AmLaw thinks practice area matters a lot (more) for female lawyers. Discuss.
By Yes, Virginia • February 01, 2007•Firms and the Private Sector
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karlacn November 04, 2007
I agree - employers HAVE TO STOP demanding so many hours and realize that everyone - MAN OR WOMAN - has a life besides the workplace.
Kate Jones November 06, 2007
My experience as a litigator (more than ten years small firm trial work before changing to appellate work which is more family friendly) is that employers have limited ability to control litigators' schedules.
The problem with litigation is, the lawyer's schedule is heavily influenced by the witness's schedule, the judge's schedule, and, most of all, by the jury's schedule.
If a litigator has to have favorable or neutral testimony from a witness and the witness says, I don't want to take time off work, could you set my deposition for Saturday? then the deposition is going to be set for Saturday. And if it's out of town requiring a four hour drive, then the litigator will be leaving on Friday night (or 5 am Saturday morning) and getting home at eight pm on Saturday.
If a judge fixes a trial date and the litigator learns, a month before the trial, that his/her daughter's kindergarten graduation is going to take place the same day the trial is scheduled to start, then the litigator will NOT be at the graduation.
And once the jury has been picked, the judge will typically ask jurors if they would prefer to work late to get the trial over with quickly, or go home on schedule even if it means going into a second week (or third week or fourth week ... sigh). If the jury says, we want to work late and finish the trial, the litigators will be in the courtroom till 8 pm every night (and then go back to their hotels - or homes if they are lucky - and prepare for the next day).
On one occasion, when the jurors wanted to finish up, I was stuck at a rural courthouse sixty miles from my home until 10:30 pm on Friday night when the jurors finally returned a verdict favorable to my client (hallelujah! I was as happy to get out of there as I was to win).
For these reasons, litigators have to be prepared to work crazy schedules. So the people who become litigators are people who are prepared to work crazy schedules. When employers expect litigators to work crazy schedules, they are merely taking advantage of the litigators' willingness which has already been established.
Is it possible to be a mother and a litigator? Yes, I was a trial lawyer for more than ten years before finally throwing in the towel and switching to appellate work after my second child was born. I had an excellent support system including a full time nanny who was willing to adapt her schedule as long as I was flexible towards her needs also (on many occasions, my kids and her kids ate dinner together at her house and spent the night at her house, which worked for both of us - she was paid to work at home and I knew my kids were having fun).
An employer can do a certain amount to mitigate the problems, but the scheduling problems are inherent in the nature of litigation and the employer has limited control.