I am a lucky guy. I have two true partners in life: my mother and my wife. They each contribute to my happiness in different, but equally vital, ways. To them, I wish a Happy Mother’s Day.
Even though my mom does not know I write this column. When I write things related to my legal practice, I try and send her copies. But she is relatively new to email, and she is always busy between her kids and growing collection of grandchildren. I am not sure she reads what I send her. Nor is she that impressed with any of my career accomplishments. But that is fine, and truth is, she needn’t be. That is not the standard, just as my career accomplishments are not my standard for success in life. It is more important that she take pride in the family I have built, as that is truly my life’s work.
I am not qualified to talk about what being a mom in Biglaw is like (father, yes, as I have been a father for my entire Biglaw career). From observation, being a mom in Biglaw looks very difficult. It is one thing if you are a partner with teenage kids, and you went to law school after your kids reached grade-school age. Biglaw partner moms are generally a rare breed. What I see more often are associates and junior partners struggling to balance the demands of having and raising children with trying to advance in Biglaw. Very rarely are both objectives accomplished. I have tried to think about how I would feel if I was in such a situation. Unsuccessfully. Honestly, even if I was married to Oprah, I could never see myself playing stay-at-home dad, or even having primary responsibility for the children while trying to have a legal career. So I respect the mothers out there that are at least trying….
Friendly reminder: Mother’s Day is this Sunday. If you haven’t done so already, you should buy your cards or gifts — and make your brunch reservations — NOW.
In honor of this occasion, we bring you an interview with a working mother whose professional journey is nothing short of remarkable. She went from working as a law firm switchboard operator to becoming the first woman partner of Cravath, Swaine & Moore….
Ed. note: This is the second installment of Righteous Indignation, our new column for conservative-minded lawyers.
In Pennsylvania earlier this week, the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell drew to a close. Gosnell, a West Philadelphia abortion doctor, is accused of murdering four children who were allegedly born alive after Gosnell’s efforts to abort them. The jury now considers four counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of the children, along with one count of third-degree murder for the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese refugee to whom Gosnell allegedly gave a lethal overdose of Demerol. He also faces twenty-three counts of performing illegal late-term abortions. If convicted of first-degree murder, Gosnell faces the death penalty.
Trial witnesses, including clinic workers, offered gruesome testimony. Some of the allegations: the lethal drug Gosnell injected into the babies in utero failed to stop their hearts, and they emerged from their mothers’ birth canals breathing, wriggling, even crying; Gosnell then “snipped” the backs of the babies’ necks with scissors, severing their spinal cords; and Gosnell joked about the size of the “fetuses” whose spinal cords he cut, including a baby who he said was big enough “to walk me home.”
A mother of another of Gosnell’s alleged victims reportedly delivered her baby into a toilet while waiting for Dr. Gosnell. A clinic worker testified that the child made swimming motions in the toilet bowl before another employee snipped the child’s neck. Prosecutors dubbed Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society clinic a “House of Horrors”….
Justice Sonia Sotomayor is not a fan of the “having it all” concept. As she wrote in her recent (and excellent) memoir, My Beloved World (affiliate link), “having it all, career and family, with no sacrifice to either… is the myth we would do well to abandon, together with the pernicious notion that a woman who chooses one or the other is somehow deficient.”
Even though their panel had the phrase “Having It All” in the title, the participants in an interesting discussion on work/life balance at last week’s big NALPconference would probably agree. One theme that ran through the discussion was that sacrifices, on the work front or home front or both, are inevitable — and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Still, the panel’s emphasis on the need for working parents to rid themselves of guilt didn’t stop some people from shedding a few tears during the discussion….
This strikes me as the kind of situation in which a guy can’t bother to actually be a partner to his wife, so he buys her an expensive bauble and expects her to shut up about it.
A Harvard Law professor is asking whether or not female associates would welcome their law firms covering the price to have their eggs frozen for later use. Egg freezing is expensive, and many insurance plans don’t cover it. So law firms could incentivize female associates to devote themselves fully to their careers during their best child-producing years, without those associates “losing” their ability to have a family later on.
Yeah, as if it’s significantly easier to raise a family when you are a partner…
As many of our readers know, 2012 was the year of the Clifford Chance Mommy. If you’re unfamiliar with her tale, she wrote an epic departure memo that detailed a day in a harried mother’s life (e.g., waking up at 4 a.m. to start her day and going to sleep the next day at 1:30 a.m., only to do it all over again, ad infinitum). This woman made many people question their own sense of work/life balance, and led others to wonder if they could ever have a meaningful family life while working in Biglaw.
At some firms, you’ll have a fighting chance of achieving that goal.
The Yale Law Women are out with their annual list of the top ten family friendly firms. We cover this list every year (see our posts from 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008). This year’s list has changed dramatically from last year’s: only half of the firms have returned, with five new firms joining them.
Which firms made the cut? Which firms had the best options available to both men and women? Let’s take a look at the latest ranking for the most family-friendly firms….
Elie’s story earlier today about Cynthia Wachenheim, a Columbia Law School graduate and New York court attorney who took her own life and almost killed her infant son, has generated a lot of controversy. See, for example, the more than 100 comments on the original story.
Here at Above the Law, we believe in providing a wide range of viewpoints on different issues. Keep reading for a detailed and heartfelt message from a friend of Wachenheim who provides a counterpoint to Elie’s point of view….
Strapped in this, the child survived his mother’s jump out an eighth-floor window.
I was hoping to avoid this story because it’s horrible and I didn’t want to deal with it. But it’s all over the news now and so we have to talk about it.
A lawyer, Cynthia Wachenheim, on leave from the Manhattan Supreme Court, jumped to her death from a Harlem apartment with her 10-month-old son strapped to her body in an Ergo baby carrier. The baby survived.
I know that society requires and expects me to use restraint or even show sympathy for suicide “victims.” But I just can’t muster the will to conform to social conventions in this case. This woman left behind a 13-page suicide note (of course a lawyer leaves a 13-page suicide note) explaining that she thought her baby had cerebral palsy based on internet research (doctors found nothing wrong with the child). When nobody believed her crazy rantings, her solution was to try to kill her own child — as if even an actual diagnosis of CP was worse than death.
* “We are a teaching institution. We teach by not having television. We are judged by what we write.” Justices Kennedy and Breyer aren’t ready for their close-ups — they’re adamantly opposed to cameras in the courtroom. [Blog of Legal Times]
* Another thing Justices Kennedy and Breyer are adamantly opposed to is the sequester. They say that these unnecessary budget cuts will hit the criminal justice system where it hurts: its already overflowing docket. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* A liberal film critic took a shot at Justice Clarence Thomas by likening him to Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of the head house slave in Django Unchained. Methinks this is a RACEIST™ comparison, n’est–ce pas? [Reason Magazine]
* Reed Smith has a new managing partner, Edward Estrada, who plans to “aggressively recruit laterals.” No relation to Erik Estrada, but if he gets a pair of those cool sunglasses, we approve. [New York Law Journal]
* A better deal was reached in the BAR/BRI antitrust case. Say goodbye to the coupons, and hello to $9.5 million in cold hard cash… which means you’re going to get like $80 if you’re lucky. [National Law Journal]
* “This is a very disgusting case.” Why yes, yes it is. A mother is suing because she claims her son ate a used condom off the floor of a McDonald’s play area. It’s doubtful that she approved of the special sauce. [Reuters]
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