An OWLS View: Summer Interns, Externs and Associates

Summer Interns, Externs and Associates networking events are dominated by men and younger law students.   In addition to a few CLE events offered this season, I have attended a networking happy hour hosted by our county bar association, and a tour of the state supreme court, hosted by the state's Women's Lawyer Association.  Both events were underrepresented by OWLs and women.   My top-tier law school has more than 50 percent women- and a substantial number of OWLS, as do many law schools.  Yet, of the 80 associates, externs, and interns touring the state supreme court today, about 66% were male, and, at most 5% were older law students.    

Furthermore, as I understand it, no one over 30 years' old, at my law school, although "qualified" received an offer or is working this summer as an associate at a "larger," more lucrative firm.  I've read plenty of comments from OWLS stating that we are discriminated against because of our age-and that employers don't want to hire us for various reasons related to our age. Even if that is partly accurate, I struggle to believe it explains all of the differential between old and young, male and female. It may be that many OWLS and women have different goals / aspirations that do not lend themselves to the "partner track." 

I am working and really enjoying my summer internship with a federal agency in an office with 7 attorneys and a variety of work.  I did not apply to law firms because I don't "need" the money and did not want to be working all summer, away from my family, and vacations.  Two years of law school have already changed the dynamics of my family life.  For me, reinvigorating my relationship with my spouse and children takes precedence over earning money.  

So if other OWLS, especially females, share my sentiments that work and income must be balanced with personal relationships, that could explain why few of us are working for the money. It may also account for our absence and the preponderance of men at summer networking events.   Younger, or traditional women law students likely need the money as much as their male counterparts.  So, why are they less represented in networking events and as associates at the "big" firms?  Again, is it the mommy track / a priority issue, covert discrimination, or something else?  

Perhaps we women and OWLS are the fortunate ones.  Many of us have more choices, or at least we think we do, in our employment.  Men seem to believe they must first be providers, take the job with the most money,  and therefore they often lose sight of other options.  Women often see a bigger picture, and believe they have the choice to make employment decisions based on the type of work, working conditions, and salary. (I'm not sure that is because we have other financial support, or simply different priorities). 

Also, I wonder if  that is the equality, or the society,  we should seek. Initially I was an equal with my spouse economically and domestically-  we split everything until we had children. Although I continued with my career after our daughter was born, our roles changed.  Someone had to assume primary responsibility for this new life- and biology and society said that was me.  My husband and I began to slowly evolve into more typical roles in the marriage and family.   I had always resisted "traditional roles," – I did not want to cook or decorate.  Yet, as in employment and economics, specialization can lead to a more efficient, effective work product. I learned that even if we both continued to share responsibilities, someone had to be take ultimate charge of caretaking while the other partner would likely take  responsibility providing income for the family.

In my twenties, I had most of the answers- namely it was all about equality and egalitarian relationships.  In my forties I have learned "it" is complicated.  I have fewer answers and more questions.  Most female attorneys with whom I have met that have families, choose to work for public interest or government so they may balance their work and private lives. The women who live for their work/career  usually have domestic partners who take primary responsibility for the home / kids, or they are childless.  There are very few women with children and an equal earning partner, who live to work /make career their priority.  Yet,  I have found many men in opposite. 

I'd like to know your comments on the practice and study of law, equality, discrimination, society's expectations, and traditional roles as they relate to older/younger, male/female?  Are our differences based on age, gender or just preferences?

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