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Law firm Barnes & Thornburg started the new year with a new policy: 16 weeks of parental leave at 100 percent pay for attorneys and non-attorneys alike.

The enhanced parental leave policy, which took effect Jan. 1, covers both new mothers and fathers alike, and includes parents who adopt.

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, parents working at covered companies qualify for 12 weeks off work without fear of losing their jobs, but the leave is unpaid. Barnes & Thornburg’s policy also provides far more than Indiana state workers receive. On Jan. 1, 2018, the new parent leave policy that provides up to four weeks of paid leave went into effect as part of Gov. Eric J. Holcomb’s 2018 Next Level Agenda.

The “one for all” parental leave policy covers not only the Fort Wayne office’s 20 attorneys and 10 staff members, but those in all of the firm’s offices, affecting over 1,000 people, said Savannah Robinson, director of legal personnel and a member of the task force that looked into similar policies in law firms across the U.S. Non-attorney positions at the firm include receptionists and legal administrative assistants, who can be hourly employees.

Dawn Rosemond, a partner and director of diversity, professional development and inclusion firmwide, remembers well the difficulties that came with childbirth and working.

When she had her first son in 2002 she was an associate.

“I was sick big time,” she said. “...Coming back ... it was really difficult. I wasn’t 100 percent....That extra month would be amazing to me.”

The firm had a legal administrative assistant who had to take extra time off without pay.

“We didn’t think that was right,” Rosemond said.

The firm’s Women’s Initiative Task Force, including attorney and non-legal staff, first met in November 2017 to find opportunities and eliminate barriers affecting the success of the women who worked there. They brought the 16-week, 100 percent pay policy for all before the firm’s management committee for consideration; it was approved by unanimous vote.

The policy “takes away the stress of being a new mom,” Robinson said.

“To say ‘Dad, you’re included now, too,’ these are game-changing for our organization,” Rosemond said.

The policy is a benefit in the firm’s recruiting efforts, Robinson said.

“We get asked regularly, ‘What are your benefits like?’”

The new policy allows workers to know they can work and have a family, Robinson said.

“We were trying to care for the whole person,” Rosemond said. “It is an impactful and significant time in a person’s life.”

Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg has 14 offices in Atlanta, California, Chicago, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Minneapolis, Ohio, Texas and Washington, D.C. It was named one of the “Best Law Firms for Women” by Working Mother magazine in 2018.

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