Southern Ms.

Until now I’ve lived in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. So when I moved to Memphis last month I was expecting culture shock. It has been shocking . . . but for the most part, it’s been shockingly nice. Seriously, to a person who has never been exposed to it before, true southern hospitality is unimaginable.

So what else have I discovered besides the kindness of random strangers? I had plans for a series on shocking exposes of backwardness, but so far I have only curiosities to report:

This week I learned that the biggest, fanciest firm in Memphis has a legitimate version of the usually sinister Mommy Track. It’s a program for associates who want to take time off the conventional 7-year partner track to make room for family. Instead they’re on a 10-year track.

There is a little bit of backwardness here: the program was at least described to me as being for women. So as usual the concept of equally shared domestic labor is not a factor. But that’s hardly unique to this city, this culture, or this region.

Other than that it’s an intriguing program I think. I don’t know any other firm that openly promotes such an option. And I don’t know why not. It seems like a win-win. The firm gets to bill out experienced senior associates for three extra years. And they have a better shot at retaining talented female attorneys. Meanwhile, someone who wants to gets to try balancing, rather than trading, work and family.

Unfortunately, this program has yet to catch hold. Apparently few women stick it out for ten years. So the end result is the same as if there were no program. Still, it’s an idea I hadn’t seen before, and one I thought worth passing along.

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