Following up on "Obstacle Course" in the American Lawyer (which the WSJ’s Law Blog has linked and commented on the article in their post Women Litigators Battle Adversity and Stereotypes):
The AmLaw article’s main contention is that female litigators have it even harder than not only other (male) litigators, but also by implication female corporate lawyers. I think this notion—litigation is very hard (the hardest?) in terms of balancing personal and professional life—is one that has a lot of traction in the workplace. That is why the article doesn’t even bother to come out and say what they’re getting at, but does so in any event with that dig on “corporate schedules.” (I know several corporate lawyers who would be mightily offended, and disagree heartily, with the fact their schedules are considered part-time by litigation).
I’m not trying to fan the perpetually simmering flames between corporate and litigation lawyers, since it is often a bone of contention between the two groups that litigators work harder and longer, but I think there’s a valuable discussion to have on the differences between these two. Because I’ve always worked in and been interested in litigation, I never considered going into anything else. I thought everyone was as set on their path until I went into on-campus interview this past August, and heard several friends say that their area of interest was (a) not set, and (b) was determined in interviews by the practice area of their interviewer.
I’ll ignore that last part, and accept the first,so my question is this: if you are not set on one kind of law, or even if you are, how much should the alleged benefits or difficulties of work-life balance matter when you are making that decision?
When you start thinking in these terms, why not go further: if you’re interested in having some kind of personal life, should you go into corporate law for that reason? The more provocative, and possibly sexist, way of saying this is: given that women continue to shoulder more of the domestic and familial burdens, they would be crazy to not go corporate, since that’s the only way they can do it all, and not meltdown after weeks like these:
“Take Covington & Burling partner Nancy Kestenbaum's week late last October. After working all day Monday, the 43-year-old white-collar defense lawyer hopped on a 7 p.m. flight to Indianapolis for a client pitch. She stayed up until midnight preparing for the presentation. Following a three-hour meeting Tuesday morning, she raced to catch a flight back to New York so she could take her two children, ages 10 and 7, trick-or-treating. The next three days were a blur of 7 a.m. client meetings, dashing home in the evenings to spend an hour or two with her kids, and working late into the night from home. On Sunday, she wrapped up her week with an 8 a.m. board meeting.”
Everyone has weeks that every now and then, but to keep up at that pace sounds like a recipe for an early heart attack.
I hope this will provoke a lot of comments, and I’d love to hear thoughts on this. How much should your practice area selection be dictated by work-life concerns? Are all female litigators who have children forced to have lives like Kestenbaum’s? Where are all the men in this? Can high-end litigation be changed so that it isn’t so horrible, or is that just the nature of the beast?
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