Susan Smith Blakely

Best Friends at the Bar: Women Lawyers Go Back On-Ramp

"On-ramp" could be viewed as a hackneyed phrase in our business by now.  It all started with the Syvia Ann Hewlett's book, Off-ramps and On-ramps:  Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success (Harvard Business School Press, 2007), as discussed in Best Friends as the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Aspen Publishers/Wolters Kluwer).  Since then, the discussion has been "ramped up," if you will, and has resulted in a lot of talk about the benefits/detriments of women lawyers returning to practice after hiatuses from law practice.  Many of those hiatuses, as you know, are the result of work-life struggles that became too much for the woman and too much for her family.

As many as five years ago, before the publication of my first book, I was a panelist at the American University Washington College of Law Lawyer Re-Entry Program.  Low retention figures and re-entry potential was a problem then, and it is a problem now.  For the fourth year in a row, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) reported that the number of midlevel and senior woman lawyers has dropped, highlighting the "leaky pipeline" in law firms.  Not a lot has changed---except that the number of women lawyers wishing to return to practice has increased, as reported last summer in a NY Times article on women opting back into the workforce.  It has pretty much been business as usual.

Until now, that is.

It now appears that some real progress may be on the horizon.  Not only are we continuing to talk about the on-ramp issue, but now some folks actually are starting to do something about it.  Enter the On-Ramp Fellowship launched last week to provide women attorneys a re-entry platform.  Tune into my next blog for all of the details of this new and exciting on-ramp program brainstormed by Caren Ulrich Stacy and including a successful partnership with major international firms.

Until then, think positively about the on-ramp potential and thank your lucky stars that some people just don't give up on a good idea.

This entry originally appeared on my web site blog at
Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National JuristWashington Examiner NewspaperForbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow for legal research and writing.  For more information, please visit

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