Numbers Tell the Story
According to statistics released by the American Bar
Association in 2014, while women earned more than 47
percent of law degrees, they made up just 34 percent of
the legal workforce. This begs the question: Where are
they going? It’s probably fair to assume at least some
of them are leaving practice to start families, perhaps
because they’ve been conditioned to think they can’t be
both parent and partner simultaneously and successfully.
What’s even more distressing is what happens
when a woman returns to the workforce after having
children. The evidence suggests that often their clients
have been disbursed to other attorneys, the scope of
their work drastically changed and their workload dra-
matically reduced. In fact, in 2013, research organiza-
tion OnePoll found that roughly 30 percent of returning
mothers felt they no longer “fit in” with their peers
and colleagues, and another 40 percent felt little to no
support upon returning.
It’s now 2015, and while we have not corrected all of
the outdated stereotypes and unnecessary limitations
on working mothers, our field is in a unique position
to change the reality for working mothers while at the
same time positively impact client service.
Technology Helps Law Firms Proactively
Provide for their Clients and Staff
Thanks to technology that makes virtual workspac-es, online collaborative environments and the all-encompassing cloud possible, law firms are proactively
figuring out how to provide their clients with the best
value. They have the opportunity to bring back into the
workforce organized, driven and incredibly talented
stay-at-home working mothers (on their own terms).
Often, these women started at the best law firms
in the United States, worked their tails off (as did all
lawyers in the best firms) and left practice to start a
family. As their kids head off to school, they are now
both available and desirous of getting back into the
workforce, though not necessarily on a full-time basis
or in a brick-and-mortar firm.
What Do Working Mothers Want?
To effectively engage working mothers, it’s important
to understand what they want (and what they don’t
want) from their law careers. And while it would be
a gross misstep to presume the wishes of all working
mothers are the same, in my experience employing this
demographic exclusively, this is what I’ve found.
Working mothers want the ability to pick their son
up from day care or see their daughter’s Little League
game without consequence. They want complex and
sophisticated work, albeit not on a 75-hour-per-week
work schedule. They want challenging client-facing opportunities, but perhaps not during the back-to-school
week or over Thanksgiving. They may want their firm
to invest in their growth and development, but on their
terms. They want, in a word, flexibility.
That kind of flexibility isn’t easy to find in this
business. Big law certainly has a ways to go regarding
fostering the flexibility necessary to engage—and re-en-gage—working mothers. But there is one legal operating model that is leaps and bounds ahead of the curve
in terms of flexibility.
Enter the high-end boutique law firm. Corporate,
litigation, intellectual property, labor. It doesn’t matter.
These firms have realized that current technology and
software tools allow them to operate at a fraction of the