Parenting

Whenever we talk about the difficulty of being a woman in Biglaw, some guy (it’s almost always “some guy”) makes an unenlightened comment about how women “get” to leave early and go take care of domestic responsibilities while men “have to” stay and do work. People talk about how women will pump out children and have to take care of them while men will miss baseball games to service the client.

The obvious issue with work/life balance for women who are gunning for partner is that there are some weak-ass husbands out there. Men who want to make partner often have wives or partners at home who are happy to take care of the home front. Women who want to make partner are often on their own; their husbands have their own careers to focus on. Even if they marry men with “non-traditional” careers, few husbands want to be known as “just a house husband.”

But maybe career women don’t want house husbands? A new study suggests that a significant minority of women don’t want to work to support a man….

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Time for a break from the bad news. There is no fun in checking ATL and seeing layoff news on a daily basis. Even though that sort of action is likely to continue, as firms finally come to grips with what sophisticated clients are willing to pay for. Which is basically partner time, with allowances for some associate and paralegal time on occasion. In the good years when clients were gorging on legal services as if sitting at a ten-course chef’s dinner, partner time was the indulgent dessert. Now clients are eating at the local diner, and partner time is the eggs and sausage $4.99 main course. You hope the customer is willing to pay for a cup of coffee too, and get kind of worried that the diner across the highway is giving away the coffee for free. Because they are, and their glop tastes just as wonderful as your glop.

Vacations and Biglaw have an interesting relationship. For partners, late August and the end of the year were usually guaranteed time off, barring a trial or a deal in progress. For associates, it was a different story….

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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….

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Our victory today stands for the principle that “choice” goes both ways. Under Roe v. Wade and post-Roe cases, a teenage girl has the absolute legal right to choose life, even over the strong objections, pressure, and punishments of her parents.

Greg Terra of the Texas Center for the Defense of Life, commenting on his 16-year-old client’s recent victory against her parents, Denise and Jeffrey Koen, who attempted to force her to terminate her pregnancy.

If you are a recent law graduate without a job, you might want to skip this story. Because this is not a story about a law school taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from inexperienced kids and helping them find legal employment. Law schools don’t really do it.

Instead, this is a story about a law school charging a reasonable price to help lawyers-turned-homemakers get back into the practice of law. The job market might be pretty tight for recent graduates under 30. But this program is having success in helping graduates from back in the day who are over 40.

And, again, the law school is offering a reasonable price for the program!

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This is a lot safer when Mom and Dad are holding you up.

I get pretty annoyed when the state tries to act like everybody’s mother. But the worst application of the “nanny state” is when the state actually supersedes the judgment of a caring parent. It just makes it worse when the government tries to ruin a family’s holiday season.

This summer, we had a report about a partner who was accused of providing alcohol for his daughter and a bunch of her friends during a party for her graduation. The charge has since been dismissed. Today, a tipster sent us a link about another Biglaw partner who has been charged with providing alcohol to her teenage daughter and some of her daughter’s friends, this time at a New Year’s Eve party.

Can we take a step back and ask why the government is running around charging people for letting teenagers drink at family parties?

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The year is quickly drawing to a close, but we have unfinished business to conduct here at Above the Law. Come on, people, we still have to crown our Lawyer of the Year for 2012.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our call for nominations, in the comments or via email. We’ve narrowed down the nominees to a field of nine (although you’ll see only eight options in the poll because one is a joint nomination). As in past years, the contenders run the gamut from distinguished to despicable.

And the nominees are….

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Charlotte Devlin

What do we want to say to our daughters? That law is a great profession until you have children?

Charlotte Devlin, co-founder of Obelisk Legal Support, commenting on the legal profession’s loss of female attorneys in the United Kingdom due to the overwhelming process of balancing long hours with child rearing.

Plastic! Safe! A perfect training ground for future lawyers.

Mmm… Tort Law. All you need is a J.D. and a dream to get in on the action.

But have we gone too far? No, I’m not talking about the general accusations that tort lawyers make things more expensive for consumers (and the mega-companies they buy things from). I’m asking if our tort regime is crippling our future by hobbling our children. New studies suggest that our children’s playgrounds may be too safe.

Hehe. That’s right, parents who sue schoolyard bullies for saying on Facebook that your kids are stinky heads. It turns out that your totally sanitized, tetanus-free, no-skinned-knees zone might be making your kids the very kind of chubby, neurotic weaklings who will need to keep their lawyers and shrinks on speed dial for the rest of their lives…

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Unless that’s a butler coming down the track, this family is going to struggle.

Last week, we published a departure memo from an associate at Clifford Chance who could no longer juggle parenting and Biglaw.

Since we published, the story has gone everywhere. The Huffington Post weighed in, and so did the New York Times. I’m glad so many people are finding out that working at one of the top law firms in the world is really difficult. Welcome to our world — they’re not paying people $160,000 and up to work from 9 to 5.

But one disturbing trend in the coverage of this story is the move to blame the husband. Ms. X’s husband only appears once in her tick-tock:

7:45pm: Negotiate with husband over who will do bathtime and bedtime routine; lose

That line has led to rampant speculation about the deadbeat loser Ms. X must be married to. Vivia Chen of The Careerist had one of the more restrained slams on this guy: “Not to be presumptuous, but I think we should all chip in for some negotiation courses for this poor woman. I realize we don’t have all the facts, but her husband seems to be getting away with murder.”

Well, you know what? I’ve been a Biglaw associate, and a Biglaw spouse, and let me tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks. Just because a lady “loses” the negotiations on domestic chores doesn’t mean that she’s married to a sexist pig, and it doesn’t mean the guy is “getting away with murder”….

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