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Baker Donelson Announces Industry-Leading Parental Leave Policy

Policy Allows 16 Weeks of Paid Leave, Intermittent Leave for Male and Female Attorneys
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(Nashville, Tennessee / February 23, 2015) The law firm of Baker Donelson has launched an enhanced parental leave policy, which now allows for 16 weeks of paid leave as well as intermittent leave for male and female attorneys.

The policy expanded from 12 weeks to 16 weeks the amount of paid leave that both male and female full-time and regular part-time attorneys are eligible to take as primary caregivers surrounding the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child under the age of six. The new policy also adds intermittent leave, allowing both primary and non-primary caregiver attorneys to continue to work on an intermittent basis during leave and transition back to full-time practice at their own pace.

"Our new leave policy will allow for easier transitions for our attorneys, both men and women, who are new parents, and will help the Firm increase our percentages of women at the shareholder level by removing leaves as an obstacle to their progression and advancement in the Firm," said Christy Tosh Crider, chair of Baker Donelson's Women's Initiative and a shareholder in the Firm's Nashville office.

The effort to enhance Baker Donelson's parental leave policy was spearheaded by Caldwell Collins, an attorney in Baker Donelson's Nashville office, who took on the project after transitioning back from leave in 2013 after the birth of her daughter. "Baker Donelson's leave policy was already very generous, but while going through the process of returning from my leave, I noticed areas where I thought we could improve."

Ms. Collins conducted extensive research on leave policies offered at other law firms as well as organizations outside the legal industry, then worked with Firm management and the Women's Initiative to develop an industry-leading policy.

"Our goal was to create a program that allowed new parents to tailor their leaves to their lives and individual practices and that was competitive both within and outside the legal industry. The result is a policy that offers significantly greater flexibility to our attorneys," said Ms. Collins.

As part of the implementation of the new policy, Baker Donelson installed and trained 23 Parental Leave Advisors across the Firm's offices to provide expectant and new parents with a point person for guidance to navigate the transitions before leave and upon their return, as well as a point of connection during the attorney's leave.

Scott Newman, an attorney in the Nashville office, is among those serving as a Parental Leave Advisor, a role he felt important to take on given that he had the opportunity to benefit from Baker Donelson's gender-neutral leave policy after the birth of his second child in 2013. "Being able to take advantage of the Firm's leave policy definitely made the transition much easier for my family and me. Now with this even more generous policy, I wanted to lend my experience to others who are making that same transition."

This is the latest enhancement Baker Donelson has implemented to its parental leave policy in recent years. In 2011, the Firm implemented a gender-neutral parental leave policy that allowed 12 weeks of leave for primary caregiver attorneys at the time of the birth or adoption of a child under the age of six. At that time, the Firm also strengthened its policy to reinforce that taking parental leave would not affect an attorney's progression to partnership and developed telecommuting language that better empowers attorneys to balance their work life and their personal life.

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Johanna Burkett
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