Valentine’s Day has already passed, and this is therefore coming late, but I was interested in this post two weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog entitled “Lawyers in Love” (this was the second part of a two-part series; the first was the lyrics of a 1983 song by Jackson Browne, which I will spare you).
A lot of the more “life” posts at this blog and others are frequently externally oriented, by which I mean they are focused outward (towards employers, towards institutions, towards spouses or significant others) with their observations and comments. I don’t mean to criticize or call a halt to this, since I think many of these targets have certainly been giving women less than a helping hand for a while.
But I’d like to spare the usual suspects for the moment and turn the focus on us, because while this blog is about women, it is about women who are (aspiring) lawyers, and the WSL post starting me thinking about lawyers’ relationship fitness.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, as someone who will be a lawyer, who is dating a lawyer, and who has worked for many lawyers before I drank the Kool Aid and went to law school. From what I’ve observed and experienced, lawyers work a lot. Not all lawyers, not all the time, but most of the ones that I’ve been around are putting in some solid time, which includes nights, weekends, holidays—the works. Nothing particularly newsworthy in that (billables don’t grow on trees). And a lot of the lawyers I know are married or dating…other lawyers. Maybe it’s a temperament thing, maybe it’s who you are exposed to, maybe it’s just lack of imagination. (It seems to compliment the comment in the WSL post that lawyers should be left to themselves.)
At any rate, the tone of the article (which was covering a book on the topic of marrying lawyers) suggested that lawyers are crummy mates. The book, Should you Marry a Lawyer: A Couple’s Guide to Balancing Work, Love & Ambition, by Fiona Travis, basically sounds like The Rules for people who date or marry lawyers. Among the mysteries it will apparently reveal to you are “the secrets behind the lawyer personality,” “how lawyers differ from the rest of us,” “how to love your lawyer without losing yourself,” and so forth.
Now, this gets my tailfeathers up, at the first instance because I feel (even though no gender-signifiers are present) this is written for women who are involved with male lawyers. The picture I’m getting is of a women sitting at home pining away for her man, who’s obviously away at the office, racking up those hours. Yeech. Never been a fan of the helpless-women shtick, never will. Especially when the solution is a book of handy prescriptions (“Oh! He’s been trained to value rationality over emotion! By golly, now I get it!”).
Yet my experiences tell me that there’s truth to the proposition that lawyers are difficult mates. I also wonder: now that there are plenty of women lawyers around, has anything changed? Have those difficult lawyers stayed the same—chained to their desks, impervious to emotional pleas, et cetera—now that many of them are women?
There are many points to be made about this. For me, this annoys me because it is making sweeping generalizations about a whole profession (especially because I see a gender dynamic (male lawyers with unhappy female spouses) that rubs me the wrong way). Second, however, I have to admit there’s something to the argument. I know that I might not be such a great match for anyone, especially a non-lawyer—I keep crazy hours, I like corny lawyer jokes, and I’m trying to be more rational. Furthermore, were I not already in a committed relationship, I’d probably not have the time, energy, or interest to date while in law school, and certainly would not likely look far beyond the law library (that convenience factor again).
But I am in a relationship, so the question becomes how well I’m doing on that front. Well, that depends. I tell myself that my life will be this hectic only for a while, and once I settle into a job, things will get more normal. Since I’m dating a lawyer, the whole crazy-law-life thing is less of an issue (although it does suck when you only have an hour of waking time together because you’re both doing so much work)…for now. I recognize that my future plans of a calmer, more orderly life might not work out exactly as I dreamed, but one thing I’ve been a big proponent of since I started working in law is prioritizing my life so there is a real balance between the “life” part (i.e., the people who are important to me) and the “work” part (i.e., my job or school). It’s never easy, and I totally blow it sometimes, but I think that mentally drawing a line in the sand has helped me make it through the law school combine. Still, I’m probably not an ideal girlfriend. I think it would be harder if my boyfriend had not already gone through law school himself and knew how crazy it can be. Plus, he works more than I do these days, so neither of us is in a strong position to complain about the other person’s schedule. So the upshot of it all might be a draw between the two of us.
More generally, I’d like to hear what others think: are women lawyers (who it is assumed, and who I believe are in fact, more explicit about preserving the relationships in their lives) changing this lawyers-are-bad-mates equation?