The Listener article about women lawyers

Link here.

I lolled when I read this paragraph:

Shortall does not accept that the often-punishing hours lawyers work are the reason so many women leave the profession. In her view, it’s the rigidity of the hours and the inability of many women to accommodate the competing demands of their personal and professional lives.


It’s the hours, it’s the hours, it’s the hours.

As I said in my exit interview when I was a fairly recent graduate who left a major firm that shall remain nameless “It’s the hours. There is no way to make a 55 hour week flexible enough that I’d want to combine it with being a mother one day.”

Shortall believes female lawyers who are intent on having children desperately need role models to mentor them about the maternal wall and how to cope with it. “Even for those mothers who scale the maternal wall and overcome any negative assumptions about their commitment, the brass ring of law firm partnership can remain elusive.

I didn’t leave corporate law because I felt there were too few role models demonstrating how to succeed in law despite having children. I left because I felt there were too few role models demonstrating how to be a fully engaged parent despite working at a corporate law firm. I wasn’t interested in how to make the rest of my life fit in with a partner-track career; I was interested in how to make stimulating paid work fit in with a life that was centred on raising children. I didn’t see many people in corporate law role-modelling this. There were some – but they usually had stay at home partners, or other exceptional arrangements in terms of family support. Or they seemed like they were minutes away from complete burnout…

I was happy to have a baby while working with my current employer because I saw other mums working there who seemed more like the sort of mum I wanted to be. Mums who took leave during the school holidays. Mums who left at 5pm and didn’t log back on from home. Mums for whom work was important, but definitely much much less important than family life.

Saying that the hours per se aren’t the problem, it’s their rigidity and the difficulty of combining them with other things, is ludicrous. It’s like saying that the tidal wave isn’t the problem, it’s the flooding and the way it knocks things over in its path.



4 thoughts on “The Listener article about women lawyers

  1. Yes, yes, yes. I gave a talk to a group of high school girls today about being a lawyer, and one of the questions was about how I combine it with motherhood. I wish I had read this before I answered – you captured my thoughts far more eloquently than whatever garbled response I managed to give them! I’m fortunate that my particular team in my particular corporate firm has much more reasonable expectations, but still. The issues are there, and they’re not showing any sign of going away, no matter how many women flood the profession at entry level.


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