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31 May 2018 at 09:31 BST

Law firm culture discourages male lawyers from taking paternity leave

Researchers in Finland and Canada find the ethos and culture of law firms discourage men from taking paternity leave, maintaining gender inequality.


Male lawyers are discouraged from taking paternity leave because of the "professional ethos and culture" of law firms discourages men from taking parental leave, an international study has found. This culture leads to gender inequality in the legal profession, according to researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and TÉLUQ University in Québec, Canada.

Gender inequality
The researchers examined male lawyers' motives behind taking or not taking paternity and parental leave in law firms based in Helsinki, Finland, and Montréal, Canada. The findings, reported in the International Journal of the Legal Profession, suggest the professional culture in law firms is still based on the traditional masculine image of men as providers. Researcher Marta Choroszewicz from the University of Eastern Finland, explained: ‘In law firms, family policies and flexible working arrangements are mainly targeted at women, and this has a negative impact on women's career development.’ The problem of professional culture makes firms less family-friendly and maintains gender bias in the division of legal tasks and career paths.

Cultural differences
The study found Canadian male lawyers were significantly less keen to take paternity leave than their Finnish colleagues. This is partly explained by Finland's longer paternity leave tradition, with legislation stretching back to 1978, compared to 2006 in Canada. Canadian male lawyers prefer taking annual holiday when children are born. Other differences researchers found include increased teamwork in Finland and lower expectations of young lawyers to attract new clients, and generational attitudes. Many firms still regard paternity leave as optional compared to maternity leave. Ms Choroszewicz said ‘it is not enough that men’s right to parental leave is guaranteed by legislation,’ and suggested change means finding organisational solutions, collegial encouragement and male law firm partners setting a good example.


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