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Can Women in Law Also Be Parents? These Women Think So

Maria Simon (left) and Rebecca Geller (center) - Image: NYTimes

The issues confronting women lawyers and how they can reconcile their work with family life, quite apart from work-life balance generally, was an issue covered in a recent article in the NY Times about a new firm set up by two women who have no permanent offices, take afternoons off for school events and experiment with work schedules.

Although Maria Simon and Rebecca Gellar are partners in the Gellar Law Group, they can work 60-70 hour work weeks easily and their “freedom” has also meant they have occasionally become, ironically, trapped in their new work environment.

The Times wrote:

In 1982, Helen Gurley Brown, the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan, published a book called “Having It All: Love, Success, Sex, Money, Even if You’re Starting With Nothing.” As Jennifer Szalai noted in a recent essay in The New York Times Magazine, Ms. Brown didn’t have children and wasn’t especially eager to incorporate them into her vision of modern womanhood. But the phrase somehow stuck as a shorthand for the aspiration of working mothers — or, depending on your view, a fantasy that women were doomed to fall short of.

Law firm partners might typically bill over 2000 hours a year, but women account for just 16.5 percent of law partners in recent reports (from 2013) even though they graduate from law school in approximately the same numbers as men.

Nationwide, 98 per cent of law firms officially allow their lawyers to work reduced schedules, according to the National Association for Law Placement; only 6 per cent of lawyers actually work part time. By contrast, many small firms have the right inclinations but lack the resources to actually put their plans and policies into practise.

A 2007 report by the M.I.T. Workplace Center found that by far the most important reason women gave for deserting the partnership track was “the difficulty of combining law firm work and caring for children in a system that requires long hours under high pressure with little or inconsistent support for flexible work arrangements.”

It’s a contemporary daydream to wonder what the workplace might look like if it were run entirely by women, or at least by fully engaged parents.

The answer, it seems, is this: There would be no revolution. Working parents would still be exhausted and distracted and anxious about falling short in every aspect of their lives.

Ms. Simon says she sleeps fewer than six hours most nights, and she is frequently awakened after nodding off by the impact of her Kindle on her forehead. But it would help at the margins. And the margins are very likely to be the difference between an impossible combination of professional ambition and parental devotion and a manageable one, if only barely so.

Source: NY Times
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