This is generally true, but I believe that the law firm industry has done a particularly poor job of changing to accommodate the needs of lawyers who have (or want) families.
Why should they? There's no attorney shortage. If a woman or man doesn't want to put up with the demands of biglaw, there are literally thousands of other competent attorneys willing to take their place.
To some extent this is a "feature" of the practice of law (it is inherently more difficult for a litigator to work part-time than, say, a dentist), but ultimately I believe that law firms collectively have failed to make a serious effort to truly change.
And unless they have difficulty achieving their goals, then they really don't need to change their model, do they?
We remain, at heart, an "old-boys club." By that I mean that there is, in most large firms, a fairly narrow path that leads to "success." Most people at the top made more or less the same life choices. This path is now open to women as well as men, but only if those women make life choices similar to those of their male counterparts.
Sounds fair to me. So long as women meet the same standards and make the same sacrifices as their male counterparts, they should get the same rewards. If they don't, then people who do should get the rewards.
I believe law firms can do better, both for male and female lawyers - fathers are parents too, and today's fathers are expected to be more involved than our fathers were. Instead we are largely stuck in the mentality that requires firm uber alles.
Very few goodies + lots of people who want the goodies = hyper competitive environment.
That's simple economics in any field.
If the demands of the job caused people to leave the field, causing firms to have to deal with manpower shortages, the firms would change.
However, just whining that you have to make sacrifices to reach the top of this or any other field? Sorry, sounds like a whiney sense of entitlement to me.
I am frankly not sure what the answer is, but I cannot help but think that there is room for improvement. We can and should accommodate a broader range of approaches to life.
Why is that?
For folks coming out of law school now, you have to accept and deal with the reality that large/medium-firm practice is very difficult to combine with serious family time.
Certainly true. However, when I worked a "normal" job with a big company, I almost never left the place before 7:00 and worked a half day pretty much every Saturday. That's if there wasn't anything extraordinary going on. If there were, I worked more.
Others didn't work as much.
Generally, I progressed pretty quickly in my career. Yeah, I didn't like that I had to give up on things from time to time, but the reality is that if I didn't, then somebody else who was willing to put in the work would get the goodies, and I wouldn't. At my last company, I was promoted 5 times in 13 years, relocated for the company 3 times, and finished an MBA (on their dime) and a professional certification in my spare time.
Others would gripe that I had bypassed them, career-wise.
I really resented that some of the whiners, especially women, would complain that they wren't being promoted at the same rate as me and some other men and women.
However, frankly, when they were leaving work every day at 5:00 on the button to get their kids from day-care, or leaving in the middle of the day to catch little suzy's music presentation at school, it really didn't make me feel sorry for them. When they couldn't work weekends because of some sort of family conflict, and me and the rest of the team were ordering pizza so we could eat without leaving our desks, I really didn't have much sympathy for the fact that they didn't get promoted.
They had the same opportunities as anybody else. They made different choices based on their personal priorities. That's neither good nor bad, but when promotion time came, they got beat out by people who relocated, took tougher (longer hours) projects and who spent their evenings in night school instead of helping junior with his homework.
What would you suggest? That they should get the same opportunities as the people who made the sacrifices?
I didn't get every promotion. Sometimes I got beat out by a person who made better connections, worked smarter, whatever. That's what happens when you're going for competitive positions, even in middle management.
You wanna win? Do what it takes to win.
You don't wanna do what it takes? Good for you, I hope everything works out okay.
But if you don't wanna do what it takes, AND you wanna whine that you didn't win, I think those people need a big cup of STFU.