Family-building programs — which provide attorneys and other staff with a supportive work environment and progressive benefits – are increasingly seen by law firms as essential for attracting and retaining top talent. Such programs may include job sharing; work-from-home options; and a managed fertility benefit that supports staff as they address fertility issues or consider family-building options such as egg-freezing, surrogacy and adoption. These initiatives are recognized by human capital professionals to make employers more attractive to jobseekers, and significantly improve morale and productivity for those who are hired.
In the highly competitive legal profession, where top talent is the highest valued resource, offering family-building benefits tangibly demonstrate the firm’s commitment to a culture that provides improved work-life balance and supports career paths that include having and raising children. These are critical factors that today’s law school graduates, both men and women, take seriously when deciding what job offer to accept or which career path to follow. It is not surprising, therefore, that law firms have seen the need for, and been early adopters of, coveted family-building programs. In fact, the legal profession is adding fertility benefits — including egg-freezing and surrogacy support — at one of the fastest rates seen in any industry. In our book of business at WINFertility, we have in just the past year seen a 400 percent increase in firms of all sizes — from 1000+ lawyer international firms to small boutique firms — that have added managed fertility benefits. Law firms that do not keep up with this important trend run the risk of losing top talent to those that do.
Family Building and Staff Building: A Great Partnership
We all know the dilemma. Lawyers’ prime reproductive years typically coincide with their years on the partner track, or during junior partnership. This is the time when firms rightly expect (and top talent is prepared to give) full commitment, long hours and career dedication, which of course makes building a family challenging. But the cost firms incur to recruit and train associates, and the hard work and money lawyers expend to get their licenses and earn advancements, means it is in no one’s interest to make “practice or parent” a binary choice. There is a better way.
When family-building programs are part of a firm’s culture, lawyers and other staff can vigorously pursue their careers, with the safety of knowing they can also plan for a future family without reprisal. Firms that offer lifestyle flexibility and robust family-building benefits find that their staff is more satisfied, has fewer personal distractions, and is less likely to seek other employment. This translates to more productive employees and greater retention of talent, which means better service for clients.
Meeting the Needs of Today’s Law-firm Workforce
When a firm’s family-building program includes a well-designed benefits package, lawyers not only work within a supportive culture, but find that specific family-building needs are being met. For example, some women in the field may be hesitant to begin a family during the early years of their career, and will want to consider egg-freezing to reduce risks associated with delay. Those with an egg-freezing benefit will certainly appreciate the financial reimbursement provided by their employers, which will cover or at least help offset egg-freezing costs that can range from $8,000 to $10,000, not including medications and storage. And with a managed benefit, they will also have access to expert professional guidance on options and preferred providers, which will save many hours of independent research, time that can instead be spent serving firm clients.
It is likely your firm has productive associates who, together with their partners, are facing infertility; or a prized LGBTQ+ attorney who is considering family options. These team members will be contemplating choices that include medical interventions, surrogacy, or adoption. Each entails the ups and downs of a protracted roller-coaster ride, and many would-be parents suffer emotionally during this journey. Financial burdens also compound the stress. Each IVF cycle can cost $15,000-$35,000 including medical and specialty pharmacy. Intended parents could be facing adoption fees that start at $50,000 in the U.S.; or costs ranging from $90,000 to $130,000 for surrogacy, which may include IVF treatment and medical costs for the surrogate, plus legal fees, travel and insurance expenses. In these cases, a family-building benefit can provide specialized behavioral counseling, help with making complex choices, and financial reimbursement.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the legal sector boasts some of the most progressive and inclusive family-building benefits of any industry.
The Managed Benefit: The Right Solution for Law Firms
In the legal profession, where attracting and retaining top talent is everything, choosing the right family-building program is critical. An unmanaged benefit – essentially a pool of money that employees can use as they see fit – increases risk to the employee and cost to the firm. In contrast, a managed benefit with fully integrated clinical oversight, delivers better results and is surprisingly cost effective.
With an unmanaged benefit, employees navigate their own path through a complicated fertility environment, and make their own spending decisions. The benefit then provides reimbursement for qualified expenses, up to specified per-event or lifetime limits. Recently, we are seeing law firms offer increasing benefit limits, in some cases upwards of $200,000 or more. Unmanaged plans not only cost firms more because they put no guardrails around spending, but the lack of guidance they provide does a disservice to employees. Specifically, when family building is pursued without professional assistance, employees are more likely to choose treatments that raise the likelihood for twins, triplets or other high-order multiple gestations, which often are accompanied with long term healthcare costs. More than 20 percent of twins and 80 percent of triplets are born prematurely, require expensive weeks in the NICU, and often have lifelong healthcare conditions, including developmental problems, asthma, or cerebral palsy. This is of course a bad outcome for the parents, and very costly to the employer whose group health policy will be responsible for the long-term healthcare costs of those pre-term babies as they grow.
By contrast, a managed fertility benefit achieves two desired outcomes: better support for employees, reduced spending for firms. The guidance from clinical experts in managed benefits increases the likelihood of healthy, full-term singleton babies. This reduces C-sections, pre-term births and NICU expenses, which research shows can have a 20-day average length of stay and cost between $64,000-$80,000. Bottom line: higher success rates with reduced medical costs on multiple fronts.
In today’s competitive legal environment, law firms have a competitive advantage when they provide inclusive, managed family-building benefits that allow heterosexual couples, same-sex couples and individuals to have access to the same level of support, regardless of what type of family-building services or treatment they may need. In addition to the immeasurable benefits that come from happy, supported, and productive employees, law firms that offer well-structured family-building benefits can limit their financial exposure with reaffirming a commitment to supporting employees and their families.