lsdrake

Bias against children

I ate lunch with one of the partners today. We chatted about working at a big law firm and he mentioned the expected hours of 8-8 plus 2-3 weekends a month. We both acknowledged my stumbling block, as a single parent, will be the demanding hours.

I begin to think that BigLaw is not my path. I'd have to hire a nanny to raise my kiddo, and no amount of money is worth the time lost. I'd have to miss funny things she says or hear about them from the nanny. Yesterday, for instance, she flopped down and pointed at my chilled skin, saying "you got moose bums" ...

I was talking to the other partner I work for. I asked her about a task she had emailed to me the night before (after I left) and she said it had been done last night; without malice she commented that "some of us have to work." I responded with "some of us have to pick up kids on the other side of town." She acknowledged that she raised a son, herself. I am starting to see the practical effect of being a single parent lawyer.

In order to develop realistic career goals with experience to match, I will have give up my dreams of having one of the wine & dine jobs next summer and instead focus on smaller boutique firms, like where I am now, that has realistic expectations of its associates. This firm has yet to have an associate with a young child and no spouse but the feedback I am getting is excellent. Adventures await...

5 Comments

KHernan881

I don’t think it is a "bias" against children as your title suggests but merely a very high demand for one’s time that is unfriendly towards working parents.
It is a shame to hear that your "dream" is to work at a big firm and that you are not going to pursue that dream.   I think you may be making this decision for the wrong reasons.  First of all, all indications seem to be that your boutique firm is not going to meet your expectations of having personal time to be a mother.  You say that the feedback you are getting is excellent yet you’ve had a partner make a comment about your dedication.  As off-handed and non-malicious as that comment may seem, I think you should take it for what it is—a negative remark on your committment.  People don’t make such comments in professional settings unless they are trying to tell you something.  Some people say such things because they are passive-aggressive by nature and it is easier to critique somebody like that than to come outright and say, "you need to work longer hours like the rest of us or you’ll never be successful here."
Secondly, a big organization may be just what you need—one that has the resources to have things like flex-time, job share and other accomodating policies that may mean there are real options for attorneys that aren’t looking to bill crazy hours.  I wrote about this a little in this post.  While my post then wasn’t exactly on point, I think the same principles apply to your situation.  I am certainly not saying the biglaw is the right choice for all or even many of us (especially parents).  I only offer this comment because you’ve indicated that it is your dream.

Karen H

The longer this post stays on Ms. JD’s front page, the more angry it makes me.  I think this is a classic example of two things about being a 21st century woman that bother me.  The first is the judging that goes on between women—implied in the post is judgment of those women who choose to have a nanny and the related assumption that those women are letting somebody else "raise" their children. The second is an irrational belief among many women that you can have it all if you just settle a little bit.  This post assumes that by working in a less demanding office, the poster will be everything she wants to be but that if she were to work at a large firm, that would not be possible.
My response to both issues:  unless you are going to work from home and drop the phone every time your baby cries, you cannot (by definition) work and raise your child alone.  Later, unless you are going to home-school your child, you are going to miss out on all of the development and activity that goes on in school.  You are inevitably going to be working when your child says something funny or accomplishes one of life’s milestones.  Hell, that may even happen while you are in the shower one day. 
Work full time or parent full time, but stop pretending that it is possible to do both.  This is not to say that you can’t be a good lawyer and a good mother, because I most certainly think that you can be (and I am) both.  But full-time mother—I am not, cannot and will not ever be.  And, if you go to work at any size firm or office, neither will you.
Further, to say that the situation is proof of a ‘bias against children’ just doesn’t make any sense to me.  It is surely a bias against people that don’t want to work—but I don’t see that as a problem. 

kirkebaby

I agree with Ms. Anonymous Mom above.
 And while I was like you when I was in law school (I worked for a big DC firm my first summer and chose to only stay south of the Mason Dixon line for quality of family life for my second summer) you WILL NOT know what you want to do until you have that kid or get married (and there are no guarantees that will happen either).  So until you have kids and you have worked the god awful hours (I chose not to go that route), you don’t really know what you are giving up. Certainly not applying for or trying for a summer wine and dine is insane.
 My husband is an Investment Banker and if you want to know bad hours, talk to them.  Their summer associateships don’t even try to pretend that they have a good summer, they just kill them all summer like they do as an associate.  There is a reason 1 percent of I-bankers are women and I think it is because there is virtualy no life-work balance at all. I honestly don’t even know how you would manage to concieve a child with their hours in NYC.  But he still took a job with Goldman Sachs in NYC for the summer to try it out. We moved to NY for 3 months with a baby, we tried it out and decided against it.  But you may hate working at a big firm for more than just the alleged ‘Bias against Kids.’
 Further the reality is that if you are good, the firm will do what they can to keep you.  I know too many wormen with reallly aweseome situations from work at home to flex-time arrangements that love their jobs and balance their lives AND are at huge firms.  I am in house counsel, which is great for a work-life balance, but many in  house gigs want big firm on your resume, so be careful.  The small firm may have worse flexible arrangements (because they can’t afford to work with their employees as much) and the paycheck may also match their size even if the hours do not.

bangalee57

I’m surprised at the anger level in this post.  I consider full-time to be 45 or so hours a week, which I willingly worked as a claims adjuster for a major insurance company prior to law school.  Having a nanny makes sense if I had to pick up my child at 3.  I don’t fault one who chooses to have a nanny, but I value the time with my child more than money.  I don’t think it is reasonable of any company to ask for more than 40-45 hours a week from its employees, and I was very much put off by the partner’s comment stating that if I were making a large salary, I would be expected to stay at the office for more than 9 hours a day.  If someone chooses to work more, then fantastic - pay them accordingly.  However, a person should also have the choice to work a 40-hour work week without guilt.

jelirosin

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