parens binubus

more than you want to know about a law school graduate/bar examinee who is also raising two children and doing her best at being a partner to her love.

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  • Sunday, July 30, 2006
    That 17% and ramblings pertaining thereto
    Thursday was a downer of a day. i went to a breakfast that had to do with some pro bono work that i'd done at work, and a judge was our keynote speaker. She brought up the Number. The one that has been written about in the New York Times, and perhaps even the Wall Street Journal - that despite the fact that law schools are pretty much 50/50 female/male; law firm partners are only 17% women.

    She said it was b/c of the hours, and that it's a shame -- but didn't really offer a solution. she mostly just encouraged women not to leave the law entirely. she said perhaps we can go into public interest law, perhaps we can start to represent "normal people." She mentioned one of the things I saw before law school, and that brought me TO law school - the middle income gap.

    There are legal services available for people who are poverty stricken (of course, not enough ... it's never enough), and then those who are wealthy can afford the high costs of legal representation. but the middle class is pretty much priced out of the market, and they have "too much" to get assistance. I suffered from this when I was getting divorced. I was making approximately $45K/year, but it cost that much (and more) to support 2 kids in a high cost of living area. I didn't have the extra $1,500/mo that it costs to hire an attorney to represent me. Some people will argue that the result is that I got shafted and agreed to more than I should have, giving the Schlurg the advantage, but I'm not sure that's true.


    The 17%.

    I then later had a nice long conversation with an associate who was letting us know what the reality is for female partners. it included some of the following:

    1) Two nannies;
    2) Husbands who stay at home;
    3) Bringing kids into the office on the weekends, and forcing your secretary (who you clearly made work on the weekend) to watch them while getting work done;
    4) Bed time stories via speaker phone;
    5) Questions of missing major events in the child's life due to a big corporate deal going through at the same time.

    I find myself thinking the following in response:

    1) yeah, but these are all people who had SMALL children, my kids are older.
    2) yeah, but these are CORPORATE partners, I'm going into litigation [at this firm, the cultures are pretty different]
    3) yeah, but these things may have happened like ONCE, and then just were transformed into an urban legend and are considered par for the course.

    But .... why? Why am I thinking this? Why am I making these excuses, these "buts"?

    I did not come to law school to work in BigLaw. I did not come with the goal to be a partner in a major law firm. I came with the goal to use my intellectual abilities in something I am happy doing. Preferably, something that helps others. As I've discussed ad nauseum, my first choice of type of law when I was entering law school was Family Law. because it helped people. People who were in a crisis point, and who needed help. I wanted even moreso to allow for people to HAVE help when they otherwise could not - i.e., offer my legal services on a sliding scale.

    But things have happened, and I find myself at a Big Firm (and how), and it's so easy to get swept along. One partner who I recently had lunch with has argued in front of hte First Circuit numerous times, and loves it. She's done a bazillion trials, and really loves her work.

    But she's single, and has no children.

    Another thing that's come up is that "back in the day" - becoming partner meant 3 p.m. T times and 10 a.m. strolls into the office. IT doesn't mean that anymore. Partners work their butts off.

    At the breakfast, I was sitting with an older partner from our firm, who was with the firm when it was less than 1/8th the size it is now. I thought he seemed slightly squirmy during the talks about the lack of women partners. On our walk back to our office, however, he was the one who brought it up. He mentioned the fact that not only women - but also men - are no longer in the big firms for the long haul. People move on at a much higher rate now, and don't stick around to become partner. He did acknowledge that for women with children, unless they have a lot of $$ to hire a nanny, it's harder.

    I wonder what's going to happen to the big firm? With so many people coming in with a 2-5 year plan .... who will be left? There has been much written lately about generational differences. That the generation that is now 24 and 25 years old is a less tolerant one. They aren't willing to accept 12-14 hour days, and so they just .... leave. They want flexibility, and they want balanced lifestyles. If everyone in an entire generation turns their backs on jobs that don't offer that - what will become of those jobs?

    Beloved and I debated over this issue before I started this summer. He was working in Human Resources, and was putting together a report on this newer generation, and what they're looking for. I said that at least in law, it doesn't matter. There are SO MANY people scrambling for the same jobs. Right now, only 5-10% of graduates end up in the type of job that I'm talking about, and there are many others who apply, and aren't successful. The layers are just too deep.

    But what if we {even though i'm of an older generation} get in, and all these other, older, 12-14 hour/day people DIE - I mean, they're gonna die. They're gonna retire.

    Will it change?

    i am pessimistic. When these lawyers are in the office at 10:15 p.m., or sometimes even 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., they're talking to clients. They are on conference calls. They're shooting e-mails back and forth.

    So it's not just the legal culture.

    It goes beyond that.

    It seems like if the men join the women in demanding a humane schedule, a humane job, that things must change. But do the bills then not get paid? If the corporate law firms don't do what the corporations want them to - do they disappear? Or do the corporations then adjust their expectations?

    And - does someone get to make the kinds of money that these partners (and even senior associates) are making without giving 120%? Will enough people decide that they don't want or need $600,000 a year? $1.3 million a year? That they don't want or need a summer home? Or a boat?

    Like I said. Pessimism resides within me on this point.

    And I'm usually a pretty optmistic person.

    I'd love to hear the thoughts of others - whether they see changes in the culture, the climate. Not just that of law, but that of employees in general, and what they're willing to give, and what they are willing to give up receiving as a result.
    posted by Zuska @ 1:13 PM  
    • At Monday, July 31, 2006 8:37:00 PM, Anonymous Citations said…

      Great, thoughtful post.

      I think for some this is just a job, and they leave early and want the "lifestyle" balance and don't stay in the firm for the long haul. For others it's a vocation, what they love to do. If and when I need a lawyer, I'll look for one who absolutely loves the work -- and pay through the nose, I'm sure.

      For me and thee, with older children, I hope our lives will be a touch easier as we juggle work and lives. Heaven knows things were harder when we had babies, and our friends were all care-free...

    • At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 3:39:00 AM, Blogger rain_rain said…

      They will take your life away from you, then sell it back one piece at a time.

      I know people - film people, mainly, but lawyers and doctors, too - who have kids and nannies, and frankly I think it stinks to have to hire somebody to raise your kids. The kids are miserable, almost without exception; the parents, too, seem generally to be miserable - only, unlike their kids, they mostly don't realize it. And they don't often bite their peers, so maybe it's just not as obvious with grownups. Or maybe Hollywood has less of a biting culture than the law. I hope when I'm a lawyer I don't end up biting people, unless they really truly deserve it. (That's ethics, that is.)

      I hope and believe citations is wrong, though: that it's possible, even likely, to love one's job, even hold it as a vocation, and still not be consumed by it. (God knows it's possible to be consumed by it, and not love it.) When did "balance" become optional in our society?

      If and when I need a lawyer, I'll look for one who's good at her job, not for the one who puts in the most hours at the office. Someone who's not tired and cranky all the time. Cause I don't wanna get bit.

    • At Wednesday, August 02, 2006 11:43:00 PM, Blogger rain_rain said…

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    • At Thursday, August 03, 2006 2:52:00 PM, Anonymous dibble said…

      My attitude (law school dad) is to take the 5 year plan. I think you can work 5 years at Big Firm at a normal pace, getting to see your kids. Draw the line, and don't do the 12 hour days (with rare exceptions).

      Now, that will not get you to partner, but you won't get fired. You'll get good experience and good pay, and then you move smaller. It will mean a pay cut, but like you say, we don't all need to be on a track to $500,000+.

      I also totally believe that not all Bigs are created equal. It's easy to get sucked in to the first one you try. Keep asking around!

      Also, skin cancer cell.

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