Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More long blocks of text ...

I totally get that my last post was probably visually intimidating. I don't know about you, but my brain shuts off when I see long blocks of text. Especially long blocks of text just like the one I pasted in last time from a talk by Gordon B. Hinckley. So I'm impressed if you read my last post all the way through. And I really, really wanted to give you something short and snappy this time to make up for it.

But I'm going to do the long quote thing again anyway because you know how marriage/law school/family balancing issues have been on the brain? Well, this made me happy:

(You can read the full article here):

Albeit not yet dramatically visible across all firms, practices, or geographical areas, there’s a strengthening quality-of-life undercurrent in the profession. Men and women alike are increasingly refusing to adhere to the law’s cultural rules. ... They are drawing attention to the ways in which the profession is failing its lawyers. Some are even breaking the rules by refusing to settle for a life marked by professional dissatisfaction, opting instead to chart a new satisfying path in the law or to step away from the profession altogether to attend to what many consider the most important things in life: personal interests such as family and the pursuit of individual dreams.

A new generation of lawyers
Work/life issues aren’t only of concern to lawyers already admitted to the bar. Current law students and lawyers born after 1976 are members of the so-called Generation Y, and they stand together demanding a better quality of life and increased flexible work options. ...

Reacting also to the profession’s grim notoriety for inflexibility, many law students are even coming to view the law school years as the perfect time for starting or growing a family, while their schedules allow considerable flexibility. In fact, so many students share this view about the profession and childrearing that a “parent boom” is reportedly taking place at law schools across the country. According to one media source, the parent-boom phenomenon is no secret to officials at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where even school officials acknowledge the boom. ... According to that same source, “Careful logic is apparently driving a parent boom among the student ranks. . . . What working attorneys and firm managers are just beginning to understand is that there is a generation entering the profession who don’t plan to pay someone else to watch their children.

Current law school students aren’t the only ones planning ahead, though. Reports suggest that prospective law students who have their sights set on the JD are hoping that the credential will eventually be the key to meaningful work and will open doors to flexible work possibilities after they have taken time off to raise children. A recent study discovered that as many as 60 percent of Ivy League female graduates hope to stay at home to raise children. Many of the participants reported a desire to obtain a law degree, believing it would afford them the best opportunity for finding meaningful part-time, family-friendly work.



Still there??

I probably lost some of you, and a lot of you that are still here may have just skipped past the article part, but even if you didn't read it, what do you think? What generation do you belong to and do you really think Gen Y is figuring out this whole work/life balance thing any better? Do you even buy into "generational categorizing" to begin with? (Who does those studies anyway?) (And since when did Gen Y go back to 1976? I thought they were Gen X, but that shows what I know.) And sixty percent of Ivy League women?! Do you feel like this is a step backward or forward for feminism, or does this have nothing to do with feminism at all?

Future/current lawyers, have you tried this out? Has the workplace been more friend or foe to those of you trying out new paths? What about other professions?

What about you dads and guys out there? Regardless of profession, has your profession/employer been flexible in letting you be involved more at home or pursue other goals like travel or service? I've heard of some employers that give paternity leave now.

Other thoughts?


Genavee said...

It's probably not a good sign that my first response to that quote is laughter. Having kids in law school and early on in your career might be fine if the person has a stay at home spouse, but otherwise I think it's still pretty brutal. I'm actually taking a class now that touches on work-life balance, and it doesn't really paint a pretty picture. I suppose there are more maverick lawyers now and our generation does have different ideas. And sure, some talented people might go some different routes with their degrees. But I just don't see the big firms changing anytime soon. They've had problems with brain drain for years, and they just don't seem to care. And so long as they stay the same and 80hr weeks are the norm, law just won't be family friendly for most people.

gurrbonzo said...

I have so much to say about this I could explode. I wrote a paper on "non-linear" careers last year and researched alleged work-life balance extensively, and basically argued that our school should start a program to assist lawyers, mostly but not exclusively women, who timeout to find jobs when they want to time back in. I can't really shut up about it, so I'll try not to ramble incoherently. This is (obviously) a topic that's important to me.

For both men and women, if you want to spend time with your kids, a big firm job is a crappy choice. The workplace is structured around guys that work full-time and full-force for 40 years with no breaks while someone else deals with family stuff for them, and that just doesn't work for women who don't have (or even want) a stay-at-home-spouse. That's why there are still very few female partners anywhere and why female lawyer attrition rates are so pitiful, even though numbers in law school are equal.

But as most women know, career-wise there is never a "good time" to have kids. So, I figure if you want kids, you may as well have them now, before your 45 and infertile and exhausted.

For me, law school was a great time to have a kid bc I could choose my commitments and my schedule. We'll see what the future holds for me and my career but if I waited to have kids I think it would be much harder to timeout later. And I didn't realize I would WANT to hang out with my kids as much as I do, so that's a pretty great surprise.

gurrbonzo said...

CRINGE. The your/you're mix up. Sorry. Thanks for not judging. I mean before you ARE 45, because I realize you don't HAVE a 45. Sigh.

Erin said...

"Reacting also to the profession’s grim notoriety for inflexibility, many law students are even coming to view the law school years as the perfect time for starting or growing a family, while their schedules allow considerable flexibility."

So we can expect the baby in . . .December-ish?

Erin said...

On a more serious note, do what you want, but I agree with your other readers. I've yet to meet a female attorney who feels she's hit an ideal balance of work and family. (Granted, I don't know many who choose to spend more time at home since I'm usually at work.) I've concluded that over-exaggerating both is rather . . .there's no kind way to say it, pathetic and personally deceiving. So is, in my opinion, choosing one over the other. But you cannot have your cake and eat it, too, in this career. It's inevitable that there will be some compromises--and only you can decide where to cut corners. Personally, I made the choice not to pursue the high power, Avenue of the Americas, international firms in exchange for the opportunity to be a wife, mother, and member of my community. I still have every expectation of using my law degree--but it's not going to be so I can afford the big house on the hill. My desire for a family means more to me than that kind of "success". I hope you're the exception and you find a way to do it. But when you give up, no one's going to judge you.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that it will change as soon as we want, but I do think these generations are asking for and laying the foundations for a more flexible workforce like you see in some other countries (and a few professions here). I can't speak at all to law, but I liked gurrbonzo's comments.

I don't think it's a step backward for feminism necessarily. If that's what women want to do then awesome. If however, that is what they are doing because options are still so limited for family/work arrangements, then it makes me sad. I do think paternity leave and rights still have a LONG way to go.

I do like that we are getting to the point that a stay-at-home dad is not unheard of too.

Cari said...

I don't know what the life of a lawyer is like - well I kinda do, my mother-in-law is the head paralegal for a high powered firm - but I do know what life as an accountant is like (typically 70 hour work weeks).

I grappled with whether or not I would quit my job, decreasing our income by 60% (from six figures to much much less) or whether I could balance the career family thing. I was told I could have worked just during tax season, or a few days a week, I could have even worked mostly at night, but when you are down to the wire and under a deadline, you have to work until it done. That suspicion was confirmed when I didn't find ONE person who was juggling it all and who was happy. Not one of them felt truly successful at maintaining a good work life balance.

I was told that accountants were reshaping the way the profession thought about work life balance and so I thought being a working mother/woman would be the right thing, after all my mom always worked while I grew up, it was what I knew. But in the end, I felt I needed to accept my feminine qualities and refine them while I stayed home with my kids. I wanted to be the one to receive their sticky fingered hugs, see them learn everything, play with them, and watch them grow. I wanted them to learn my morals and adhere to my standards. If they learned a dirty word, I wanted it to be from me, not the person they spent their days with. Mostly, I realized how quickly they grew and changed and I didn't want to miss one minute.

If lawyers really can balance work with family, more power to them! And if 60% want to stay home with their kids (not just work at home while their kids cause a mess in the other room) then more power to them! This is a step forward for feminism. Men and women ARE different. There are many things that they can do equally as well as the other, but women need to embrace the traits that are uniquely theirs.

For me it was the right decision to leave it all behind and not look back; it would not have been right for my mom and wouldn't be right for others either. This is something that has to be decided on a person by person basis.

Brooke said...

Like many of you, I'm hopeful change is coming, but I'm prepared to make hard choices if it doesn't happen by the time I'm a mom. I guess what I heard from you all is that improved attitudes are out there, but the actual change in many professions has yet to happen.

While the article made me happy, I, too, couldn't help but wonder if it was being WAY too optimistic about the state of things. Like Erin said, at some point some compromises are going to have to be made. On the one hand, though, isn't it nice to know that at least women now have a choice?? Even if I ultimately choose to go the more "traditional" Mormon route and the "non-traditional" work track, I'm glad it will be my choice. So many more doors are open to me as a woman than were decades ago.

On the other hand, though, how much choice do we really have? Just because it's more than our grandmothers may have had, employers still have a LONG way to go. Like I think Di was inferring, the fact 60 percent of Ivy League women are choosing to stay home says more about how inflexible the fields these women could be really successful in are than about true choice. While getting to choose between work and home is still better than no options at all, is it really that great of a choice when employers could instead be providing ways for women to transition easier from stay-at-home mom life when kids are young to work-life when kids are older, or providing more part-time and job-share opportunities to retain moms while kids are being raised? And for single moms that have even fewer choices when it comes to work/life balance than married moms, shouldn't employers in professional jobs provide more flexible opportunities so they don't have to choose between a professional job they love and a less-professional and lower-paying opportunity with better hours?

I hope this article is right and that employers are becoming more flexible so that parents (men and women alike) won't have to choose between paying someone else to raise their children and being able to use their talents and work skills to benefit a company. In the meantime, I guess we all do our best, and realize that what prior generations have determined "success" doesn't have to be the definition we accept.