Parents at law

Taylor, Steven T.Kids Do Say the Darndest Things”  Law
Practice Management
, No 27, 2001, pp. 32-38

I’m doing some reading now in the field of coaching women in academia
and I’m finding quite interesting articles in some marginal journals (marginal because they’re not peer-reviewed, stellar impact factor and blah blah blah).

This article talks about people working long hours in demanding jobs in law firms in the United States and trying to balance this with family life.

The article points out that things have dramatically changed in the last
years in many law firms due to women becoming partners in these firms. The reason for the change is very simple: women give birth, and the whole rhetoric of long working hours needs to be adjusted to suit the natural rhythms of life.

Some of the policies that have been adopted by some law firms to
accommodate family life include 16 weeks of paid parental leave and one year of unpaid leave,  an achievement that by some European standards is almost an insult. In the UK, for example, depending on the scheme, you might even have 9 months paid maternity leave (but not on a full salary).  On the
other side of the spectrum, this is what you get in Spain: 16 weeks maternity leave.

But many law firms are still run by white middle-class men with
conservative ideas about family. What I mean by conservative is that they want
to conserve the family at the expense of their wives’ confinement. For these
guys, family adjustments are difficult to make.

It’s really hard to find good women litigators” says a law firm leader at a major East Coast firm, “mostly because everyone has protected them all their lives. So they get more flustered than guys do when they run into attack dogs. We’ve had several women leave to raise kids. But still, when we find good female litigators, we try to do what we can for the ladies.”(p. 34)

Please note that in the first sentence the speaker refers to women litigators, but
when the issue of raising children is introduced, we are ladies.

In these circumstances, some parents decide to go part-time, which doesn’t mean reducing time spent at work. As an academic friend working part-time once told me, “a part-time academic is a person who makes half of the money for a full-time job”’

In his article Taylor mentions that the reason behind some lawyers’ decision to work as solo practitioners is related to the impossibility of making favourable arrangements as part-time workers. A solo female lawyer practitioner said:

As a result, after winning a big case last year, I worked half-time for the next 90 days. I travelled and got to spend a lot of time with my daughter.” (p.36)

So the parents interviewed gave the following advice:

–         Keep work and family settings close;,
so you don’t end up doing a lot of commuting

–         Modify your career expectations;

–         Work as a team with your partner and
learn to be flexible;

–         Just try to do what a human can do.
Set your priorities;

–         Try to separate things. When you’re
with your kids, be with your kids.

I must say, not bad pieces of advice for busy legal minds:-)


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