Big Law Lawyer that wants a Stay-at-Home Mom Alternative

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?

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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.