the Affordable Care Act, which requires most businesses to provide a non-bathroom pumping space, yet adding pumps was explored while the firm was instigating Milk Stork. Karen Lee Lust, who heads the firm’s ReturnRS program, aimed at retaining women attorneys said that this makes one less logistical concern for mums. Those who wish to pump without leaving their workspace can request privacy screens to cover their office windows.

Reed Smith are also paying for lawyers to take part in an online class called Mindful Return, which coaches professionals about moving from maternity leave back to working life. The four-week online course was created by a lawyer at Dentons in Washington, D.C., after she struggled with her own return to work after maternity leave. Reed Smith have so far put a number of women through the course as a pilot programme. “They all said that it’s helped them mentally come back, in terms of thinking about how to strategically use motherhood and taking maternity leave as an opportunity,” Lust said.

The cost of these programmes is low with a 34-ounce overnight milk shipment costing $139, the office breast pumps cost roughly $1,000 per office and the four-week online course costs $99 per person. Reed Smith is hoping for a great return on investment as it has been proven that losing good lawyers can cost much more. They also want to encourage a shift in culture and enable women lawyers to rise in the ranks.

“It’s pretty commonly known and well supported specifically that the more support there is for women the less attrition there is,” said Lust. “You don’t want to feel like you have to choose between doing your job and being a good parent.”

Philadelphia lawyer Roberta Liebenberg, a former head of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, said these added benefits are important in convincing lawyers that they can stay with the firm after starting a family.

“I don’t think that this is a big expenditure, but in terms of just creating this culture of we want you to succeed … it is a good statement about an investment in [women’s] careers,” Liebenberg said.

These parental perks are add-ons to the paid leave for both mothers and fathers and pro-rated hour’s requirements to account for leave.

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