Career in Law

Parent Q&A

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  • I worked hard most of my life, went to a good law school and have been working at a Big Law law firm for many years.  I am not a partner, merely a senior associate and my firm at this point knows I am not interested in being a partner. Even though I am "part-time" for a law firm (which is like full time for a regular job), the work brings me a lot of stress and unhappiness as I find a great amount of pleasure being around my kids.  It is so important to me to be the one picking them up and dropping them off, and just spending time with them after school.  I have a one year old and three year old.  I don't want to miss out on these moments.  Every mom I have spoken to in my large law firm outsources everything - they either have an au pair or full time nanny; but I don't want that.  I want to be the one with my kids.

    The two reasons I haven't quit at this point is because (1) I live in the Bay Area, and costs are high, and we wouldn't survive on one salary; and (2) a lot of older mothers tell me not to let go of all my hard work to get to my career because in a decade, my kids will have their own lives.

    What a dilemma for women!  I wish I loved my career so much, and I would be happy to outsource the hard parts of parenting.  But, for me, the moment I had kids, my love for my career really disappeared.  It is now a means to an end.  I am really struggling with how to manage life.  

    Does anyone have advice?  I know everyone has a different perspective on what makes for a good life.  For me that is being with my kids, but maintaining a (part-time?) job that pays decently well.  I was considering starting my own practice so I can work on my terms, but the beginning years also requires a lot of time investment and that is the time I want to spend with my kids.  I was considering changing fields within the law, but again worry that it would require a lot of upfront investment.

    Any lawyer moms out there with advice?

    In house counsel for local govt? You might be able to negotiate a full time job down to 60%. I know that my employer (a large Bay Area county) is having trouble hiring attorneys because the pay is lower than private practice; however, I think work-life balance is better for someone in your situation. At large government agencies, there are legal specialists in lots of sub-fields so it could be worth exploring.

    Hi there,

    I am a full-time lawyer mom and a partner of a boutique firm. My own parents were absent due to their demanding jobs, and I was raised mostly by nannies and grandparents. I vowed that I would be as present as possible for my child. It’s not easy. A wise friend once told me that it’s impossible to be a great mom and a great lawyer at the exactly same time and it’s ok to feel you are not excelling in both. Knowing what your minimum income requirement is would be helpful. I am the primary earner so I have to work full time. I wonder if you might be able to consider a part time for a smaller / more family friendly firm or move into a non-practicing area. A part time job should be part time. I hate the oppressive hours of being a lawyer and it is a very stressful job. But compared to big law attorneys, I feel that I have been able to manage a decent work-life balance and have been able to prioritize family during these precious years, being at the firm where we are trying to build a truly family friendly work culture, and I have weekly therapy with a former big law attorney who became a therapist, occasional executive coach sessions, and a village of friends who are my tribe in the Bay Area. Please reach out to me. I, too, have many days when I feel that I can’t do this anymore but I continue to soldier on and I strongly believe that working moms like us must own motherhood and career and try our best to normalize parenting and family life as part of work life and that work life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I also believe that people should not be measured by an arbitrary timetable of career trajectory. You got this, mama!

    Feel free to contact me offline and we can chat.  I left Big Law 16 years ago when I had a toddler and went in-house to a position 10 minutes from home.  Haven't regretted the decision.  Work life balance is 1000x better. It completely depends on the in-house situation though, as some companies are more suitable than others for working moms.  There are strong networks of women in house attorneys and I recommend trying to stay in the law if possible, to keep all options open for the future and to maintain a salary.

    Former big law lawyer and mom as well. For me personally, it was not sustainable, neither as a big law attorney or even an attorney at a small boutique law firm (where all partners were also parents). As a litigator, no matter what kind of flex schedule I had, there would always be times where my job needed 100+% of my time and attention (filings, deadlines, emergency hearings, TROs, trials, you name it). I'd imagine the same would be true for a transactional attorney negotiating deals. Even in my small firm, although most days it was better, there were always crunch times that required all hands on deck. At a small firm you generally also have less administrative support, so that also meant less of an ability to rely on paralegals and other staff. I moved in house at a medium-sized tech company and it has made a world of difference. As an in house attorney there are never fire drills, no random arbitrary deadlines, my schedule is my own, and I truly have a work-life balance. And, I've been pleasantly surprised by how challenging and interesting the work is. I am able to do all pick ups and drop offs and be there for important events for my kids. Very happy I made this choice. 

    I agree with the other posts suggesting either government, in-house, or smaller firm work. I have a friend who joined a solo practitioner and will eventually be taking over the practice, but has found a good work-life balance meanwhile. I myself quit big law when my first child was 2 and I was having trouble getting pregnant again. The stress of the job (and you're not kidding about the hours) wasn't worth sacrificing family. I was so done with law at that time that I got my real estate brokers' license (very easy if you're a lawyer - you just take a test) and did real estate for a bit, then bought a small property management company and did that for years until my kids were older. I'm back at a law firm now but doing an unconventional job (no clients). My situation now is pretty unique and not really replicable, but I do know people who re-entered law for traditional work after several years. I also think your thought about changing practice areas is worth exploring. If I had to do it again, I'd choose an area like estate planning, as it seems the most work-life balance friendly. Good luck, you're in a lot of good company.

    Another option along the lines of the suggestion that you look into positions as counsel for a local government. The state appellate courts are a great fit for lawyer moms. I was the director of the criminal central staff at the state supreme court for 29 years [now retired], and I can assure you that we had a family-friendly philosophy that allowed flexible hours and remote work even before the pandemic led remote work pretty much across the board. Job listings can be found here:  https://www.courts.ca.gov/careers.htm?rdeLocaleAttr=en

    Not a lawyer, but I strongly relate to the experience of having my interest in a challenging career just drop to basically zero.  (In my case the kid was only one factor -- general burnout, family health issues, and a whole bunch more.) My solution was to leave a low-paid challenging career for a less stressful, more flexible, higher paid job.  Sounds like you can't get all three, and it's a real testament to my previous career that I could get something better on all three axes.  I specifically want to address the question of whether you should stick with your career even if it means missing other things that are important to you.  

    1) It's true that kids grow up, and it's important to keep in mind that you want to have other meaningful things in your life.  But -- keep that in mind for the long game.  There are lots of ways to approach that, from a significant hobby to switching to a new career that gives you more space and time to keeping your hand in a little bit so that you have the option to ramp the career back up when your kids are less available.  

    2) I don't want to be morbid, but all we have is this present moment.  Nothing about the future is guaranteed.  If you are confident about what makes your life good now, it's ok to prioritize that.  

    3) At the same time, keep the risk of divorce, death, and disability in mind.  Having the option to return to or ramp up a career is extremely valuable as risk mitigation, not just for the income it might provide now.  

    In my household, we're managing these competing priorities as follows: my partner is doing childcare full time while also taking a couple of classes to transition careers.  She won't work much until we're ready to send our kid to preschool, at which point she'll be able to finish her program and start working.  This means that if we hit a major obstacle, she has options to accelerate that process and begin earning income sooner.  Even if we paid for childcare, we'd have more money with her working, but it would be more stressful and we both value the time she's getting with our kid.

    I'll let other folks with more knowledge about legal careers speak to that -- I do think that working part time during early childhood can be a great way of mitigating the risk of fully stepping out of your career.  Think about how much you can simplify your lives to support what actually works for you.  

    Hi, I really feel for you.

    I don't know what kind of law you practice, but maybe in-house counsel at a company that values their employee's work-life balance could be an opportunity? I'm not a lawyer, but I have a corporate job in marketing for a huge retailer. I work really closely with our in-house legal team, all of whom are moms. Our company works hard to prioritize its people's well-being and work-life balance, and I believe that extends to our lawyers, too! 

    I was in the exact same position and kept my job and outsourced after school care. While that decision worked out financially, it was not in my child's best interest. Kids are at school way too long these days. Imagine having to be on your best behavior around your peers from 8-6 every day. and then coming home and doing homework. I know that my child would be doing better now if we had been able to come home after school, have a rest and a snack, and then calmly do homework. My child was so stressed out by his schedule and all the activities I made him do, a calmer life with fewer commitments would have been a lot better for him. If you can't swing a part time schedule in the bay I'd consider moving. Who cares about your big law career other than your bank account? From my point of view, the most important job I have is raising a happy, healthy child and I feel like I blew it because I was at work after school instead of being with a child who needed me. You know the right answer, now you just need to figure out how to make it work financially. 

    Not just a dilemma for women, but us dads too.   I was a big law attorney for about 9 years and once I hit that Senior Counsel level it was pretty clear to me I didn't want to be a law firm partner and probably wouldn't have excelled at bringing in business anyway.  This was all before kids, but around the time we were trying.  I ended up going in-house and I can't recommend it enough.  While I have my busy days/weeks/months, my standard working hours are 8:30am-4:30pm and no weekends or nights.  I took an initial pay cut of about 20%, but now I make more than I ever made as a law firm associate (and more than many junior partners). If you can get a job at a tech company with equity as part of your pay, it's not uncommon to start out with total compensation between $300-400k per year.

    The hardest part is getting a job in-house.  You didn't mention your speciality, but it'll be easier if you have something in demand - commercial contracts, privacy, payments, IP, and probably a few other areas.  I was a litigator, but had handled cases for tech companies and some other relevant industries, which allowed me to craft a narrative around why I was a good fit.  I went to a non-litigation role (called Product Counsel - essentially a generalist, which as a litigator worked well because I often had to learn new areas of law).  Think about the roles you want and how you will create a story told through your resume and your interview about why you are a good fit.  To get that first job, I leaned heavily on my network and asked friends and friends of friends to submit me for roles at their companies.  It took about 1.5 years to find a job and many many resumes.  Once I got my first in-house job, recruiters started contacting me every week about other jobs.  If you can get into a brand-name tech company, that just accelerates.  But, those companies generally want to hire people from their peer companies, not law firms or otherwise, so you need to convince them to take a chance on you.  

    As others have said, county/city gov't is an option that some people enjoy and often comes with a pension.  You can generally look up pay online.  The SF city attorneys at a senior individual contributor level make around $200k.  

    First off, I hear you and you are not alone.  I was in Big Law, and while they were interested in me being on partner track, I was not.  After some soul searching and considering not practicing anymore, I moved into federal government work.  My kids are only slightly older than yours.   My husband or I want to do the school drop offs and the pick ups, and go to sports practices.  Almost all the attorneys here have kids, and almost all WFH most of the days and adjust around their pickups/school holidays.  And the lawyers here are happy (every job has some downsides but we take the downsides in stride becuase there is so much good).  As a commenter above stated, I think it's important to know what your income requirement is as i think government work can provide some of the flexibility that it sounds like you want but it will be an income hit.  It's also okay to take some time off if that is what your heart desires.  I do fully cosign that it's so important to find your tribe that supports your thinking, can provide suggestions and ideas, and understands these challenges/balances.  My only two suggestions are: first, try reaching out to like-minded folks.  I am happy to talk to you about ideas, as is the other poster.  Most great jobs are found through connections.  There is a tribe of mom lawyers who are willing to help you.  And second, if your heart desires to take a break, listen to it too.    

    I have been working from home as an attorney for the past 18 years doing court appointed criminal appeals for the appellate "panel" system. I love my work. If you feel passionate about representing poor people who have been convicted of crimes, you may want to look into becoming a court appointed panel lawyer. The agency for the Bay Area counties is called FDAP. You can look at their web site for information on training and how to become a panel lawyer. The pay is not great but it is very interesting and rewarding work. 

    My agency is hiring (application due 7/29!), and though I don't work in the Legal division I know at least one lawyer there who has young kids and doesn't seem frazzled, and the agency overall has great work-life balance (up to 100% remote though must live in the Bay Area; 9-80 schedules). Having switched over from the private sector, the difference is like night and day. See: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/baaqmd/jobs/3546924/assistant-cou...

    I highly recommend looking at jobs in the California Attorney General's Office if the pay is enough for you. The work-life balance is generally very good, and your managers may be open to your working reduced hours if needed. There are a lot of different sections hiring now, so you could probably get in and do the type of work that interests you most (consumer, environment, licensing, torts, trusts, etc). 

    Hello!  I also worked in Big Law for 10+ years before switching over to work for the federal government.  (I have a preschooler and a kindergartner and made the switch about a year before my first kiddo was born.)  Depending on your practice area, there are definitely jobs in the government that can give you much more flexibility and work/life balance.  The pay is significantly less, of course, but it is worth it to me personally.  Also, if you ever want to go back to the private sector your experiences/skill set are often transferable/invaluable.  Feel free to reach out to me if you want to chat more.

    Hi - I’m not a lawyer, but I am an older mom who struggled with fertility issues. When I finally had my son, I quit for 5 years to enjoy every minute. And I did. Then I went back to very p/t work (hard to do as an attorney, I know) … He’s now 16 and while I have much more free time during school hours, I will just say that they need you more than ever as teens. They’re busy and stressed. You can still really help, if you love it as I do. All that said - my career took a major hit and it will never fully recover. So I have some mixed feelings. One of my close friends who was 2nd in her class at Boalt and had a big law job, quit 100% to raise 3 kids and only returned to work when the last one left home. So like 25 years not practicing. But - she launched a nonprofit when they were young. A mellow one. She wasn’t paid, but over the years it gained a presence. When she returned to work she walked right into an executive director role at a well known Bay Area nonprofit (not a huge one) and then moved on to be on the leadership team of a much larger nonprofit. She’s doing fine, but while her jobs are quite big, she isn’t earning all that much. Fwiw.

    Your post and your questions really resonated with me. I'm also a lawyer who has worked hard my whole life, went to good schools, and landed a job at a prestigious large law firm. Then I had a baby, and suddenly I cared significantly less about my job. As in, I wanted the mental stimulation and the paycheck, but any minimal interest I had had in making partner or in "advancing my career" completely vanished. 

    I will say I think a lot of unhappiness in BigLaw probably comes from minimum billable hour requirements. Even if those are reduced for "part time" lawyers, they're still always hanging over your head. I'm now in a non-partner-track role at a large law firm (not the same one I was at before having a baby), but I have no billable hour expectations and I'm paid by the hour. This gives me the freedom to basically work as much or as little as I want--within the parameters of the demands of litigation, of course. I typically work about 30-35 hours a week, which I find gives me enough time to enjoy my family while also covering the bills. We aren't rich, at all, but we are comfortable enough and we are able to take vacations and long weekends to travel and spend time together. Since Covid hit I have been working remotely full-time. I see my job as a job, not my life. And I generally enjoy my work and my colleagues. All of this is to say, there are arrangements out there, even in BigLaw, that can help you strike that elusive balance. I can't stop working altogether because we couldn't make it on just my husband's salary (plus I think I would go stir-crazy), but this arrangement works for me right now. Things may change in a few years. 

    I also know a few people who have found jobs in the courts (as research attorneys, e.g.), who are very happy and have good work-life balance. These are still full-time roles, so may not be ideal for you right now. I think you're right about the investment needed up front if you do decide to switch fields or open your own practice. And things will probably be different once your kids are in school. Is it possible to take a short pause so you can be with your kids while they're so young? Even just a few months, or a year? You can get back in to the market after time off, trust me, I've done it! 

    Whatever you decide, best of luck to you as you figure out what works best for you and your family! 

    I feel your post very hard.  I've been practicing for 15 years - 6 years in big law, and 9 years in-house.  My 2 in-house positions have been just has demanding if not more than my law firm time.  I often wish(ed) that I could quit my job and stay at home with my 3 kids (now 9, 7, 5), but at this point I realize that it's not going to be financially feasible for us, and also that I do want to keep my foot in the door of my career (for long term financial security mostly).  While I work long hours, I work remote now so my work is less visible to my kids (I'm home when the nanny brings them home, and I'm good about shutting down my laptop between 6-9 pm for family time and on the weekends when they are awake).  I'm not sure what your area of practice is, but if there's a way to transition to a more balanced in-house job, or a government job (as a prior poster recommended) I would start figuring out how to do that.  It's not a perfect solution and won't allow you to be there for every moment, but it might be a good compromise in the medium term.  If this becomes a huge priority for you it may require a bigger life change like moving out of the Bay Area.  That is not a choice I am willing to make personally.

    You sound like me! I am a NEP at a big firm, have a 2 year old, expecting my second later this year, am on a reduced schedule, and it still feels like too much most days. My husband also has a demanding job and we outsource a lot of household chores (cleaning, cooking) but I feel similar to you about childcare. I looked into moving in house or government, but after interviewing at several places last year decided I wasn't ready for that-- reducing my schedule to 60% gave me about the same guaranteed income if not higher, and I like that I have the autonomy and flexibility to set my own schedule and ramp up when I feel like it. I also place a lot of value on being at a firm with people I like and not having to "prove myself" all over again at a new job. My plan is to stay on a reduced schedule for the foreseeable future. I'm told that these early years are some of the hardest so am trying to remind myself that putting my career on the back burner for the time being is okay. The idea of trying to decide the future of my career right now stressed me out more than the job right now, and ultimately (as you already recognize) there's no right answer so I've decided to stay put right now. 

    Aw, my heart goes out to you!  It is so hard!  You are doing a great job!  I could have written this post myself a few years ago.  I tried a reduced hours schedule after my first was born and it too brought me a lot of stress and unhappiness.  I switched to a variable hour role after my second was born (4 years ago) and I'm still in that role with my Big Law firm today.  It isn't perfect but, like you, I wanted to be the one with my kids while they were little and I wouldn't change it for the world.  Please feel free to reach out to me directly - I'm happy to lend an ear and share as much you'd like about my own situation in case it is helpful.  

    I'm so glad you reached out for support on this issue. I wish I would have had something like BPN when I was going through what you describe. I am not a lawyer, yet my position as a Vice-President in a well-established, award-winning architectural firm was similar to what you describe, with the addition of regular travel to project locations throughout the west, and much lower pay (architects are among the lowest paid of the professions). I worked on large educational and residential projects—not something one can do part-time or as a sole-practitioner. In addition, my then husband was in an all-consuming hi-tech job that also required regular US and international travel.

    My two kids are now young adults. I have one year of solo empty nest under my belt—I love it! I'm the happiest I've been in a long time. And, if I could rewind and do things differently, I would have.

    My kids were both high needs (one continues to be). I unintentionally ended up a stay-at-home mom, taking on small projects for income and intellectual stimulation. I had some rough years emotionally—the messaging around "throwing away a good education and years of hard work" are strong. My self-identity and self-esteem suffered. Yet, I knew I was doing what was best for my children, and I was grateful to be the one raising them. And, quite frankly, I was too exhausted to do anything other than get through the day. The young years were delightful; the older years were very challenging. I grew in personal ways that I don't think I could have had I remained career focused. 

    Now I have strong and healthy relationships with each of my young adult kids (despite significant on-going challenges), and I'm growing and expanding in in all sorts of fulfilling ways. Rather than return to the profession I had, I've gotten credentialed in a new field that interests and challenges me and leaves me time for a rich and full life.

    Here's what I wish I would have done differently: I wish I would have gotten better support (both childcare and individual therapy) in place so that I could have been both with my kids and engaged in part-time work that interested me but was not all consuming. You didn't mention a partner. My partner was not a supportive spouse nor co-parent. Everything regarding the children and home fell to me. I regret I tolerated that for as long as I did.

    I hope you are able to find a path that fills your heart, your head, and gives you financial stability. Good luck.

    Agreed with the poster who said to consider going in house. I was in Big Law for a while and am now in house counsel for my local school district. It’s a great balance. I could probably make more money (and probably also work longer hours) in house at a tech company or something similar.

    Depending on the area live and the type of law you practice, there are a couple of boutique law firms in the Bay Area that are more family-friendly. Another option would be to connect with a law firm headhunter with the criteria of a reduced schedule, etc. 

    Not sure if this is helpful but have you ever thought about going in-house at a tech company? There are great perks and benefits for parents, and although I'm sure there are long hours at times, tech culture generally favors a flexible work schedule, supporting one's mental health, and I imagine might be a more favorable environment overall than a corporate firm. (Caveat: I'm not a lawyer, but just wanted to offer a different perspective. A lot of tech companies  have also gone fully remote which means easier pick-up/drop-off from daycare and being able to work around your family's schedule.) Hope this helps!

    I see one person already suggested in-house government work.  I second that!  I work in state government and my hours are very reasonable.  Salary is about $100k.  Would that be enough?  Don't work for the AG's office because the litigation hours are bad.  Find an advisory/transactional position in local, state, or federal government and it will be a 9-5 experience.  Also, consider taking 6 months completely off before you apply so that you can catch a breath.  If you don't end liking government work you can always go back to a law firm.

    I am not a lawyer but I work in a big company and remember seeking and getting advice like you described. I wanted to add that there are other things to try to maximize time for kids and work. I have had a great housekeeper for years and when both kids were small I had her come over twice a week and help with laundry. We also have stayed in our first house so I’m not project managing a move, things like that. We had an au pair one year but like you I didn’t particularly like outsourcing time with the kids so I hade kept experimenting with other ways to get help and find time for my priorities. 

    You have probably already done all these things but I thought I’d mention them anyway.   Good luck.

    I'm not a lawyer (but my 2 best friends are - and one is a single mom to boot) and we are all moms. I really feel for you. I worked hard too before kids, and stopped working when my oldest was 2 and my second child was born. I LOVE LOVE LOVE being a mom. I loved the drop offs, pickups and everything in between. I wouldn't trade it for any other experience in my life. The one piece of advice I can give you is that you can't get the time back with your kids once it is gone. Sitting where I am now, with my kids finishing high school and almost out the door, some days I'd give anything to just re-live the little kid times with them, they were truly the most precious moments of my life. And I'm so grateful I was able to be there.

    Lots of moms don't feel this way, and that's ok too. But you do. And I hope you can really honor that calling to just be a mom for a while.

    We drove a super old car. We didn't take any vacations for years, no new furniture or anything that cost money. We did every free activity you can imagine to save money, and it was awesome. Are you able to take a few years off until they hit kindergarten? Once they are in school all day it's much easier to work in the in-between times. I went back to work part time when my youngest hit middle school. It was hard to get back in the job market, but fortunately I had a lot of still marketable skills. The world will always need lawyers, you'll be able to get a job, trust that. I really hope you can make it work the way you want - I'm rooting for you!!

    I’ll start by saying that I’m not a lawyer! But I am an environmental consultant working salary who has to bill my time and meet my hours.  I ramped back to full time after my first but I just had twins and am staying at 30 hours for the foreseeable future and my supervisors know that.  I bring value and they aren’t interested in losing me.  I say all this because I know we have internal legal, as do many privately held firms across industry.  Our legal team has the same shareholder benefits and flexibility options as the engineers and scientists.  Have you explored working as legal counsel for a non-law firm? Maybe the balance would be easier (don’t know about they pay etc though). 
     

    This is such a tough dilemma and I definitely understand the conundrum. I was in big law until my daughter was born a little over a year ago. I was pulling all nighters when I was 8 months pregnant and knew that I wouldn’t be able to be the mom I wanted to be with the demands of the job.  I transitioned out of the firm to an in-house role at the end of my big law mat leave and have been incredibly happy with the balance my new role provides. I still get to do interesting work but have time (and also emotional bandwidth) to spend with my daughter. I rarely work nights or weekends and hope to transition to a part time role if we have a second kid.  Being a working mom is still challenging (especially with childcare disruptions), but have been surprised at how much easier it all feels now that I’m not under the crippling pressure of the billable hour.  I’m happy to speak directly if helpful but wish you all the best as you explore next steps. 

    This may have limited relevance, as I don't know law at all. However I did my medical residency when my daughter was 1-4 years old. I was home with her full-time for a year, then working a million hours/week for 3 years, and then I've worked part-time since finishing - truly part-time. Those residency years were hard, and it wasn't until my son was born that I fully appreciated how much I'd missed with my daughter. But it was an investment in the future that paid off handsomely. For the remainder of her childhood (and the entirety of my son's), I was able to volunteer in the classroom and be around after school on my days off and just be there. And professionally I'm doing work that I care deeply about, and earning a salary that works in the Bay Area. I say all this to suggest that if switching fields requires some up front time investment, play the long game in deciding whether it would be worth it. If it would be work that truly allows you to go part-time, and be work that you care about, and you have it in you to power through the transition time required, the short-term pain might be worth the long-term gain.

    I would checkout the book "We Should All Be Millionairs" by Rachel Rodgers. She is a lawyer mom who wanted to have a life also. I wish you the best and don't give up on it. 

    A lot of your story resonates with me.  I worked at a large law firm for 9 years and was also a senior associate who did not want to be a partner (and most likely was not going to be made partner).  When I became pregnant with my first child, I took maternity leave and never returned. I took five years off from practicing law and enjoyed being home with my two kids.  When my second child started preschool, I returned to work part-time. I've been doing contract work for two law firms for the past 10 years, and it has enabled me to be the one who drops off the kids/picks up the kids, volunteer at school, etc.  That is what I wanted to do with my kids.  Is your practice area one that translates well to independent contracting work?  I am a civil litigator (mostly contract disputes and land use law).  Your great work experience makes you attractive for contract work.  I do miss the big law firm paycheck for sure, but my contract work pays enough for my family.  I don't regret one second of the time with my kids.  One is a sophomore in high school now, and one is in 8th grade, and I already lament the fact that they'll be out of the house sooner than I'd like.  Good luck!    

    Hello! Former firm lawyer and mom to an 18 month old here. Your story completely resonates with me. When I had my daughter, I had been practicing for 10 years and took immense pride in my career; making partner was a goal I’d been steadily working toward and one I was about to achieve. But once she was born, I felt my entire value system change. I didn’t care about making partner, I didn’t care about the prestige or the money that came with it. I wanted to be present for her and not stressed about how many hours I was billing.

    I reached out to several older lawyer moms to ask how they did it and I found myself similarly unsatisfied with their answers. The message I received was essentially that I’d have to come to terms with the fact that I can’t do it all, I’d have several years where I felt like I was failing at everything, working part time in a firm was nearly impossible, I’d need to outsource everything, etc. Um…no thank you!

    I became completely disillusioned and eventually decided to leave my firm and go in house. It’s only been a couple of months so I’m admittedly still in the honeymoon phase but so far, it’s AMAZING. Working outside of the billable model is so freeing. Now, to be clear, I am not part time and don’t know exactly what that would look like, and I don’t work in a time sensitive field (like litigation), but my days are so much lighter and less stressful. Have you considered this path?

    One final thought: the women who told you not to “let go of your hard work” can go kick rocks. That’s extremely offensive and in my mind, highlights their own scarcity mindsets and internalized patriarchy. Also, a decade is a long time! Wanting to be with your kids is a beautiful choice and I encourage you to embrace it. Something that really helped me embrace my own value shift was getting a career coach. She helped me to change my internal narrative from “I worked so hard and now I’m just giving up my career” to “My values have shifted away from my job and toward my family.”

    All the best. And please feel free to reach out if you’d like. I could talk about this for hours!

    Just another mom to chime in that going in-house is something to consider. After 14 years in BigLaw, I went in-house to a tech company. I left when my oldest was 6 and my twins were 2. While preparing for a multi-month out of state trial it became apparent to me that I was no longer willing to make the sacrifices or prioritize BigLaw in the way that would be required. I am also the primary income earner (my spouse is the stay-at-home parent) - so the initial reduction in salary wasn't ideal, but as others have mentioned, equity at a tech company can soften that impact and at this point I'm making more. The work-life balance is so much better and now that we're fully remote, I can spend even more time with my kids (so much time saved in commuting). The kids will all be in school full-time starting this Fall, but I still feel 100% that I made the correct decision. I can volunteer at the school, go on field trips, take them to extracurriculars and participate in their lives without being stressed about balancing it with work all the time. Good luck!

    I have law school classmates and colleagues who left Biglaw for what's marketed as freelance/flexible opportunities at Latitude Legal and Ontra.  

    Regarding your reason #2, the OnRamp Fellowship is at least one possible way to try and re-enter the legal job market after leaving for unemployment, underemployment, or a non-legal job. 

    I left Biglaw as I was entering the senior associate process before I even had a kid.  I am a law school career counselor now, and that has been a very healthy shift for me. 

    Happy to connect about any of this.  Good luck!

    I am not a lawyer, but I am a CEO of a mid-size company with a demanding career.  I have three kids in later elementary and middle-school years.  Here are my thoughts:  1) I was fortunate to take nearly a year off after each child was born.  This substantially slowed down my career but I was grateful for the time, especially with the third child which of course allowed me to spend a lot of time with the oldest two as well.  The time flew by each time.  2) I was very determined not to use more than 45 hour of help per week - which meant that either my husband or I had to be home every morning and late afternoon / evening.  I did this by design as it would have been easier to outsource more, 3) I was raised with no parental support in the way that we provide for our kids today.  I was completely independent, on my own, by 10.  I am grateful for this and feel that if I'm not careful, I'm wanting to spend more time with my kids for myself, not for their wellbeing.  4) I have a super supportive husband who equally shares parenting responsibilities and also has a demanding career.  This last point has made all the difference.  So, for me, especially now, without the commute, my time at home seems abundant.  As kids get older, they need more 'taxi services' which I still cherish because it gives me a chance to be 1:1 with them.  But soccer practices get later and later (7:30pm?) and I'm so glad that I have a career I enjoy (though it's certainly stressful) while still managing a family.  Do I have it all?  Hell no.  Not possible. But I don't try.  My goal is to help my kids find joy in life through independence and that's our focus as a family.  Everyone feels differently and it sounds like spending more time with your kids would make you happy.  If you can at all swing that (via going in-house, government, consulting, etc.) do.  We are all fortunate to have these options.  Life is short - live it in the way that brings joy for you and your family. 

  • Law school w/young kids?

    (6 replies)

    Hi all,

    The BPN answers to this question are 5-10+ years old, so here I am. I'm considering a career shift and am really interested in public interest law / working with nonprofits and community groups. I have two kids who would be 7 and 4 by the time I started law school. My questions: is it feasible to complete a full-time law program while parenting young kids? How is the Bay Area job market for this type of work? And, for anyone who's been through it recently, is the UC Berkeley social justice / public interest program as great as it looks? Any insights appreciated!

    It is absolutely possible to finish law school with kids, but it is not easy. You will need a lot of support. You can expect class schedule similar to kids' school schedule. Not back to back from 8:30 - 3 but most classes are scheduled during that window and you may have a break here and there. Think more like college class schedule.  And then you will have a mountain of homework. My law school classmate who had a young child and was pregnant with her second child had a lot of support from her boyfriend and mom with whom she lived. Other lawyer moms I know who finished law school with kids did it on a part-time basis. They did day or evening part-time law school at Golden Gate and Santa Clara. I started law school path with social justice work in mind but eventually ended up in private practice because it was impossible to make a living on one nonprofit income. There are many nonprofit organizations, but the job market is extremely competitive and many jobs depend on grants. Unless the organization is well funded or regionally/nationally recognized, the position may be available for the duration of the grant. Organizations look for truly passionate and committed individuals and will seek to hire people who have dedicated their law school career and summer breaks in the social justice field. I volunteered at nonprofits in the evenings and weekends and worked at a nonprofit part-time during my law school to build up my resume and ended up continuing to work as a volunteer after law school until a job opportunity arose. I also worked part-time in private practice to pay the bills during this time.  Of course, I have friends who were hired by nonprofits right after law school but I did not have stellar grades and didn't go to UC Berkeley or the like, so it took a bit of time for me to get a job in nonprofit. I am in private practice now, because I have to pay mortgage, support my family, and save for our future.  I don't mean to discourage you. I have many friends who are staff attorneys at nonprofit organizations and are happy. Most of them with kids do have spouses or partners who have a higher paying jobs (private practice, tech, finance, medicine, etc.) or a decent paying jobs with great benefits (government, university). 

    Hi - I went to UC Berkeley and am a public interest lawyer in the East Bay. I went to law school 10 years before having kids, so I can't speak to going through law school as a parent (at least not from personal experience), but if you want to chat about law school generally, UC Berkeley specifically, and public interest law careers feel free to reach out! 

    I did law school with two kids (younger than yours) and it was hard but do-able. I also let myself be ok with getting Bs and I didn’t join law review. If you’re interested in working in legal aid or a nonprofit they don’t care about that stuff anyway. I’ve worked in direct service legal aid orgs for over a decade now and it’s a great career to have as a parent because it’s flexible and often the hours are pretty decent. 35-40 hours as opposed to the crazy hours you would have to put in at a firm or even as a public defender. The pay is not great but I truly love my job and feel so lucky to have found this career, even though often I get depressed about the oppressive systems that my clients have to navigate. Berkeley Law has a good public interest program - most students intern at East Bay Community Law Center. That being said, there are nonprofit attorneys who are disgruntled and can provide you with an alternate perspective so I recommend talking to a few different people. If you want to talk more, email the mods for my contact info. 

    Those jobs are hard to get and pay very little money. In my experience it's mostly trustfunders who can do that type of work because regular people have loans to pay and living expenses. Lots of people start law school with the intention of saving the world but end up taking jobs that pay the bills. For example,  tons of people study environmental law with the dream of saving the environment but end up working for Chevron because they need the money.

    I loved law school but didn't like working for law firms. But I had no choice until my loans were paid off. If you want an intellectual challenge, go for it. But if you're responsible for paying for it, consider what kind of job you'll have to get when you're done (and how long you'll have to stay at that job).

    I can't comment on doing it with small kids since I was single at the time. My sense is that if you're motivated to do it, it can be done. But you'll probably need someone to watch your kids while you study. The people I know in this position would extend their childcare for a couple hours after classes were done and efficiently did all of their reading and prep during that time. They seemed very focused and were successful. But their experience was very different than the party the single people were having. 

    I get asked all the time if people should go to law school or not and I never know what to say. The intellectual part was so much fun (I had been working at a ski resort and I was thrilled to be arguing intellectual concepts with smart people instead of talking about powder turns and the Grateful Dead) but I was seriously miserable for 8 years after I finished. Lawyers kind of suck and law firms are weird and filled with lawyers. It's all a balancing act. Now that I don't work at a lawfirm I'm happy with my career choice. But getting to this point was brutal.

    I wish you all the best. 

    I attended law school with the goal of working in public interest law. I was lured to a top school by promises of public interest fellowships and loan repayment assistance, but those where not what they seemed to be, and I ended up having to dig my way out of six-figure debt. Public interest salaries in the Bay Area are so low that many of us can only survive with these jobs because we are married to people with more lucrative positions. Public interest jobs are also highly competitive, so you can’t count on working in your desired field at all. I’d think long and hard if it’s worth the financial sacrifices for you.

    It's definitely possible, but law school is time consuming, so it'll be hard. The public interest market is tough. Even coming out of a top school, there's a lot of competition for low-paying jobs. Will you have loans to pay off? A partner with a better-paying job to support two kids in the bay area? You also need to like being a lawyer for it to be worth it. I went to law school (pre-kids) with an interest in environmental law, and ended up at a plaintiff side firm. I liked the end-result of the work I was doing, but the day to day had nothing to do with the environment - it was all administrative law and I found it boring. So just make sure you actually want to do the legal work that the organizations you're interested in need. At least for me, being on board with the mission wasn't enough. 

  • 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 (www.pettooth.com). 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. 

    http://www.sophiarenn.com

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions

Resuming Law after Time Off for Kids Changing to a Different career after Law

 


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


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: http://law.scu.edu/CareerPathwaysWiki/index.cfm?path=Non-Lawyer_Jobs_for_Lawyers=Main=PDF 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 http://www.calbar.ca.gov 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.