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Author Topic: Why the practice of law sucks for women  (Read 1127 times)

carsonjack

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Why the practice of law sucks for women
« on: May 10, 2011, 02:36:19 PM »
Anyone checked out the blog, But I Do Have a Law Degree?

Some of the posts are mom-blog related, but several show why I probably should have never gone to law school if I ever want to procreate. 

Check out:   http://butidohavealawdegree.blogspot.com/2011/04/my-new-endeavor.html

FalconJimmy

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Re: Why the practice of law sucks for women
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2011, 04:39:07 PM »
Anyone checked out the blog, But I Do Have a Law Degree?

Some of the posts are mom-blog related, but several show why I probably should have never gone to law school if I ever want to procreate. 

Check out:   http://butidohavealawdegree.blogspot.com/2011/04/my-new-endeavor.html

Go figure, life involves tradeoffs and sacrifices.

Not to make light, but not everything is for everybody.  We're all free men and women.  We have the right to make our choices, and then we have the responsibility to live with the consequences. 

If we want to have well-adjusted children and raise them, it helps if at least one of the parents has a 40 hour per week or less job. 

It's not just law, either.  Any hard-driving, high-achieving woman is likely to have to make some choices. 

Morten Lund

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Re: Why the practice of law sucks for women
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2011, 01:02:16 PM »
It's not just law, either.  Any hard-driving, high-achieving woman is likely to have to make some choices.

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.  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. 

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.  Some firms do better than others - my firm, for instance, is more flexible than most.

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.

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.  If this change happens, however, it will not be for a while yet. 

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.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Why the practice of law sucks for women
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2011, 06:35:10 PM »

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.

Morten Lund

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Re: Why the practice of law sucks for women
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2011, 08:52:56 PM »
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.


This may sound odd coming from me, but...  even BigLaw lawyers are people.  We like having hobbies and seeing our families too.  Not all of us are a-hole robots.  We have painted ourselves into a bit of a corner with our hyper-machismo and hyper-competitiveness, but I suspect that even the most hardcore BigLaw lawyer wishes that he hadn't missed his son's second birthday.

I believe that the biggest beneficiaries of recent attempts to make the workplace more woman-friendly are ... men.  "I have to go home to put the kids to bed, but I will be back online (from home) at 8" was not a permissible statement 20 years ago, but now, thanks to law firms accommodating women, this is becoming acceptable in more and more firms - for both men and women.  I believe this is a change for the better, and I hope the trend continues.

Sure, some law firms will never bend from their policy of "be as hardass as possible," but most BigLaw firms aren't nearly as tough as they pretend to be.  I personally enjoy my job now more than when I started, in no small part due to these social changes.

On a more cynical level, this cultural shift is increasingly becoming a matter of recruiting reality.  Each year, the incoming associates are less "Wall Street" and more "Harold and Kumar."  The firms that can adapt to this cultural sea change will be able to recruit top talent that is turned off by the "all work and no play" model.

On an even more cynical level, it is also a matter of client demands.  It is no longer unusual for legal RFPs (law firm beauty contests) to give significant weight to law firm diversity.  Many companies simply will not hire law firms that are viewed as insufficiently diverse.  It is tough to meet client diversity requirements if your firm can't hold on to women past their third year.

And there is a corollary:  For the past 15 years or so, law schools classes have been roughly 50% female, yet women are barely represented in the senior associate/partner ranks at BigLaw firms (for all the reasons discussed in this thread).  Where do these female lawyers go?  Why, they go in-house.  All of a sudden they are in a position to decide where to send legal work.  You will not be surprised to learn that female ex-associate clients tend NOT to send legal work to lawyers or firms that they view as hostile to women.

A firm that consistently chases out female associates is basically training the next generation of general counsels, and teaching them to not like that firm.  This is not a good business model.  The self-interested firm with a long view makes sure that everyone feels treated fairly.

There is more.  But ultimately, I believe that a boiler-room approach is bad business for any number of reasons.  It also makes most people unhappy, and I for one like being happy.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Why the practice of law sucks for women
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2011, 09:56:07 PM »
I can't argue against any of those points.

I guess the only point I'm trying to make is yeah, we'd all like things to be easier.  Unfortunately, there's usually somebody around the corner who will work just a little harder, put in just a few more hours, etc.

Do I think it's healthy for them?

In the long run, no.  I am a firm believer that nobody wishes they'd spent less time with their kids and more time at the office when they die.

However, I think it's unfair to not give them their due. 

It'd be great if all employers got more family-friendly.  Maybe they'll have to. 

In the mean time, again, biglaw money will draw hyper-competitive people willing to do a lot to keep making the sort of money that they might never make working in private industry. 

By the way:  excellent observation on female biglaw associates who go on to be general counsel at various companies.  Most publicly traded companies will bend over backwards to find a qualified female candidate whenever they can for an open position.  They tend to take diversity very seriously.