Why Parental Leave Matters for Law Firms: Fostering a Strong Workplace Culture

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Legal Operations
Industry Insights

Ashley Herd: How does parental leave foster a strong workplace culture, what was your experience?

Meyling Ly Ortiz: While I was in private practice, I tried to hide my pregnancy as far as a could.

Comparing that experience in-house, I certainly felt it was a lot easier in-house. When I brought it up to my manager I was almost instantly apologetic and began talking about creating a plan of the best next steps. My manager really set the tone by congratulating me, she didn't want to talk logistics and I felt a sigh of relief.

I have a colleague who interviewed pregnant and she's still got the job. It comes down to company culture and Im lucky to work for a company like Toyota. One of my BFFs,  my old firm work wife interviewed pregnant at PepsiCo and got the job. So I think, I think the movement is there that it is no longer stigmatized, but it does start with leadership.

Ashley Herd: I've done videos on parental leave and it's so interesting discussing the topic of announcing pregnancy because it's a real fear.

Going back to what Deanna said about living that culture, it's so important for in-house teams to think about how they're reacting because so many people out there will never disclose their pregnancy until the absolutely have no choice because of the fear of getting their job taken away or not being hired.

A question we just got that I think really plays into this is: How is parental leave navigated in a startup?

When someone works for a startup, that consists of a small legal team a lot of the time there is no parental leave policy in place. So how does someone bring that up to the C-suite?

Meredith Smith: It just needs to be brought up. At a startup there are many things that you just do not put in place until there is a circumstance that requires you to put it in place. This doesn't mean the company or the leadership team doesn't think they need one, It just hasn't been necessary yet.

There's always going to be a first person and I remember the first person at Stash. We were in person and could all see she was pregnant so we all decided it was time for a parental leave policy. We researched what other company's did, hit up our network and came up with a policy. It has to be done and someone has to speak up.