Holland & Knight Expands Maternity, Adoption Leave

, Daily Business Review

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Aiming to attract and retain female lawyers, Holland & Knight has extended its paid maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks and its paid leave for adoptive parents from six to 10 weeks.

Additionally, those taking six or more consecutive weeks of leave will receive ramp-down and ramp-up periods. This means their billable hours will be annualized for an additional four weeks of time, giving them a grace period to return to a normal work level.

Holland & Knight believes its new policy is the most generous in Florida for law firms, where the standard maternity policy is 12 weeks of paid leave. However, many law firms in New York City and other Northeastern cities already offer 16 weeks of maternity leave.

Brittany Maxey, president of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, applauded Holland & Knight's move.

"I think it's great," she said. "One of the things we are seeing a lot of is women are starting to not go to law school because they are afraid they won't be able to handle the work-life balance, and they see that only 4 percent of managing partners are women. When they leave for maternity leave, it's hard to return to the billable hours requirements."

Holland's policy change, which took effect last month, was the brainchild of Fort Lauderdale partner Tammy Knight, chair of the firm's women's initiative and the mother of a 4-year-old.

When she took over as head of the initiative, Knight studied maternity policies at other major law firms.

"I felt that 12 weeks wasn't the norm any more nationally. People were moving toward 14," she said. "I thought if I could get 14 weeks, that would be great, but 16 would be better."

Holland managing partner Steven Sonberg quickly approved the 16-week option. He notified the firm by email last month, and women currently on maternity leave were notified of the extension.

Reaction to the policy change among the firm's 315 Florida lawyers was very positive, Knight said.

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