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From lawyer to full-time dad

This lawyer became a full-time dad after taking up his firm’s parental leave policy — and encouraged other expecting parents to do the same, whether they be male or female.

user iconLauren Croft 08 September 2022 SME Law
From lawyer to full-time dad
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Boutique firm FAL Lawyers offers staff of all genders 26 weeks of paid parental leave, which can be taken any time within two years of a child’s arrival. The policy also allows those of any gender to take the full 26 weeks, regardless of whether they are the primary or secondary caregiver.

In the first half of this year, FAL senior associate Julian Ryan took the paid paternity leave to become a full-time dad to his newborn son, Billy.

According to Mr Ryan, this not only meant that he got more time to bond with his son but also was able to divide responsibilities at home equally with his partner.


“My partner and I had always planned on splitting the first 12 months equally, spending six months each as primary caregiver. And FAL were incredibly supportive of my choice. The common theme of the discussions we had was ‘whatever you need, we’ll support you and make it work’,” he said.  

“In the end I took a month off after Billy was born to get everything settled at home and spent the first half of this year as a full-time dad.”

Whilst the transition from full-time work to a primary caregiver wasn’t easy, Mr Ryan said it was absolutely worth it for the time he got to spend with his son — and that he learnt a lot of lessons along the way.

“Spending six months as Billy’s primary caregiver was one of the most intense and difficult things I have ever done, but it’s an experience that I’m incredibly grateful for because it has given me a chance to get to know my son in a way that not many dads have the opportunity to,” he explained.

“Being a full-time — and first-time — parent was a humbling experience because suddenly you need to work out and adapt to new and changing routines.  Being thrown into the deep end also meant learning a whole new set of skills very quickly and embracing the chaos that is part and parcel of looking after an infant. If that doesn’t teach you flexibility, I’m not sure what does.” 

Mr Ryan was also able to keep up with the firm as and when he wanted while on leave, something he said made the step from full-time work into fatherhood easier.

“Another key factor in making my parental leave a success was the autonomy FAL gave me to make the time my own. There was always an open invitation for me to call or pop in whenever I wanted, but otherwise, they understood and respected the choice to spend time away from work,” he explained.

“Other than the occasional check-in and social event, I really had a chance to ‘switch off’ and focus on Billy. But at the same time, I never felt out of the loop with what was going on within the firm.”  

After his son’s first birthday, Mr Ryan was able to work flexibly — something the firm has encouraged by allowing its staff to work from home as often or as little as they want.

“The reality is that balancing work commitments and childcare responsibilities is always going to be a juggling act, but the firm has taken a lot of the stress out of that by being flexible,” he said.  

“FAL’s remote working policy means I can work from home when I need, which varies from week to week, and not having a set day in the office is a game-changer — avoiding the commute means I can be on deck in the mornings and the day-care runs, or just offer an extra pair of hands when it’s my partner’s turn.”

Mr Ryan is currently working four days a week — and said he was extremely grateful for the uninterrupted time he got to spend with his son.

“When I think about what the situation would have been like 10 or even five years ago, I’m incredibly grateful that I was able to share the caregiving with my partner and spend an extended period looking after my son,” he said.

“It’s something I’d encourage anyone who has the opportunity to do as well.”

Lawyers Weekly has reported extensively on the bolstering of parental leave and related policies by Australian law firms in recent times. You can read those stories below: