Pregnancy / Paternity

This week, the legal world has been buzzing over the New Republic’s exposé on the troubles of Biglaw, told through the tale of the long-suffering Mayer Brown. Our managing editor David Lat wondered if being a partner was the worst job in Biglaw, prompting some raised eyebrows. “Yeah, being a partner is so much worse than being an associate,” said a sarcastic commenter.

Sure, being a Biglaw partner right now isn’t “all peaches and cream,” but for most Biglaw associates — female associates especially — it never was. In fact, in our last discussion of the New Republic piece, very little attention was paid to the plight of one Mayer Brown associate in particular: the woman who was laid off during her maternity leave after surviving two prior rounds of layoffs.

The fragile state of the Biglaw world is such that women who dare to do crazy things like get pregnant must worry about whether they’ve put their jobs on the line. But just how bad is it to be pregnant at an Am Law 200 firm? It couldn’t be worse than being a partner, could it?

It could, and it is…

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For all of the unnecessary pomp and circumstance associated with the British monarchy, we sure are obsessed with it in America. Perhaps it’s because their gorgeous young royals are great at generating headlines, whether reputable or repugnant. First, there was the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, an eleventy-billion-hour extravaganza of elegance that our eyes were glued to for what seemed like all eternity. The family quickly dropped nobility’s veil, and just one year later, Prince Harry’s crown jewels and Duchess Catherine’s breasts were put on display in gossip rags for all the world to see. After recovering from tabloid infamy, we are now eagerly awaiting the birth of the royal baby, which is a very, very big deal.

The young royal couple does not yet know the sex of their child, and Duchess Catherine, who wanted to have a natural birth, has been in labor for more than 11 hours. At this point, she’s likely desperate to greet His or Her Royal Highness. Typically, British royalty would be crossing their fingers for a male heir to the throne, but thanks to the Succession to the Crown Act, all of that is going to change…

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[She] surprised me and thrilled me…. I lusted after that woman. I’m in my middle 50s and she’s a double dozen years my junior.

– Judge Wade McCree, demonstrating that there is “no shame in his game,” in his testimony this week before the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. Judge McCree testified about his affair with a woman who appeared as a party in his courtroom and allegations that he asked her to get an abortion when she ended up preggers.

A fireable offense in the UK?

* Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Oklahoma. [CNN]

* The IRS and the Treasury Department better watch out, because it seems that the “next logical step” for the tea party victims of heightened scrutiny leads right up the courthouse stairs. [ABC News]

* #Whatshouldwecallme after advising on the $1.1 billion Yahoo/Tumblr deal? Kind of a big deal. The Biglaw firms doing the underlying legal work are Simpson Thatcher and Gunderson Dettmer. [Am Law Daily]

* The Mirena MDL judge thinks female attorneys should be on the all-male executive committee. If this is “strategic gender placement,” the strategy is to look bad publicly. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The Travers Smith trainee who was fired for getting pregnant is due in court this June to find out what type of compensation she’ll receive for being discriminated against by the firm. You go girl! [Daily Mail]

* Wherein the parents of a 0L who’s got doubts about her employment prospects are counseled that she can “work not just in law.” ::facepalm:: [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* There’s trouble in paradise: lawyers in the Jodi Arias case unsuccessfully attempted to get a mistrial and withdraw from representation — for the second time — during its punishment phase. [Fox News]

A friendly reminder: this week is Secretaries’ Administrative Professionals’ Week. The day itself falls on Wednesday, so attorneys, buy your gifts now.

Alas, these are tough times for administrative assistants at law firms. We’re seeing an epidemic of staff layoffs, with secretaries among the hardest hit. In short, secretaries are getting spanked.

Sadly, these difficulties are not completely recent. Law firms have been reducing the ranks of secretaries for several years now.

Firing for economic reasons, while unfortunate, is legal. But one former Biglaw secretary, fired from her firm back in 2008, alleges that she was unlawfully terminated….

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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…

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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….

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Cynthia Wachenheim

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….

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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.

Screw this woman….

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‘Can’t a kid have a five-minute feeding break without a partner email?’

I can’t actually make this stuff up. Yesterday, a Labor associate became an impromptu midwife. (Is there a term for a male in this role? Midhusband? I don’t know whether it was a man or a woman that should be credited with the assist on this one, and I’m assuming “midwife” is gender neutral for these purposes). The action took place inside a law firm’s office after a fellow attorney in the employee benefits practice started giving birth, presumably while redlining some rider for the umpteen-millionth time.

The mother, we hear, was due in the next week or so. According to our tipster, mom was hoping to maximize her hours before having to go on leave. Well, she succeeded.

Apparently, she needs to turn her talents toward renegotiating the firm’s employee benefits. A couple days off before having a baby might be a good place to start….

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