Mindful Return

Duane Morris LLP

Industry: Legal Services 

Principle 3: Health, safety, and freedom from violence

Duane Morris is a law firm with approximately 1,650 employees around the world. Since its founding more than 110 years ago, Duane Morris has been committed to providing all its attorneys with equal opportunities and the necessary resources to accomplish their professional and personal goals. To that end, Duane Morris established the Women’s Impact Network for Success (WINS), which hosts regular programs and seminars to exchange ideas, foster and expand business contacts and opportunities, and enhance attorney development. 

"It has always been my belief that encouraging, supporting, and motivating women attorneys throughout their careers is a universal responsibility, and I am proud to be a part of a firm that consistently reinforces this credo by its efforts to give women attorneys, at all levels of their careers, equal opportunities for advancement." 
Matt Taylor
Chairman & CEO

Duane Morris and WINS continue to look for opportunities and solutions to respond to the concerns and issues that may affect women attorneys within the firm and in the profession more broadly. In particular, WINS chair Sandra Jeskie and the 12-member steering committee, in conjunction with the legal hiring department, track retention and organize programs to increase retention. In 2017, Duane Morris introduced Mindful Return, a program that provides numerous resources to help mothers prepare for maternity leave and transition back to work, to complement the 16 weeks of paid leave the firm provides for birth or adoption.

How does this model practice work?

While Duane Morris provides its attorneys with paid maternity leave to bond with a new child and adapt to a new routine, the firm realized many of its new mothers could use further assistance with the preparation and transition involved in combining parenthood with life as a working professional. Many working moms never forget the emotions they experience when they realize the end of maternity leave is quickly approaching and they will soon be heading back to work. However, for many expectant or prospective adoptive mothers, the anxiety actually starts months before maternity leave. Looming questions and concerns about workplace coverage, childcare, new routines, and other issues worry expectant and prospective adoptive mothers long before the baby’s arrival. 

"Each industry faces unique challenges and rewards, and the legal profession certainly is not immune to many of the issues hindering the advancement of women in the workplace. For the past nine years at Duane Morris, I’ve witnessed first-hand how the firm makes it a priority to support all women attorneys, across all practices and experience levels." 
Meagen Leary
Partner, Business Reorganization & Financial Restructuring Practice Group

Mindful Return is a program consisting of a blog, four-week e-course, and in-person workshops that give new moms the tools and practical advice they need to plan a peaceful, thoughtful, and successful return to work after maternity leave. Designed by an attorney, the program provides a community of fellow moms to help take some of the uncertainty and confusion out of this important and challenging time of transition so they can focus on their baby and feel empowered to make calm and thoughtful choices. The program covers a variety of topics, from how to respond to “mom guilt,” to feeding strategies, as well as a plethora of other pertinent issues. Mindful Return also advocates “micro-self-care” techniques to encourage moms to focus on themselves, even if it is only for a few minutes.

In addition to e-courses and events, the program provides a “Maternity Leave Template” to guide how to successfully communicate a maternity leave plan with managers, including work progress and coverage, planned weeks of leave, accessibility during leave, and return to work. When mothers return to work at Duane Morris, they are supported by WINS, their managers, practice group leaders, and firm management, who all understand the significance of gender equity in the workplace.

Gender equity is integrated into the performance evaluation process to ensure female employees are supported beyond their return to work. Duane Morris believes a diverse and inclusive workplace is in the best interests of its clients, attorneys and staff, and long-term growth, and that each partner is responsible for furthering this goal. To that end, partners are asked to report in their annual evaluation and compensation memo about their activities to support the firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as inclusion of female attorneys in client pitches, assignment of substantive work, and business development activities. This information, which is overseen by the firm’s chairman and CEO and its Executive Committee, is then used to evaluate performance and salary.

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

When implementing a program to support women returning to work, open and honest dialogue is essential. Duane Morris regularly provides opportunities for formal and informal feedback regarding its programs and resources. Also, consider ways of being inclusive. While WINS programs are focused on women attorneys, many male colleagues at Duane Morris have volunteered to assist and participate. Furthermore, the firm is expanding its program to include fathers utilizing paternity leave and is planning to launch Ramp On/Ramp Off, a platform to help women attorneys reenter the workforce and reestablish their legal practice after any hiatus, not just maternity leave.

View Ann Lehman's profile on LinkedIn