Heather Clauson Haughian and Grant Walsh, two of Culhane Meadows’ managing partners and co-founders, were recently interviewed by Employee Benefit News for an article that observes the family planning benefits of a cloud-based law firm model like Culhane Meadows.
Here are some excerpts from the article:
Like many professional women, lawyer Heather Haughian chose to delay having a family in an effort to build a successful career. Adding pressure to her delayed timeline was her husband’s Air Force career, which forced them to move every two years. The traditional law firm set up was not equipped to handle these challenges.
“The biggest thing in terms of support [to start our family] was the capability to have a flexible schedule. I hadn’t found a place where I could have that,” Haughian says. “It can be very difficult in a traditional law firm model to push yourself and bill the hours you need to bill and have the face time that is required, while having kids, without going on the mommy track.”
Law firms have a social reputation of being cold places of business, where over caffeinated workaholics spend every waking hour at their desks, doing whatever it takes and making sacrifices in their personal lives to make partner and establish their careers. That reputation is not unfounded: the billable hours required for the partner track is more than 2,000 hours a year and a 60 to 70-hour workweek, according to Law.com.
This schedule has proven difficult for the majority of women in the field: two-thirds of female associates will leave their firms within five years after having a child, according to the National Association of Law Placement Foundation. For many lawyers, becoming a partner in a firm is the pinnacle of their careers, but is often happening at the same time as they plan to start a family.
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When lawyers make the decision to have a family — specifically women — it means eventually having to ease their workload. But the employee must understand they will not be returning to the same career trajectory they were on when they took parental leave.
“Backing off the throttle is an absolute necessity when you have a child,” Haughian says. “It’s an unfortunate part of the traditional law firm model that you are penalized if you do that. Whether it is conscious or not, when women try to come back, they are at a disadvantage with their male counterparts.”
In 2013, Haughian and some like minded lawyers decided to try and break that traditional mold and created the Culhane Meadows law firm, a completely cloud-based, remote work practice with lawyers based all over the country.
Haughian’s firm joins several other law firms that have started to develop more inclusive workplaces that focus on the total well-being of their employees as well as their clients.
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But while more big law firms are moving to include family planning benefits into their offerings, being flexible with parental leave once they become parents is still a major obstacle for employees.
When Grant Walsh, a lawyer with Culhane Meadows, had to fight with senior colleagues at his brick-and-mortar firm to take the day off for the birth of his first child, he knew there was a problem.
“I ended up being able to negotiate three days off for that,” Walsh says. “Most law firms will give their lawyers 30 days off, that is standard. But if you try to take the time off, it is really frowned upon.”
Often, lawyers will be offered substantial time off but may be passed over for a promotion or left off the next big case, Walsh says.
“You’re sold this bill of goods at traditional law firms where they promise you the world but when it comes down to it, [if you take that time off] it may impact your career growth,” he says.
As Walsh was growing his own family and career, he became disillusioned with brick-and-mortar firms and joined Haughian in founding Culhane Meadows, the remote law firm. Walsh works out of a home office where he has the flexibility to take his children to school, help them with homework, and coach their sports teams.
“Technology has changed such that I can use my smartphone and find any case law I need in seconds,” Walsh says. “Law firms that are still stuck in that old way of doing things are really being wasteful with client money and making it uncomfortable for lawyers.”
The complete article can be found here.
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