Family-friendly work—as a lawyer???
Is family-friendly work as a lawyer a realistic aspiration? Ask many returners to work in the legal profession, and the answer you’ll get is uncompromising.
Yes, you can work as a lawyer: it’s not difficult to rejoin the profession, after taking time out for kids. But on a family-friendly basis? No.
And it’s not difficult to see why. Being blunt, law firms can worry that offering family-friendly jobs calls for too many compromises.
Part-time working weeks. Shorter days. More ‘at home’ time in the school holidays, or when children are sick. A reluctance to go on overnight business trips.
How real are such fears? Or are they myths more at home in the days of Dickens, than now?
Most of us, as working mothers, would recognize the value of part-time working weeks and shorter days—even if we don’t necessarily take them.
The real issue with family-friendly employment—in any field—is that it calls for flexible employers.
And in the legal profession, flexible employers can be in short supply.
The statistics are fairly depressing—as many female lawyers are coming to recognize.
Since 1990, women have made up more than 60% of new entrants into the legal profession. As of 2017, there are now more practising female lawyers than men.
And yet it is men who dominate the leadership positions within law firms, with women making up just 28% of partners in private practice.
One result: with men in the driving seat, offering family-friendly work as a lawyer can be seen as less pressing a priority. Another result: with men in the interviewer’s seat, it can be difficult to get a job, if you’re looking for family-friendly work as a lawyer.
Worse, if you do get a job, there’s the ‘maternity penalty’ to contend with.
The maternity penalty? That’s careers impeded by bias—intended or otherwise—and fewer opportunities for interesting client work, promotion, and reward.
So is there an alternative? Yes.
Talk to us, at The Legal Director. We’re a firm providing clients with their own part-time general counsels, or legal directors.
Typically, our lawyers will work for a client for between one and six days a month—perhaps on-site at the client, perhaps from home. Many of them—the majority, in fact—are women.
Generally, they’ll have at least ten years’ post-qualification experience, with a strong background in commercial law.
They need that, because as their clients’ sole and senior legal adviser, they’ll be expected to deal with a wide variety of legal work—property matters, IP and branding matters, employment and compliance issues, and so on.
It certainly isn’t boring.
But better still, the working hours are as family-friendly as our lawyers want them to be.