Career in Law

Parent Q&A

I need help setting up a solo legal practice Feb 9, 2018 (1 responses below)
law school past age 40? Aug 30, 2016 (3 responses below)
  • Hi,

    I'm an attorney who has always worked for someone else. I'm ready to start a solo practice within the next year but I need help getting it set up correctly. Do you have any recommendations for people who could help me with this?

    First I'm looking for a great CPA who understands the new tax law and can give me really good advice about the best way to set this up. E.g., do I do an LLC? A PC? I also need advice about how to keep records, do taxes, any other reporting needed, and pay myself.

    I'm also looking for legal advice about the best way to protect myself from liability. I think that I'll need assistance with retainer agreements, malpractice insurance, etc. 

    I'll need a great website and marketing materials. Any suggestions on who could help with that? I want someone really good for this. Slow websites that don't work well can be a real turn off.

    I don't have an unlimited budget to do this but I do have enough to spend the money up front setting it up correctly. I'd prefer to work with people used to working with small businesses, not people working with the budget of Fortune 500 companies.

    If I've missed something that I should be thinking about right now, I'd love to get your feedback!

    Thanks for your help.

    I can't offer any recommendations for the legal or tax stuff, but I had Sophia Renn rebuild my website ( She was wonderful to work with and very responsive to my particular style requests. She really markets herself as a writer, but she does a lot more.

  • law school past age 40?

    (3 replies)

    Any advice on an already over-educated male going to law school past the age of 40?  Is this a crazy idea, would I have to get into a top school to make it, what are the opportunities out there? What's the job market like?

    RE: law school past age 40? ()

    Yes, you are crazy.  The job market for lawyers is poor compared to the cost of a law degree.  And unless you have a large amount of money on your hands to pay cash, you'd have to take out loans.  Check out

    RE: law school past age 40? ()

    You're not crazy ... but why do you want to do it?  You need to realize that law, for the most part, is a business.  If your desire is to save the world, I hope you have a lot of money saved up, because those jobs (even if you can get one) do not pay a lot.  And the competition for federal/state/county jobs (which do pay a decent salary -- albeit a pittance compared to private practice) is tough. 

    Law school is expensive, and job prospects are not great even for graduates of T14 schools.  You would probably face hidden age discrimination in the job hunt, since firms want eager associates who will buy into the idea of working horrendous hours to prove their partnership value, not people who have families and soccer teams to coach and school plays to attend.  Yes, everyone, I know there is a lot of blah, blah, blah out there about quality of life, and I don't believe a word of it.  If things are are so wonderful, why do I get hundreds of applications from people working in Big Law every time my agency advertises an entry level position? 

    Anyway, only you can answer the question why do it? 

    RE: law school past age 40? ()

    I loved law school. But working at a law firm is no fun. Super stressful, horrible hours, misplaced priorities. Big firm lawyers typically end up cancelling (at the last minute) every: vacation, dinner party, soccer game, birthday party, etc. They make a lot of money but have little time to spend it. They don't see their kids enough and miss out on the important milestones. Some people thrive on it, I don't. All I want is to be to succeed at my job while being able to pick up my son from school and do his homework with him. But my job doesn't want to make any accommodation that would allow me to do this. I'm now trying to figure out how to succeed at motherhood and being a lawyer at the same time. I feel like I'm failing at both. The though of doing what I'm doing for another 20 years makes me want to vomit.

    Yes, I'm financially successful. We own a gorgeous home in the hills. But I'm stressed out all the time and constantly worry that the rug is going to be pulled out from under me. 

    If there's a way for you to go to law school without incurring a ton of debt I'd say go for it. You will probably love the intellectual challenge. But if you come out saddled with debt that requires a big firm job to pay, you will probably regret it.

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Law School as a 2nd career for a middle aged mom

Jan 2011

Hello All, I'm considering going to Law School (would probably be about 40 by the time I take/study for the LSAT, complete the application process etc) with the goal of opening my own family law practice or joining a very small and flexible one. DH and I have two kiddos; 1 and 5.

Has anyone out their pursued law as a second career? I would love to benefit from your experience! A little more about me: Over the last 15+ years I have enjoyed moderate success in an industry I really like (mid/upper management position). I'm hoping family law would be a good way to harness my passion about children and families, get the intellectual challenge I so enjoy, and also allow me to have evenings and weekends with my family while making a decent wage.

I know joining a big or even moderate sized law firm would not be for me. Those long hard hours would not work for my family. Also, I don't need to be on track to make $200,000+ a year. Although, $100,000 or close it is where I am aiming. I envisioning a law practice focused on child custody, divorce, adoption, and surrogacy.

How important is it to get into a ''good'' law school to pursue the dream of a private practice? Is this a realistic plan? Thanks for your insights!

Family law is the most litigious area of the law. Just imagine, a couple fighting over splitting their mutually built lives, down to the last house plant, more for the principle that they ''win,'' than anything else. Add children to the mix, and let the mudslinging continue. It is a really hard area of the law to practice in. Perhaps most importantly for your situation, this is one of the worst times to be entering the profession. Because of the financial market crash, huge law firms are literally disintegrating and laying off partners in their 50s and 60s. The ripple effect is that the market is flooded with experienced lawyers desperate for work, thus willing to take a pay cut, and jobs away from new grads.

The ABA recently posted an article on their webpage about the problem with law loans. Basically, I highly recommend going to the least expensive school with the best rankings, and networking like crazy. It's not the case that you get good grades and everything will work out-- I graduated cum laude with almost no job prospects. unemployed cum laude attorney

Attended UC Hastings as a newly single mom (but co- parented with amiable ex )with a 4 and 7 year old in tow. Graduated in 2006. Work in non-profit sector on education equity issues now but was a law school career counselor for 3 years. Family is my priority. Isabelle
I think you may have trouble making 100k+ working at a small firm. I think its more like 50-60k to start if you are lucky at a small firm. Going solo, it will take a long time to make that kind of money, plus no one really knows how to practice law immediately after you get out of school. The market is really, really tough out there right now. A colleague who recently advertised for a paralegal position (albeit in an public interest firm) got Staford law graduates with experience and who'd already passed to bar applying for the position. Although that's just one bit of anecdotal evidence, I think given your need for flexibility and a low billable hours commitment, you could have trouble finding a job that meets your needs if the glut in the market continues. Also realize that law school tuition is crazy high. UC schools are close to 40k a year, which may put more pressure on you to take a more demanding job than you really want.

Law school itself is very demanding and I personally would be incredibly stressed to handle that plus two young children. I completed law school before I had kids, now that I have 2 kids under 6, I can't imagine doing full-time (or even part time) school or entering a competitive job force. FYI - the folks I know at smaller firms work more than 40 hours a week. anon

Hi Jenny. I decided to go to law school as a second career at the age of 27, and a single mom of two. I now have my own practice, which allows me unbelievable flexibility with the kids and their schedules. On the downside, the income can very drastically swing up and down, especially in the first few years while you build a practice. There are other disadvantages to being out on your own including lack of benefits (or much more expensive to purchase on your own), and sometimes a lack of community. The other thing is that my husband and I are now expecting a baby in May, and disability benefits for self employed people is not great. Also, you should expect to put in very long hours in law school and afterwards while you build your practice. That said, I am very glad I did it and love what I do.

As to your question about the law school, I would go visit campuses of law schools, take tours, and sit in on some classes. While any law school is demanding, you really want a law school that is going to prepare you to take the bar because in the end that is kind of the whole point.

Hopefully that gives you a realistic perspective. Good luck whatever you decide! Autumn

Jenny: You have a good and realistic plan to have a flexible, worthwhile career as a family law attorney, an area where life experience, maturity and understanding of people and relationships are an asset. To answer your question about going to a ''good'' school, consider that virtually all family law attorneys practice solo, not in a firm or partnership, so the school you graduate from makes no difference in getting work, and very few clients even ask where you studied. Family law is not like other fields of law where a prestigous degree and high grades are necessary to secure a high paying job with a firm. If you did find an experienced attorney to work with as an associate, you would be chosen based on aptitude and personality, not because you graduated from a big name school. JFK University in Pleasant Hill and Golden Gate University in SF are both therefore great choices. But before you commit to even a year of law school I would suggest you self-educate as much as you can using the online resources that exist for people handling their own divorces without an attorney, and then intern for an attorney to make sure you enjoy working in this area.

The one person I know who did succeed at a niche job was a very smart and personable young person who was a paralegal at a family law firm, and her boss loved her as an employee and eventually promised her a job if she went to law school. I've heard the job market for new law graduates is brutal right now (from a law professor). Just an idea, is trying for a non-lawyer job in the area you are interested in, to investigate further. anon

I went back to school as a second career and I regret wasting $70,000 and three years of my life, and the cost has probably doubled since I graduated. In my experience, legal employers aren't very family-friendly. Some of them might be somewhat accommodating of attorneys who have been there a while before they had kids, but not to people who already have families when they interview.

I suggest talking to some attorneys who have solo practices in family law and get their advice on how realistic this is. If you want to meet family law attorneys, the county bar associations have family law sections which have regular events.

Going to a ''good'' law school has advantages besides prestige. Some of the ''not-so-good'' law schools automatically flunk the bottom 10-25 percent of the first-year class (most law schools grade on a curve and give people a class rank). Or they'll offer scholarships to half the class and you need to be in the top third to renew for the second year (so a bunch of people will automatically lose their scholarships). They're trying to weed out people who they think will fail the bar (to improve their bar passage rate and their USNWR ranking). Good luck with your decision! Anonymous

I think you are a little bit unrealistic about a legal career. First of all, it isn't necessarily the case that you'll work fewer hours at a small firm or as a solo. As a junior associate, at any firm, you'll be expected to work hard - it's the partners who have been practicing for 20 years who want weekends free to be with their families, etc., while the newbies are the ones stuck in the office doing document review and preparing motions. As for intellectual stimulation, you may not find a lot of that at first either. As for going out on your own, I do know a few people who have launched solo practices straight out of law school but it's rare, and, I think, very stressful. And speaking of stress, family law is extremely contentious and the clients can be pure nightmare to deal with. Sorry to sound so negative, but I think you need to spend some time in or around law practices and learn more. It's one profession where part-time is considered to be 40 hours per week. Lawyer & mother
I am a lawyer at a firm, so I can't speak to a solo practice. But here are a few thoughts:

1) Law school is a huge financial committment. Tuition rates keep going up and you are losing 3 years of income. Bar prep classes (which are highly recommended) also run several thousands of dollars. If you are planning to be self-employed, your income the first few years out likely won't be very high either and you will have a lot of expenses associated with starting a business, obtaining malpractice insurance, etc. Consider whether your family's finances can handle the debt and several years without significant income contributions from you.

2) You will not learn what you need to know to practice law in law school. Practicing law is essentially an apprenticeship. You learn by doing and personally, I can't imagine not having mentors the first few years to explain things and correct my mistakes. I don't know how common it is to dive right into a solo practice, but I would not have felt competent to do that straight out of law school. I went to UC Berkeley, but I think this is true anywhere.

3) I question whether a solo practice would necessarily give you the lifestyle you describe. I work at a firm and yes, the hours can sometimes be long, but I work part-time and have colleagues who can cover for me when my kids are sick or when I go on vacation. If you are in a solo practice, your clients will be dependent on you all the time and you will need to coordinate your schedule with their needs, court dates and opposing counsel.

4) Again, I don't know about a solo practice, but if you think you might need to look for a job as an attorney some day (perhaps with a small firm, or with the government), where you go to law school matters a lot. Look at employment statistics for any school you are considering and try to talk to alumni.

Sorry to be negative, but I have a lot of colleagues who went into law with unrealistic expectations and now wish they had done more homework before making their decision. It sounds like you already have a great career and if you are looking to branch out a little, you might try a less radical change. At any rate, I would suggest approaching some solo practioners in the area to ask for an informational interview. I'm sure you can find some who would be happy to tell you all the pros and cons. There are also numerous law blogs out there, probably some focused on solo practictioners. Good luck with your decision.

There is a long and very interesting article in the Jan 8 issue of the New York Times called ''Is Law School a Losing Game?''. It describes how bleak the employment prospects are for recent law school graduates right now, compared to the rosy picture painted by law schools, which are steadily increasing enrollment and tuition. Here's the link:
This recent New York Times article entitled ''Is law school a losing game?'' discusses the financial hardship facing law grads who did not attend top tier schools: anon
I hope the original poster got a chance to read this article from Sunday's NYT titled ''Is Law School a Game?''

I've been a lawyer for over 15 years, practicing primarily in the nonprofit and small firm world. But even there, with more flexibility and less of the downsides of big firm practice. it's been a lot of hours and sacrifice. I did negotiate a more flexible deal after I had kids, but by then I had a proven track record. As a brand new lawyer that would be much more difficult. And I always had to deal with court deadlines and client emergencies, which didn't always respect my ''day at home.'' I would definitely do a bunch of informational interviews with people actually doing the kind of practice you want, to make sure your vision is feasible.

I love my work and am very happy with my choices, but there has been one particularly critical element for me: I didn't graduate with huge debt. My classmates who did had to take jobs with very long hours and low quality of life in order to make enough to pay down loans. The NYT article points out how difficult the job market is becoming and how hard it can be to make enough to deal with debt. The advice I always give people thinking about law school is ''if you can't go to a top school, go to a cheap one.'' Look for an in- state tuition option or a place that will give you a scholarship or has a gold- plated loan repayment assistance program. The article makes clear something I have thought for a long time - low-ranked private law schools with high tuition can be a terrible economic trap for students, who won't be able to a get a job that justifies their investment.

Good luck with whatever you choose, and please do your homework. Law school is three years of your life and a lot of $. It can lead to a very rewarding career, but there is no guarantee. J.D. Mom

Law careers without a law degree

June 2010

Hi, What advice do you have for going into law without a law degree? I've had a great career as a number cruncher. I have steady work, but after so many years I am ready for new challenges. I am very good at reading and interpreting rules, and excellent at navigating large bureaucrcies and being an advocate. I am organized and love planning. I would like to work as a legal advocate, or do research for law firms. What careers are there? What is being a paralegal like? Are there other careers in law besides a lawyer and paralegal? I am interested all experience -- good and bad. Thanks ahead of time! career changer

the paralegal term is quite broad and can mean a number of things. Research in law firms is usually done by paralegals. Best thing for you to do would be to consult Cal State East Bay Extension as they have a paralegal program in the evenings. UC Berkeley has one too, they both offer certificate programs, but UC Berkeley's is NOT approved by the American Bar Association, CSU's is approved by the ABA.(why bother with a program not fully accredited!!!) Certificates were not required previously but they are now more & more as the American Bar Association tries to raise the professional standard. Main requirement for ANY non-attorney legal professional is that you MUST be working under the direction of a licensed attorney, NO independent work is allowed. Sandra
I suggest that you consider looking into working for any of the tax agencies (IRS, Franchise Tax Board, State Board of Equalization, Employment Development Department) or the California Public Utilities Commission as a technical staff person, particularly in each agency's equivalent of the Taxpayer Advocate Office (in the CPUC, it's called the Department of the Ratepayer Advocate or something like that). Your ability to efficiently churn numbers combined with a willingness and skill to interpret the written word and an interest in helping the taxpayer/ratepayer/consumer face complex legal situations is the skill set that's needed. The job titles are opaque so will require some research and persistence to find a fit (as well as possibly a willingness to ''take a pay cut'' in the short term), but despite the current budgetary situation, the long-term trends are in favor of the new employee because so many experienced staff are eligible to retire in the next 5-10 years, so those who come in now will have excellent promotional opportunities coming up sooner than you would think. Happy Tax Agency Employee

Part-time law school with young children?

March 2010

I am looking for some good, honest, and non-judgemental advice. I am a 30 old SAHM of two who wants another child within the next 5 years. I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was 13, but decided to ''take a break'' after college and pursued a teaching. I want to apply to USF law school's part-time evening program to begin during the 2011-2012 school year. My children would be 5 and 2 years old at that time. I would want to take a year off to have another child, and would time it so that child would turn one about the time I was returning to law school.

I figure I would need child-care for 4-5 hours a day to prepare for classes. I also figure I would need to dedicate 6-8 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday for my studies. I have a very supportive husband who is encouraging me to follow my dreams.

I am hesitant to follow through with my dream of being an attorney beause of the following fears: I really want 1) To work in the non-profit or government sector 2) Prefer to work part-time until my children are older 3)think that I might be crazy to think that I might find such a job and am 4) scared to end up like a lot of my lawyer friends: miserable in high paying jobs or miserable and laid off or miserable and just scraping by because of loans. Most of them tell me not to go to law school and regret their decisions.


1) Is my plan for attending law school part-time in the evening while having young kids and having a baby realistic? Or, should I wait until the kids are older?

2) Do part-time non-profit law jobs really exist? I hear they are terribly hard to get.

3) If they do exist, is USF law school's reputation strong enough to get me employment in those jobs?(I don't know if it matters, but I have an ivy league undergraduate degree. Not mentioning that to be snotty, just wondering if it will help in the job application process.)

And to top it all off...because of the economy and job loss, I filed for bankruptcy a year ago. My father has offered to co-sign any graduate school private loans that would be necessary. Does anyone have experience with getting private loans for law school (or any other graduate programs) with a co-signer after declaring bankruptcy? Who do I even ask for more information about this?

Thanks. --Will i ever get to law school?

My first child was born a few weeks before I started law school. It was a positive experience for me and I actually had more time with my child and flexibility in my schedule as a law student than I do now working. I think your estimates are realistic about that time it requires. You can do it and be successful but it requires sacrifice from the whole family and only you can decide if that sacrifice is worth it.

My only advice is to really consider whether you want to put yourself in that much debt. You can go to a less expensive top tier school and rely on only federal loans and scholarships and still get a good job without the stress that could come down the road from having to pay off huge loans. Good luck! Happy Law-school Mom

I went to a fourth-tier law school and was surprised by how snobby many firms are. One prejudice I wasn't aware of at all was the bias against lawyers who have attended law school at night. My school had both a day program and an evening program and NUMEROUS lawyers told me at least you weren't in the evening program. I did find a job (in a much different market than we have now) but I was at the very top of my class. My advice to you is if you like USF, attend during the day. Honestly, it will be easier. Your kids will be on the same schedule as you are. You'll have time to study in between classes, at school (it will take discipline not to just head off for coffee with classmates, but you CAN do it). You'll be able to see your spouse and kids at night. And apply to Boalt and Hastings; they are more prestigious, cheaper, and you'll save a lot of commuting time too -- Hastings is right near BART. Take a prep course for the LSAT, so as to get the best score possible. Lastly, I think you might have trouble landing a part time gig right out of law school. The only part-time lawyers I know are ones who have managed to negotiate something with their employer after working fulltime. And 'part-time' for law is often 40 hours a week, sorry to say!!
Well, take my advice with a grain of salt... I'm not a lawyer, but am in graduate school and a mama....

Do not go to graduate school if you expect to get a job right out of school. Do not pay out the nose or sign loans and expect to get a job to pay for school, especially an super expensive school like USF.

When evaluating a school, it is good to look at the rate at which students pass the bar. USF is pretty strong there, but it is brutally expensive. With huge law firms closing on both the west and east coasts, there is even more competition for the less appealing jobs...

One situation (expensive school) without the other (job market being crappy--even for folks who pass the bar) might be survivable. But both seem-- frankly crazy.

I would try to get into a public school such as Hastings or Boalt. If you have a great undergrad degree, why not apply and see what happens?

Loans for graduate school are really expensive and are more like a credit card (as far as interest rates, etc.) then an undergrad loan. I've got the Grad school Blues

1- Part of me wants to say: Go chase your dream. Only you can find out whether fulfilling that dream will make you a better person, and enable you to lead a more meaningful/fulfilling life. Part of me agrees with your lawyer friends: Law is a miserable field if you're not lucky enough to land a dream job (depending on what that is.) Only you and your family will have to endure all the ramifications of a wife/mother in law school and a lot of other concerns thereafter. I shared your dream about law school many years ago. There were other differences: I had no children, and a great flexible job which somehow sucked the life out of me due to its lack of intellectual stimulation. So I went for my dream. There were other moms and dads in my law class and they seemed to get by just fine. Law school was great. Being a lawyer could be totally different experience. I think I liked the esoteric aspects of the law but as a lawyer, I hate the adversarial/contentious nature of lawyering.

2-Having another baby in law school could cause a lot of delay in your timely graduation. Check with a law school admission advisor for info on their matriculation. I actually waited until my last year to get pregnant and studied for the bar being about 4-5 months pregnant.

3- Just like any other professional fields, if you want to work for non profit, then pay your dues by doing clerkship, internship, and volunteer at those organizations. Of course in this abysmal economy, any job is hard to come by. Once you get a job, probably it might take some time prior to you being able to fulfill the wish to work part time in law. BUT I want to emphasize: There's no guarantee of a part time job in law. Simply put, why would employers give you any love when they can hire someone else, non attached, childless who is willing to put in more than 40h/w?

4-Don't wait! You would get less energy and enthusiasm you have for law school the older you get.

5- I suggest you speak with a financial aid adviser at law school about the private loan in light of the bankruptcy issue. Good luck - anon

Re whether law school is for you, I say if you have been interested in being a lawyer since you were 13, you should go for it. Many people drift into law school after college because they can't think of anything else to do, and those are the ones that tend to be miserable. As a gov't lawyer, I can say that a USF degree is fine; in my office, we have attys from all levels of law schools. Getting your foot into the door with nonprofits or gov't is not easy; you should consider private firms that do the work you're interested in (not all firms are the large civil litigation firms we've grown to hate). Can't say that finding part-time work will be easy in any sector, but I think the profession is slowly coming around to accepting more flex time arrangements, especially considering that most law school grads are now women, who are demanding more family-friendly policies dr
I can't answer the loan/bankruptcy part of your question, but as a spouse of someone who just finished law school and as a parent, I think what you're trying to do is very hard. My husband graduated from Hastings a couple years ago, and he worked/studied quite a few more hours a week than what you are describing. He was unavailable more like 8-10 hours a weekday, and 6-8 on the weekends. There were days he took off, but there were also days he worked all day (12+ hours) There are definitely part-time non-profit jobs out there, but you're right, they are scarce. Not only that, but they pay terribly, and you might find you can't pay off your loans.

Outside of nonprofit jobs that don't pay too well, the field of law, for the most part, is very bad at the work-home balance. My husband has a pretty ''cushy'' job compared to his other lawyer friends (but makes much less), and he still needs to bill 2000 hours and we still have a very hard time managing the house, time with the kids, spouse time, etc. I'm a SAHM, I don't know what kind of work your husband does, or if he'd plan on staying home.

I don't know about USF specifically, but the pedigree of your school counts A LOT. Second to that, it matters quite a bit where you rank in relation to your classmates. Not to say that you shouldn't follow your dreams if this is what you want, but go into it with your eyes open. It is great that your husband is so supportive, but I think you'll need much more. You'll need grandparents, friends, lots more, as well as taking a good hard look at what kind of role you'll have as a mother. Good luck! jisun

What practice area do you want to work in? I would recommend working as a paralegal or other support position in a law firm to see what the lifestyle is like, first- hand.

Generally, going to law school will put you in a big financial hole unless you work at a big firm doing corporate work when you graduate. So it's not a good idea unless you get a lot of financial aid, and by that I mean grants and scholarships, not loans. USF is not a very well- regarded school (sorry!), so you will have trouble finding any type of job after graduating unless you do very very well there. You will not have your choice of jobs unless you graduate in the top 1-5%. I would not recommend going to law school unless you go to a top 20 school. Otherwise, your options are limited. Back when I went to law school you could justify going to a less-well regarded school if it was public, since it was so much cheaper, but now the UCs charge almost as much as Stanford.

To answer your specific questions:

(1) I don't know; I went to law school full-time, before I had kids.

(2) There are no ''part-time'' jobs in law that I know of. I work an 80% schedule, which means I work about 45 hours a week. And it's hard to progress wihout being full-time.

(3) I think I already answered that question, above. I don't think most legal employers care where you went to undergrad. they do care what school you went to, and if it's not a top 5 school what your grades at law school were.

(4) I can't answer your question regarding obtaining loans, but I should warn you that in some states you may not pass the ''moral character'' portion of the bar admission process if you've had financial troubles. You should call the bar association of the state you plan on practicing in and inquire what their standards are.

Sorry to be so discouraging, but it's really not a very glamorous field! -anon lawyer

I totally understand where you are, I also really really wanted to be a lawyer. I became one, and then quit once I had kids, so that gives you some idea of what my answer will be. As for going to law school, once you have kids there really isn't a great time to do that -- it's incredibly demanding and since you brought up the concept of rank (i.e, Ivy League undergrad), you will have to work that much harder at USF to be top of your class since it's not top ranked. I went to Boalt and was not top of my class and had fewer choices than I would have liked as a result, but was better off than friends entering the market from lower ranking schools. Further, I'm sure there are happy lawyer moms who have different experiences, but for me it turned out there was no way to happily practice law and be a happy mom. The hours are brutal and the culture is unforgiving. I was at a firm, which isn't what you're looking to do, but I have friends at nonprofits who feel similarly. I don't have that many friends who are still practicing, or who are happy if they are. The best set-up I've seen is permanent clerking at the appellate level, which you can do part-time but the jobs are scarce. I know what it's like to have this dream and I don't regret the years I practiced law, but I finished law school and practiced for several years before I had kids. Overall I'd say think very carefully because your kids will not see a lot of you, it's just the nature of this particular beast. Good luck! recovering lawyer mama
I went to USF law (graduate 2005) and think its a fantastic law school. It is was not easy, you'll be competing against many very intelligent, talented and motivated people, but as an institution I thought the administration did a good job of being personable to the student, providing a solid education, and providing a nice atmosphere to learn.

I did not have a family in law school, but the year I graduated, one of the women who graduated top in my class had a baby the week of final exams. She was reading her text book in the delivery room! Then she had a second baby in her 3rd year! Other people at USF also had children or were pregnant during their time there, although the vast majority of students don't have kids and are in their mid 20's. To be honest, I don't know how they did it because I barely had time to eat and sleep myself. But they did it, so it is possible.

USF is a pretty well recognized school, especially locally, and certainly you find the graduates of USF in all types of legal jobs in the bay area. Of course top tier school are more prestigious and therefore provide more opportunities, but I have found people to generally have a good opinion of USF. If there is a certain area which your interested, like child welfare, it would be a good idea to ask someone who works in the field about their opinion on schools and hours.

On the negative side, being a lawyer is not a guarantee of financial stability in any way. It is very difficult to find non-profit or government jobs, especially for new law graduates. You may want to look at Craigslist and see what is out there for availability and salaries, you may be very disappointed. One friend who works in a nonprofit fund raises her own salary - she has a passion for the cause so she is OK with it, but she is as wealthy as a starving artist. Similarly, at the moment there are not a lot of legal job in government and considering that the State/country is broke, I don't expect there to many more in the future.

If you have a very strong passion for a certain area of law, then being a lawyer can be rewarding. On the flip slide, when you consider the money, time, energy which is put into being an effective lawyer, there are many easier ways to make money.

Good luck to you!! Sarah

As a bit of introduction: I graduated from law school in '98, and love my job (most days) as an attorney at a mid- sized firm in SF. My son was born in '05. I encourage you to follow your dreams. I can't answer all of your questions, but wanted to share what I could.

The job market now is terrible, but may be (hopefully, will be) different by the time you graduate. It is always very difficult to find a non-profit job. Always. You will need to show dedication to the cause, good grades, etc. I'm not sure about USF's reputation in that respect -- you might try to get information from their career services folks or current employees. But you should know that it's going to be difficult to find that dream job.

It is also very difficult for newly-minted attorneys to find part-time jobs. I know very few attorneys at any level who find part-time, intellectually-stimulating jobs, and don't know any who did it as new grads. (It may depend, too, what you mean by ''part time'' -- I know many more attorneys who work 80% than who work 50% time). You need to remember that most of your competition for jobs as a new grad will be other new attorneys, who will mostly be single, kid-less, and in their mid- to late-20s. Best of luck!

Hi - as a relatively recent law school grad I'd like to offer some of my perspective ... First off, I totally support following your dreams, but try to make sure you're doing it with open eyes. I am NOT a ''miserable'' lawyer (even though I work at a big firm!) but always had this idea that a law degree from a top school would be the ticket to an easy career path of my choosing -- and this has definitely not been the case. It's a super competitive market even in the best of times, which these clearly are not.

That said, I strongly encourage you to go to the best law school you can get into. If that's USF, great, but if you can swing Hastings or Berkeley, you will find your job prospects to open up much more widely. (Sad to say, but lawyers can be kind of snotty about where you went to law school -- even if you have a great undergrad pedigree, they will just question why you ended up outside a top- tier law school). I didn't have kids while I was in school but knew plenty of people at Boalt with small kids who made it work. Studying is certainly time-consuming but very flexible -- you can do it wherever, and get a lot done after the kids are in bed, etc.

Also, wherever you end up applying, make sure to investigate the school's loan forgiveness program. I only know about Boalt's, where if you end up at a nonprofit or gov't job they will help pay off a substantial part of your loans. I'm sure other schools have similar programs - - know what the parameters are and how it can affect your future job choices. And if you're dedicated to seeking employment outside the big firm setting -- it's doable but you have to be MUCH more entrepreneurial than going the ''traditional'' route. You need to apply yourself early to find out who's doing the kind of work you want, network like crazy, and be prepared to wait in uncertainty while your classmates line up their firm jobs in advance of graduation. My friends who ended up in gove't/nonprofits all seem really happy with their choices, but it took a lot of work and anxiety for them to get there. I hope this doesn't all sound negative -- again, I think you should go for it, just make sure you know what you're getting into!! I really had pie-in-the- sky ideas about law school that did not serve me well, but you already sound like you're thinking a lot more about the path in front of you than I did. Good luck! Lawyerette

I am a lawyer (inc. a stint in public interest law), and a mom of 2. I can offer are some harsh insights about this profession. First, despite all the rhetoric about work-life balance and family-friendly firms, this is almost entirely BS. There is a high degree of bias against women with small children in this profession. If you are not already in a secure position when you have kids, it is very difficult to get a part-time/flex/even reasonable-hours position once you are ''older'' and have kids. Even if you are in a secure position, it is very common to have the employers basically write you off after you have kids. And don't think this is limited to private firms. It is equally true in many public interest organizations, which often have dysfunctional, unenlightened, and even misogynistic management.

Now let's talk money. Unless you have a trust fund or a spouse/partner who makes plenty of money, if you are a public interest lawyer in the Bay Area with a family, you will be poor. That would be true even without law school loans, and even more so with a big debt. That debt will dictate many of your choices. Do not underestimate what that will mean. Now let's talk about what it is like to practice law. If you litigate, you will spend your days fighting with the nasty lawyers on the other side. Do you enjoy conflict? And I do not mean elevated, academic writing in an appellate brief; I mean having someone yell at you over the phone or write you an extremely nasty email at 4:45 pm on a Friday afternoon that totally ruins your entire weekend. If not, do not become a litigator. How well do you handle stress? Do you like to work for people who have way more money than you will ever have, and are not nearly as smart or as hardworking as you, but who will treat you like crap? The people who rise to the top in this profession are frequently not very nice. Do you like to spend your days sitting at a computer writing letters and briefs about things that are not very interesting? All of this is to say that you should think about the reality of what it means to be a lawyer on a daily basis, in terms of what you will actually spend your time doing and what your life will be like. There are very real reasons for why many lawyers are miserable; do not let your dream keep you from facing that reality. Best of luck in your decision. Anon

Law School with Young Children?

Aug 2002

My husband, who is 28, is about to finish his undergrad in Spring of 2003. During his college career he has had a career in financial services and is now part owner of a small company, which demands about 60 to 70 hours a week. He has been considering law school for graduate school. We have a 10 month old daughter and would like to have another child soon. Has anyone experienced such an intense grad school experience with a young family? Did one spouse work and support the family while the other spouse attended school? What was the most challenging part? Was it worth it? I would appreciate any advice or insight.

It sounds from your post almost as if your husband feels like he has to go to grad school, so he's choosing law school. The job market for new lawyers is really bad right now, so unless your husband really wants to be a lawyer, and has a specific goal for his law degree, I would hold off, to give you my candid opinion. I think he should try working in a law office as a secretary or paralegal first. Law school is very demanding and family un- friendly, although it's something both of you really want, of course, it can work. But I am compelled to tell you that lots of people go to law school because they want to stay in school, not because they really want to be lawyers, and that is a mistake. A lawyer
My husband is about to enter his third year at Boalt. I had our second child a month before he started law school, so I've been living your query for the last two years. Law school is hell on a marriage, but you can do it. The trick is to have as much knowledge about what's going to happen as possible up front. Your husband will not be able to work a 60-70 hour week and go to law school. You'll need another means of support; savings, student loans, or you. I support our family financially and do most of the child care, which hasn't been easy on our marriage. But here we are, still married. Expect to be a single mom during the school year (and that includes most weekends, too). Email me and I can give you the gory details. Julie T.
Hi, I did the law school thing while raising a very young child. When I entered law school my child was 15 months old. I have to say that it was very difficult at best and I ended up quitting. Not so much because it wasn't doable, but the toll on my child, my husband and myself just didn't seem worth it. Adding to that was the fact that law just wasn't as exciting or intellectually stimulating as I thought it would be. I waited until I had the chance to do some clerking and it was still dull. I went to school all day, and studied for 4-5 hours a night. Needless to say, I only saw my child between 5-8 pm each day. What killed me was I would leave the library at 5pm each day, returning at 10 or 11 to resume studying and the same students would be there but they were packing up to go home and get a good night's rest. While I was just beginning to hit the books they were done for the night. I felt at a real disadvantage. Plus, I was a first time mom and I was in love with my child and law just lost it's luster in comparison. If you can support your husband in the same fashion as it sounds like you've been doing, then he should come out of it successfully. However, you will both have missed alot in terms of your family life. But in the end this sacrifice may be worth it for some, it depends on your situation. There were a few couples with children and even a single mom in my class who made it. But go into it knowing that law is a jealous mistress. Naomi
we had our baby in my husband's 2nd year of law school. my suggestions if you decide to go forward with it are:

1) If he goes to Boalt, live in family student housing. we lived in both the village (pre-baby) and Smyth Fernwald. You then have a built in support network...someone in every family is a student, and every one has a family, so they're all dealing with the same issues. I found the village more community oriented (the courtyards are a great playground), but Smyth Fernwald was a LOT closer to law school. Things have obviously changed, but check out what the community seems to be like now. When we were there, S-F had more grad sudents and the Village more undergrads. S-F has that beautiful track at Clark-kerr, and some apts. have gorgeous views...but I think I'd choose the Village for me, in retrospect.

2) Establish a routine for when he will be with the family. What we did was dedicate 6-9 **every** night to the family. He'd come home, help with dinner prep & bedtime, then go back out and study/work on law journal until 2-3 am. We tried to save one day every weekend also for family time, but that only worked for the first half of the semester...usually, i was on my own on weekends. but having him there EVERY night kept it all together. I actually miss that that he's a lawyer, he comes home much later. And, with him going back out every night, I actually had at least an hour to myself every day.

I did work during this time, and it was the only income (except for summers & loans). We didn't have much money, but i think we both look back fondly to this time. (it was over 7 years ago, so I guess we can count the passing of time as a factor!) We borrowed a fair amount of money, and Boalt actually gave us some very good financial aid. I think tuition may have gone up a lot, but, if your husband wants to work for a big firm, you'll be able to afford to pay all the loans back.

I would also think about whether your husband really wants to me a lawyer. my husband loves his work, but it seems that job satisfaction is low for most lawyers. the hours are very long, and it can be hard finding a satisfying job. Good luck! meghan

Being a Lawyer

Working as a Contract Attorney?

April 2011

I am considering leaving my government attorney job to try to work as a ''contract attorney,'' i.e., as an independent contractor doing legal work. I'm wondering whether others out there are doing this... Do you tend to work for one firm on a contract basis, for several firms, or for a middleman/agency that hooks you up with firms that need short term help on work on a contract-basis? How do you market yourself/find the work? Do you specialize? What is the pay like? Any advice and/or leads appreciated! Working Mom needs change of pace

I stay at home full time with my two year old, and I work for myself doing mainly auto tort and non-profit advising. I love it! I have gotten all my clients from family, friends, moms at the park, etc. I have enough work and have even turned some work down. It's a little scary working for myself, but so worth it to be home. Marie
Two years ago, I transitioned to being an 'of counsel' attorney from my career as a government attorney. It has worked well so far. I networked briefly with firms that already were in my practice area and/or outside counsel for my local government. Some things to consider: 1) you will get the best compensation for 'contract' work if you make a deal directly with a firm - not a service, so think about what contacts you have or can make; 2) it helps to have a specialty which appeals to certain firms, and 3) if you can take any cases or projects with you, and bill as an outside counsel, that makes you a more attractive option to firms.

A cautionary note: while you can make better $$ in private practice (I have), it is quite nerve-wracking not to have a guaranteed paycheck or paid benefits Think positive! Still Thriving

Transitioning to an estate planning attorney

Aug 2010

Questions for estate planning attorneys: I'm a former trial attorney who contemplates a new practice in estate planning. Some practitioners advise that I need to take at least income tax and estate gift tax courses to have the sufficient knowledge prior to start this area of practice. My issue is whether I can gain this knowledge from CLE or similar type of education (i.e. paid subscription to certain programs); OR I do need to head back to take those classes from law school. Any recommedations would be greatly appreciated. anon.

You absolutely want to take the classes through CLE - the bar regularly offers a basics course and then you can go to the more advanced stuff from there... classes in law school are great theory but have little to nothing to do with real estate planning in california Maggie
I am in a very similar situation as you are, as I am a property lawyer trying to transition to wills and trusts. I will read the other responses with interest. I did a lot of informational interviews, which might be best for you as well. Although your not required to do additional education to practice this area of law, most of the younger wills and trust lawyers whom I spoke with get an LLM in taxation. Golden Gate University has the best (possibly the only) LLM program in taxation in the bay area. Otherwise nothing is stopping you from just going out on your own, I have spoken to people who have done it, but its scary and such people often networked to find a group of attorney of whom they can ask questions when needed and its often helpful if you have rich friends or know Estate Planners to build your client base. The MCLE courses are helpful, but if you don't know the basics, they can be tough to understand (atleast in my experience).

Will and trust litigation seems to be a hot area these days, if your not totally trying to get away from the litigation aspect of the work, that maybe an easier transition for you. Good luck ANON

Decision to become a law partner

May 2005

The law firm where I have worked for 5 years just informed me that in June, the partners will consider me for partnership in the law firm. I have no doubt that I will be offered partnership. I like my co-workers, clients and the kind of law that I practice, but the firm seems like it is in financial disarray and there are lots of reorganization plans that I have no information about (as a mere associate). I don't want to leave (or be a stay-at-home mom), but I do not even know the factors I should be considering while I weigh this decision. Has anyone else out there faced this question and thought it through like this? Up until this point, I thought this would be a straightforward decision, but now that I face it, I do not feel like I have the tools to think about it. My husband is supportive of whatever I want, but has not faced this himself, so really just listens well more than anything. Any thoughts? Thanks a lot.

Law partnerships and criteria vary pretty widely. Here's my 2 cents.

1. You typically have a period of time, after you make partner, to decide whether you will buy in. Accordingly, you do not have to make this decision right away and certainly not before you get the proverbial tap, punch, nod, or whatever they call it at your firm. Don't make yourself crazy over-thinking it now.

2. At the time you are tapped, you should ask the managing team a series of questions, including a) the price of the buy-in b) whether the firm provides financing for it; c) whether the firm will buy you out if you're unhappy, and if so, at what rate; d)whether there are part-time options; e)what your business development commitment will be; f) what the firm's commitment to you is if you don't produce.

3. There are other issues. For instance, as a partner, you may have to pay for your own insurance, your own office furniture, and your own membership fees. Make sure you know the ''real'' financial cost of a partnership.

4. You mention that the firm may have some problems. At the point at which you make partner, ask firm questions. They're not going to take away your offer to join if you do, and it will force them to come clean. If your spidey sense tingles when you hear the responses, consider it a red flag.

5. In addition to financial costs, consider the other things you may be giving up. Your fellow partners' lives will likely give you some insight into your life as a partner. Do they see their kids? Do they work late? Do the associates have more fun?

6. Ask about ''of counsel'' or ''special counsel'' positions if you don't know about them. Explore whether that's a good route for you.

7. Some people thrive as partners. They like the prestige, the responsibility, the chance to create business opportunities. Others do not for very good reasons. They'd rather focus on legal work and not administrative responsibilites; they do not like to do business development; they do not want to devote more time to their career than they already do. Taking on or not taking on the title and the responsibility does not make you a better lawyer.

Keep in mind there is life after turning down a partnership. You can join another firm (Big or small); go in-house, or hang out a shingle. I was with a 600+ law firm, moved in-house, and am now part of a progressive small partnership of women. I have loved each for different reasons. You're probably a decent attorney if you have come far enough to make partner.... Use your legal skills to gather up as much information as you can both about yourself and the firm, and then make your move. Whatever you decide will be the right move.

Good luck and congratulations. T. (partner)

Resuming Law after Time Off for Kids

Finding a research job in a law firm

Aug 2003

I am looking for part-time work and have some experience in a law office, plus a law degree. I know too much to be a file clerk, and not enough to be a litigation secretary. I am best at research, and the ideal would be a clerking job. I am simultaneously pursing a writing degree at Mills. I have been out of the work force for many years, although I have some recent experience and references. Has anyone out there done something like this? I am getting no response to every job I apply for on craigslist. The attorneys I know have not been able to help. Does anyone have any suggestions? There are so few openings, and every job seems to have its own track the anon

Consider working for an attorney services or investigator firm (which tend to have more part timers) rather than a law firm.

Or what about a law library? (I believe most public and university libraries look for library science degrees, but some large law firms hire people with legal research experience for their in-house libraries.)

When searching listings, law firm and service company job titles to look for: paralegal, legal assistant, investigator, research associate/specialist/assistant, and even service representative or account representative.
Real estate law paralegal

Returning to law after 4 years at home

March 2002

I have been a stay-at-home mom for the last four-plus years and now I am looking to return to the workforce full-time. I became pregnant with my child during my last semester of law school (I am now licensed to practice law in CA) and have been a stay-at-home mom since. My child is now four and due to my impending divorce, I have to return to the workforce. I studied corporate and securities law while in law school and I would like to ''start'' my full-time legal career in that area of law. My problem is this. I have been looking full-time for an attorney position since September. The legal market is extremely tight and I am having no luck whatsoever in my search for an attorney position. I am assuming that the combination of my lack of experience, the time gap between my graduation from grad school till present, my decision to stay home with my child, and the tight legal market have put me at a severe disadvantage as I compete with other candidates. I am feeling extremely discouraged - no - at this point I am really depressed about this situation. My financial situation is critical and I need a job ASAP. Has anyone gone through a similar situation? I am looking for words of encouragement, creative ideas, and/or connections with people who have been in my shoes. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

To: Trouble Finding Work..... Before becoming a ''stay-at-home-mom'' myself, I completed my masters degree in psychology specializing in life transitions. For two years I interned at Golden Gate University Law School working with attorneys who were returning to the workforce after an absense, as well as those just entering law after a transition from a previous career. Although I've now been home for almost 2 years with my daughter, and may be a bit rusty, I would be happy to talk with you and share whatever insights I can.
One thing to try. My best friend is an attorney who practiced in Colorado for a few years and then moved back to California but is not licensed here. She took a job with a law firm in SF as a legal assistant/paralegal type. If she passes the BAR, they will move her into an attorney position. I know she isn't making as much money as a full attorney but apparently she is doing pretty well and she actually appreciates that the pressure is not as much as the attorneys. Her biggest problem is that the attorneys keep trying to give her attorney-level work when she is not legally supposed to be doing that and is not compensated for same. Keep trying and be willing to step back to an ''entry-level'' position - you'll get your foot in the door. Barbara
Hello Legal Mom, I can not address the areas of corporate and securities law, but I can address the issue of your difficulty finding an attorney position. Corporate Recruiters are paid to find people with experience, newspaper ads are often only there to meet EEOC reqs, and if your personal network were deep and wide enough you would not be writing to this list. Thus standard ways are out. Internet searches ? A little better, but with so many others trying this, you have a lot of competition. Time for a paradigm shift. Use your contacts with local attorneys and your Alumnae Association to find out what value your skills have. You might be able to develop a professional looking letter to send out to other attorneys stating valuable skills and ask for overflow/research work. The word ''spam'' comes to mind, but you need the odds to be in your favor. Be honest about your skills and you have good shot. The socond place to look is big, solid companies like Chiron, Bayer, Clorox. Again this is dependent on being able to show skills, but there are openings that come up. AND don't wait to see something show up in the paper or on the net. Finding the name of the Chief Legal Council of any major local Corp is easy. And contacting them, by mail, with a telephone follow-up takes more psychological energy than physical. Good Luck, jon
Although I have not had to look for work after a stay-at-home stint, I am an attorney and have some ideas for your job search. First, as you mentioned, the tight economy has been hard on Bay Area law firms and, in particular, on the corporate and securities departments of those firms. Most big firms have laid off many attorneys so you are competing with more experienced folks who don't have the stay-at-home stigma to contend with. Ok, now that we have admitted that there is a stigma (especially at big law firms)what can you do? I would suggest trying smaller firms and government agencies. Because these kinds of employers don't necessarily hire junior attorneys from name schools and through their summer programs, they are sometimes easier for a non-cookie cutter applicant to be hired. Also, my experience is that they have more family friendly hours and may be less likely to rule you out immediately based on a perception that you would not be able to work the insane hours typically required by bigger firms. If you have not already, I would also suggest that you try firms outside SF. I often see ads for Pleasanton, Walnut Creek, Marin and other suburban locations. Finally, if you really need a job you might want to take a paralegal position. I know of attorney paralegals who have eventually moved up to attorney positions within the same firm. At the very least, you would be earning money and learning skills that you will need to be an attorney. Good luck with your job search. Andrea
I am not a lawyer, but I worked as a legal temp when I first moved to the Bay Area. I worked at a very large law firm in San Franscisco and many of the paralegals there were people like you who were licensed to practice in CA, but they could not find employment as lawyers. Applying for a paralegal position is a place to start. Many of my lawyer/paralegal friends got comfy with the money in their positions as paralegals and never went on to practice law, but I'm sure you could get your career jumpstarted from this position. Some were eagar to practice and told me that they couldn't remain paralegals for long because it would ruin their resumes for getting positions as lawyers. If I were you, I'd go to Certified Personnel, a temporary agency in SF. They have an office devoted strictly to providing temporary help to HUGE law firms. Once you get a temp job, start applying for legal positions and getting to know the attorneys. If they like you and your work, they can help you make contacts in the field. As a single working mom myself, I commend you for choosing to stay home with your baby when you did. Sadly, our society does not reward women for the sacrifices we make from our careers for our children. If we don't stay home, who will? Some dads do, but most don't. You can get to the top in legal. You just have to start a little lower than you expected. I'm in your corner! Hopefully, one of the women who has read your post has a connection that can help you start out as a lawyer rather than a legal assistant or paralegal. I wish I knew someone. Christina
My heart goes out to you. It sounds like you're in a very difficult situation. Don't give up - there are legal jobs out there. It may take you a little longer to find a job, however, given your lack of experience. I am an attorney and a mom who started my career as a corporate/securities lawyer at a big firm. If you are having difficulty locating a position in this area, maybe you should consider other areas of specialization. From experience, I can say that the corporate/securities field tends to be very male-dominated, very aggressive, status-oriented and stressful, with a lot of value given to those who make their jobs their lives. The hours tend to be VERY long; meaning its not uncommon and in fact, is expected that you work all night or practically all night on a fairly regular basis. From my observation, most of the successful attorneys in this field are either single, about to get divorced and/or have a spouse who is the primary home-maker and care-giver. I found this type of work and the expectations it carried incompatible with my emotional and physical well-being even though I was single and childless at the time.

I suggest that you do some research and find a field of law that is more compatible with your status as an about to become single mom. Some ideas that come to mind are estate-planning, transactional real estate or transactional (non-securities) general business law. Also, if you live in the East Bay, you might want to consider options on this side of the Bridge. The commute alone to S.F. can be very time-consuming and stressful.

As for finding a job, be very open and flexible and adjust your expectations. If you can't find a full-time job with a ''status'' firm, try to locate a job with a smaller firm or a solo practitioner. If you can't find a full-time job immediately, try to find a part-time job or several parat-time jobs with smaller firms or solos. And if you are unable to find a job as a traditional associate, you could start as a law clerk/paralegal and then hopefully acquire some experience and contacts.

As for networking, you should exhaust every opportunity. Call all of your friends and acquaintances and let them know you are looking. Your law school alumni office should know about networking possibilities as well as have other resources for job hunting. You could also call headhunters or firms that specialize in placing contract workers (you can find their numbers in The Recorder) and ask them how you might be able to make yourself more marketable.

You could try ''informational'' interviewing, whereby you call an attorney (preferably after an introduction) and ask to meet with that person for the purpose of learning more about their practice, rather than asking for a job. You should also join a local bar association and start going to bar events and training programs. Most local bar associations have a young lawyers division. You could volunteer for the bar association's pro bono projects. This would allow you to hone your legal skills as well as make contact with other lawyers. (Many attorneys who volunteer their time are in private practice in other fields.)

Finally, there are several support groups out there for people (particulaly women) who are trying to re-enter the job force. There used to be an organization called Alumnae Resources in S.F. that was focused on women's issues. Also, the Berkeley Parents' Network has groups for parents in career transition. You may be able to find other organizations geared especially to lawyers in the Recorder or other legal publications.

Above all, be realistic and don't get too discouraged. Potential legal employers will not be interested in candidates who appear insecure or less than enthusiastic. Legal jobs are out there to be had; you'll just need to focus your efforts on a lot of different fronts until something comes up. GOOD LUCK!! Another Lawyer-Mom

Have you considered/tried public service? Government practice? I am certain you will find much much less prejudice regarding your choice to have taken time off for your child, and much easier entry, and much more satisfying work and training in the immediate term, in public practice. You will also find fabulous benefits, long term (health, retirement, pre-tax child-care funds, etc.), but of course, much lower salaries. Even if you would like to remain committed to your long-terms goals, as you've stated them, you could get a few years experience and training in government practice and then move to the private sector much more easily and with probably more choices, than you can now. Other things to consider while your child is still small: government employers are considered more family friendly than the private sector, much more reasonable hours, flexibility, etc, which, in my view, are way worth the salary differential when your kids are small. Consider state/federal agencies if you want a more ''in-house'' practice. Check State Attorney General/City Attorney/County Counsel offices, if you want more of a litigation practice. Check the web sites for current positions. Fed gov agencies (e.g., Securities & Exchange Commission, HUD, EPA, you name it, mostly in S.F.; IRS in Oakland) Cal. agencies (even tho Cal is currently in a ''hiring freeze,'' due to budget crisis, there are exceptions), check State of Cal. homepage for links to most state agencies, and agency positions available (don't be intimidated by ''exam'' procedure, it's just a resume collection and ranking device). Even if it's not what you want to do ultimately, consider it a stepping stone, with the added benefit that you might just it interesting for awhile as well. City attorneys offices seem to post opeining routinely in the legal papers, but I know that the State does not always do so. The web pages should have the complete listings of openings. Good luck! raissa

Changing to a Different career after Law

What do I do with my law degree?

June 2012

Hello, I am an out of work lawyer and a mom. Other than volunteering twice a week at a legal services organization for the last year and a a half, I've been happily at home with son since he was born almost 3 years ago. For the last few months I've been trying to go back to work for real, but haven't seemed to find anything. I feel like my resume is pretty decent - my degree is from a top law school, I spent two years at a firm and also have some government and public interest experience. And I feel like I've cast a pretty wide net - I'll go contract or full-time, public or private, almost anything that sounds reasonably interesting, pays for childcare and a little more, and will get me home for dinner most nights (so, no big firms). But either my experience is too limited or I don't speak a foreign language or I've been out of the picture too long for anyone to give me a serious look. To be honest, I never loved being a lawyer. Often, I didn't even really like it. So it makes sense to me to think seriously about doing something else with my life, especially since I would love to have another baby in the near future. But I really don't know what people do with their JDs if not practice law. I would be really interested to hear what people have done after they left the law. Did you end up in a job that credited your degree and the skills you developed as a lawyer? How did you get that job? Are you happier now than you were when you were practicing? Thank you! Why Did I Go to Law School???

I am a lawyer who hasn't practiced in a very long time. I work for a nonprofit, and I love it. I have a lot of friends from law school who are doing all kinds of things -- research attorneys in the courts, teaching, nonprofits, government (non-legal), foundations. I probably know more lawyers who are not practicing than who are practicing, and for most of them it has been their choice to pursue another path.

A law degree (especially one from a top school, like you have) is generally a plus on your resume. Employers understand the rigor of the education and appreciate the writing skills and logic that are developed.

It's a very tough job market in the legal world. The economic model is changing, firms are letting go of both associates and partners, and there are a lot of people looking for work. So don't feel bad about not being able to find something in law. Best wishes in your expanded pursuits. Once a Lawyer

You might want to look into the field of mediation/conflict resolution. I have a good friend who was a lawyer (public defender) for 10 years, went back to school for her MA in dance therapy, had a baby, and then ended up working now in conflict resolution because she couldn't find a job in dance therapy in the city where she lives. I think she is enjoying the work and finds the hours work well with family life, and it uses her law degree and counseling skills. just a thought
I have a good friend who decided working for a law firm wasn't for her. She started doing mediation for divorcing couples and likes it pretty well. She has her own company now, more business than she can handle, but sets her own hours so she can spend time with her preschool aged daughter.

I've always thought that doing mediation for families who have to deal with an aging parent would also be a good business (since I'm sure our family will need that at some point and I haven't heard of anyone doing it). Anon

I would suggest looking into Insurance. Most insurance companies and Brokers hire people with law degrees for various roles. As you can imagine, the hours are family friendly and while you may not see the same salary as a law associate, the quality of life is much better. Feel free to email me if you'd like to bounce ideas. B
I totally relate to your post. I practiced law for a few years, didn't really like it, then pursued another career path which I love but which does not allow me to earn any significant income. Now I'm home with a 9 month old, and I love that, too, but I want to be back in the workforce when he goes to school.

There are things to do with a law degree besides practice law. Check out this article: and maybe read a few books about alternative careers for lawyers.

Or if you DON'T feel strongly about using your law degree, you can think about a total career change. I liked the book The Unhappy Lawyer: A Roadmap to Finding Meaningful Work Outside of the Law. It is geared toward readers who are currently practicing law, but I think it has valuable advice for everyone.

My current plan is to try to get into legal writing (like for Nolo Press or a legal publication). It might be worth it to sit down with a good career coach to help brainstorm options. Good luck! There are lots of us out here!

Advocacy job for former attorney

March 2005

I am the parent of two grade-school aged kids who was a lawyer before I became a parent. I left my last attorney job nearly 8 years ago after a series of disputes with my employer made it clear to me that I would be expected to put my job first--over and above my new role as a mom, which was unacceptable to me. Since then I have been resolute about not returning to the legal profession. I am not interested in being a trial lawyer, a corporate or non-profit lawyer, or a brief-writer. I taken temp teaching jobs and have flirted with the idea of going back to grad school. What I would really like is a job where I can still be an advocate. I want something that involves the process of standing up for people who have been injured, abused, etc. I am just not sure where to begin. Does anyone know of any advocacy work that I could do without being a practicing attorney? advocate-at-heart

Check out CASA, Court appointed special advocates. They run trainings on a regular basis. You will follow a child in the court system and serve as his/her advocate. You can look them up on the web using ''CASA.'' Another group that I once volunteered for is Legal Assistance for Seniors (LAS). They are great folks too. Good luck! anon
I am unclear from your message whether or not you want paying work or simply a connection to your passion for advocacy. If it is the latter, then there are countless non-profit agencies in the Bay Area that would be elated to have an energized and active board member to get involved in their cause (I should know, I'm an ED of a local non-profit in need of qualified board members). If I were you, I would think about what issues are passionate to you and to do some research on local agencies. Check Craigslist for non-profit jobs or go to their Foundation link to see if they have a list of non-profits by issue. There is also the Volunteer Legal Services Program of the SF Bar that has an amazing volunteer attorney program - you could take pro bono cases and get your advocacy heart filled easily that way as well! Good on you!!

Inactive Attorney Wants to Dump Bar License

Nov 2004

I have been an inactive member of the California Bar for almost ten years and I am never going to practice law. I'm tired of paying $50 a year for a license I don't use or need. I can think of a lot better uses for the money. Can I ask to be removed from the bar? Or is this a life sentence? Bar-b-Gone

You can resign from the State Bar. The option to pay for an inactive license is so that if you ever return to practicing law (I know you said you have not practiced for 10 years)you can regain full status (return to active enrollment) without having to go through a reinstatement proceeding. There is a form at the state bar for what is called ''resignation without charges pending.'' Be aware that to get your license back after resignation you will have to go through reinstatement procedures. Check out the state bar website for more information and forms. anonymous
You may ''resign'' from the bar. Go to for details. You can also call the state bar for the information. It's a simple procedure. That said, you should really think about whether you want to resign. You never know when a job might want you to reactivate, or when you might want to revisit this at a later stage in life. lawyer chick
All you have to do is resign. Of course, if you were ever to change your mind, you'd have to take the bar exam again.