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Aspiring/Active/Retiring/Recovering LAWYER MOMS!

post #1 of 369
Thread Starter 
So, I've been wondering how many people here are or have been attorneys. I am a full-time WOHM and my husband is a SAHD. I am really just starting my career (I am 2 years out) and am already struggling with balancing my finances (high COL area, lots of school debt) with good, quality work and reasonable work hours.

Currently I am in a big firm, but I'm not being paid big firm money. I'm not happy here, so I'm looking at small/medium firms (less money) and large firms (more money, with accompanying decline in quality of life and possibly work). It seems to me some sort of compromise has to be made-- I just have to figure out where.

What about everyone else? Why did you go to law school? Are you practicing or did you run away screaming? How are you balancing your work and family lives?
post #2 of 369
i went to law school, graduated, and became a yoga teacher. i didn't take the bar exam either.

i went to law school because i could. truth be told, i wanted to be a yoga teacher right after college. what i wanted to do was graduate in may, go to an ashram for more training (i'd already been apprenticing and teaching) over the summer, and then move in with my fiance (my now husband) and start teaching yoga full time.

my parents freaked.

at the same time, i was taking a class in expository writing (i was an english major), and in that class i was one of four non 'prelaw' majors. i was mopping the floor with them in the debates and thought "if these knuckleheads can go to law school, so can i." i took the LSAT, applied, and got in with a scholarship.

my parents were thrilled, particularly my dad.

i enjoyed law school a great deal. it was tons of fun. but in the second year, my good friend passed away, and i just realized i wanted to teach yoga. while in law school FT, i started apprenticing and teaching again. my parents thought it was a "nice hobby" to balance out my "real career aspirations."

during second and third year, i basicly started to establish my yoga career. the third year of school solidified for me that i didn't want to be a lawyer--i worked for a litigating environmental law clinic at my school. i didn't enjoy the work. i discovered that i *loved* studying the law, i disliked the practices.

after graduation, i tried to work as an analyist for a firm that was creating legal databases of local (state and county) legal decisions. i did this work for a number of months, while teaching yoga as much as i could, before i decided i *really* hated the legal work.

and so i started teaching yoga full time. I earn about as much as most of my lawyer friends--and i do somehting that i really love with hours that i can choose. it's a much better fit for me.

i know that those moms who are lawyers (my friends) tend to do better with medium and small firms, often doing non-litigating work. the litigating seems to be what takes the most hours. also, a number of them work for the government, which has great hours. the money is often more modest, but the hours and work is better.
post #3 of 369
I'm a SAHM, and technically an attorney too, but I've never practiced. My DH is hoping that changes soon, but I don't know how to get my feet wet, and really, my heart is home with my child (and adding a 2nd child in Dec.).
I graduated from law school in 2004, did not take the bar but worked for a non-profit until 2005 when I had my first baby, stayed home with DD for a year and took the Bar in 2006, and passed, but still am a SAHM.

It's difficult too b/c my family just moved from the Twin Cities to a small Minnesota town of 3,500 people, so I've got to get my feet wet in a new place that's very small.

Any ideas are welcome, but that's my story in a nutshell!
post #4 of 369
I'm a litigator, full-time, at a large firm. Dh has been a stay-at-home parent the whole time, but is going to be going back to school in Sept, so we will have to see where that leaves us, other than rapidly going crazy...

Will post more later, when not at office
post #5 of 369
I'm a lawyer at a family firm. That's why I went to law school, because it's a small family business, it was just sort of expected, and because it's a good fit for my argumentative personality. In fact I need to get off this computer and start doing some "law practice" before my boss (Dad) comes in here and finds me goofing off.
post #6 of 369
post #7 of 369
Former attorney here. I graduated law school in 2003 (4 years between college and law school - teacher and some other stuff). I wanted a new career and it seemed like a good idea at the time... I loved law school and did very well. I worked for two years after law school in a government litigation job. (I never wanted to do big firm, and always wanted something a little more family/life friendly, so went gov't right away.) Working for the gov't was great - but I hated litigation. I quit when my twins were born to be a SAHM and have been for 18 months. I will need to return to some job in the future. But I do not want to return to the law. I will definitely not return to litigation. No clue what I will be next
post #8 of 369
I just graduated from law school last month, and am in the midst of getting character and fitness sorted out and job searching hell, mainly created because I'm pregnant and because we want to stay in our medium-sized college town because of the opportunities for DH.

I had been doing a bunch of insurance law and litigation and health care stuff in law school, but what I've been applying for lately has been government stuff -- not even necessarily lawyer stuff, more regulatory -- and a lot of high-level paralegal things. I'm actually kind of kicking around the idea of trying to work as a career paralegal, because the money is good and the hours are decent and I really like the support role.

I went to law school pretty much because my major was philosophy (which I LOVE!) and I didn't want to spend the rest of my life working in a tech support call center. I ended up absolutely HATING law school but really liking the lawyering stuff that I got to do through internships and clinicals. Now that I'm kind of thinking of not practicing I'm kind of wondering if I wasted all that money. On one hand, I'm not going to be making big-firm money as a lawyer, on the other hand without the experience I got I'd never be in the running for the jobs I'm applying for, so I think on balance it was worth it.
post #9 of 369
Thread Starter 
... I'll respond when I'm at home.
post #10 of 369
i graduated law school in 2003 and worked in environmental and then securities until my dd1 was born in 2005. while i liked law school (sort of ) i *hated* practicing. i was in a medium sized firm that advertised themselves as "family-friendly" but didn't quite live up to it. so i pretty much ran away screaming. :

i don't know if i'll ever go back to practice -- i'd really rather not (and with dd2 due in sept. and threatening an early appearance it'll be at least 2 years before its an issue), but i wouldn't mind doing part time legal writing or teaching. i really liked the more theoretical aspects anyway!

Originally Posted by zoebird View Post
i know that those moms who are lawyers (my friends) tend to do better with medium and small firms, often doing non-litigating work. the litigating seems to be what takes the most hours. also, a number of them work for the government, which has great hours. the money is often more modest, but the hours and work is better.
post #11 of 369
I graduated from law school in 1996. I went straight out of college because I liked research and writing and assumed that the practice of law involved lots of it. I was wrong. Law school involved lots of it, and I, unlike most, adored my first year. Didn't really like 2nd and 3rd and began to realize just how much the practice of law differed from the study of law. I should have withdrawn, but I finished, took and passed the bar in NY and MA, and now, am working a job that I really don't like - legislative analysis - for a small company.

I'm on maternity leave and FINALLY negotiated flex time for my return, which is why I didn't leave. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do. I have to work in some capacity (because of those darned student loans - in some states I could buy a house for what I owe). I hate my boss and the work that I'm doing, but I'm not really sure how or if I can transition to another area of the law and another company that will give me the flex time I want/need.

I've also started doing some web design business stuff - I really enjoy it and if there weren't such a glut of web designers I would really try to make a go of it that way.
post #12 of 369
I graduated law school in Dec 1999, took and passed the Feb 2000 bar, goofed off a bit, started a two-year clerkship with a state appellate court in August 2000 (which was awesome), practiced at two small firms (family law and then insurance defense) from 2002 to 2005, quit the last firm in early 2005 intending to SAH when ds was born in April 2005, but went back to work in Sept 2005 in-house at a large insurance company. I LOVE my current job - HATED the private practice work. I actually miss the litigation aspect of private practice - it was the hourly billing and dealing with bosses/partners who expected everything plus the world from me while paying less than most other non-legal entry level jobs requiring much less education.

My current job is extremely family friendly and flexible and pays great. I am still involved in litigation, which I like, but not in the sense that I have to prepare for and try cases. I manage a case load of litigation files in house and assign all of my files to outside counsel to settle/try. I consider my job the best of both worlds for a working attorney mom. If I didn't get this job back in 2005, I would likely be a SAHM.

Law school was great, but I'm the sort of person who, for fun, would go to school and pursue degrees in just about any area if money weren't an issue!

My undergrad was in music. Music is still my passion and I am just now getting to the point where I can become a tiny bit involved in music again to enjoy that aspect of my life. In a perfect world, I would be a musician.

I don't think I answered all of the original poster's questions, but it's always fun to read about other lawyer mama's experiences and backgrounds!
post #13 of 369
Thread Starter 
I, too, am enjoying reading about others' experiences. Jessma, I definitely hear you about the financial pressures.
I have to admit, I don't think I really thought through my desire to go to law school. I graduated from college in 2002 with a general liberal arts degree. I was interested in social justice and public policy and thought law school was the way to go for that. My parents (who know nothing about the law-- no one in my family does) agreed that a JD would be a "good thing to have." I didn't particularly like law school and it was a big transition to me since my paper-writing-college-grading days. I considered quitting, but at that point I was already $70k in and couldn't imagine recovering from that. AFter law school I clerked for a year.
I don't know how I feel about litigation. I think I like the drama of it, but at this point in my life I really want to be there for my kids. I feel that litigation is one of those things you have to stay in or you won't be allowed in (the "club") later on. Maybe I'm wrong about that.
As it is I'm considering selling out-- possibly longer hours at a big firm for lots of money. I'm also considering a medium firm (with decent salary) and hopefully a little less stringent hours. My love is really environmental law, though, and often the medium firms require me to practice land use or real estate.

Anyway, I would probably go find another career if I weren't six figures in debt! Sometimes I wonder why I made this decision. But I am generally an optimist, so I don't like to think that way too much. Instead, I believe there MUST be a place in this (very large) field that will work for me.

Also, I really feel that older attorneys and smaller firms don't understand what it's like to become a lawyer nowadays. It is much more expensive than it has been before, so it's harder to do what you want to do. The two-income economy also makes single-income living more difficult. And all of these forces work together to make SAHP a little more of a challenge.
I admit that I didn't think ahead as much as I could, so I'm one of those people who is stuck. At the same time, my salary allows my husband to stay home with our kids while we are still living decently. If he were working and I didn't have a JD, things would be much more difficult.

Thanks for talking!
post #14 of 369
Wow, I'm so excited about this tribe. I am 0L -- starting Law School this August. I had posted a couple times in the Working & Student Mamas board asking questions about law school, but I had looked for a tribe first and was surprised when I didn't find one. Thanks for starting it Selesai!

Since I am already 33 and we own a house and DH has a good job, I only applied to the two local law schools, both of which are 4th tier schools. I was offered a scholarship at one of them, which will cover 75% of my tuition. We are going to pay the remaining tuition as cash and live on DH's income, and the goal is for me to have no debt when I am done with law school so that I can be totally flexible in my choices after school.

We do not have any children yet and have been trying for over a year to coceive. We definitely want children and at this point in my life, I was not willing to take on mortgage sized debt in order to go to school. I would really like to be a SAHM or WAHM or working only part time and want to be able to make that choice when it is time, without having to feel crushed by debt!

I have been working for the last 2.5 years in a property manangement office. The only people in the office are me (Secretary), my boss (Director) and our attorney. Basically, we handle all issues surrounding purchasing, selling, and building of churches and related properties, including schools and day cares. At first, when I applied to law school, I was thinking I would do real estate/trust & estates type work.

However, the law school I am attending has a new Center for Earth Jurisprudence, which they just opened in October. Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to do environmental work of some type. I got derailed due to a divorce, remarriage, moving multiple times, etc. I am definitely going to be exploring the possibilities in environmental law locally.
post #15 of 369
Originally Posted by mammastar2 View Post
I'm a litigator, full-time, at a large firm. Dh has been a stay-at-home parent the whole time, but is going to be going back to school in Sept, so we will have to see where that leaves us, other than rapidly going crazy...

Will post more later, when not at office

Oh wait, I'm still at the office...

I really had only the slightest idea of what life as a lawyer was like when I went to law school. I knew that with my liberal arts background I wasn't getting interesting work, and I was paid really poorly. I also was interested in family law and mediation. I had a vague idea I could work a couple of days a week as a family lawyer and come home for lunch with my family, while helping people make their lives better.

So, naturally, I do big litigation full-time, at a big firm...:

I don't think I knew enough about what the profession is like or what my loans would be like. Also, because I was a very good student, I naturally sort of drifted towards the sort of opportunities good students are recruited into. Law school also left plenty of free time for getting knocked up and having a baby too - and we discovered we liked having dh as a SAH parent, which changed how we ordered our finances.

Going into law has provided me with some amazing opportunities, and I'm not complaining at all - although I work BigLaw, I'm usually home for dinner and don't work too many weekends, and so far the firm is happy with me. It's just all a bit odd and unintentional how things have turned out, and I can't say I'm sure of my longer term plans (2 days a week and home for lunch still sounds good!).
post #16 of 369
Hey lovely ladies:
My background is in art and theatre - and I didn't go to law school until I was 36. I had my DD at 42. My practice has been limited to construction industry matters and I have worked for two small law firms. I am looking into in-house jobs, however, because even though my current firm is fairly flexible, there is an unwritten expectation to bill, bill bill. I feel that I would be happier in a non-litigation environment, especially if it involves the arts or public interest. Although I do enjoy litigation, my mood has turned sort of sour due to the way law is practiced these days (too much focus on money-making, IMO).
Thanks for starting this great thread! I need to get back to work!
post #17 of 369
Hi All

I'm a 3L and 23 wks pregnant! Most likely I'll work in Indian Law, possibly for a tribal government. I'd prefer not to work for a firm, definitely not a big firm, but we'll see.

I came to law school late - I'm 36 now. Had a career in the entertainment industry and then Wall Street before deciding on a legal career as a way to give back to my people and my community. Quality of life is a BIG concern for me - that's why I left L.A. and NYC, resp, for New Mexico. I wanted to be closer to family and a slower pace of life, with more time for kids and husband. And I am one of the lucky ones who should come out with a little less that $20,000 total student loans. Yay cheap state school and scholarships. So I figure I have a lot of options and won't be tied to the financial worries most law grads face.

Good to read everyone's experiences and look forward to chatting.
post #18 of 369
I've been a licensed attorney for over 10 years. I didn't grow up with a burning desire to be a lawyer. My goal as a child was to be a commercial airline pilot! As a teen, I thought about becoming a doctor but the years of training didn't appeal to me. A few of my professors encouraged me to think of becoming a professor. I thought about it but the academic field didn't interest me much. I suppose I became a lawyer by default.

Law school wasn't a walk in the park. It was much harder than college which I breezed through. I had no clue what law school was like. All our family friends were either doctors or professors. I thought law school would be like graduate school. I almost gave up on the whole thing as a IL but my boyfriend at the time (now my DH) encouraged me to stay on and I did. I did reasonably well. During law school, I worked for the Legal Aid Society in my state. It was rewarding but I realized I was getting burned out from the work. I would, under the supervision of an attorney, draft wills for people with AIDS, give assistance in really nasty landlord/tenant disputes, help women fill out the paperwork for divorces, child support, Temporary Restraining Orders, etc. It was very very emotional work and I'm just not cut out for it. I'm the type of person who likes to go to work, do my thing, and leave work at work. When I worked at the nonprofit, I couldn't stop thinking about work when I came home. So I ended up leaving. I graduated, passed the bar, and clerked for a female judge. She handled civil cases. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. She was an amazing judge and a remarkable woman in her personal life. I wish being a law clerk was a full-time job but alas as my two-year term came to an end I found myself looking for a job. I found it with the government. I had a friend who told me his department was looking to hire someone. Had he not told me about the position, I wouldn't have applied for it's not in a field that I enjoyed in law school. But beggers can't be choosers so I applied, interviewed, and the rest is history.

Are you practicing or did you run away screaming? I'm not practicing but what I do in my work is very much influenced by my legal training. I don't think I would have been hired for this job had I not been an attorney. The department head who hired me was himself an attorney. Half the department is made up of either attorneys or MBAs. I do a lot of drafting. I've worked closely with the Justice Department and JAGs. Having the background that I do has helped a lot. I don't need certain things explained to me because I have a point of reference.

I don't think I'm cut out for private practice. I don't like litigation. I need to leave work by 5 pm and I want to have a life outside of work. My female friends who started out in private practice now work as counsel in various City, State, and Federal departments.

How are you balancing your work and family lives? I have every Friday off. My mother watches my daughter for me during the day. I also have a husband who is a wonderful husband and father to our child. He also works for the government so his hours are good. Most of the time, we're home by 5:30 pm or slightly earlier. We get to take our daughter to the park, read to her, play, and eat dinner together. It's not perfect but I think I have it better than most.
post #19 of 369
Hey ladies,

I am a SAHM, happily, as the work I did before was less than fulfilling. The only career that has ever appealed to me is law but something always prevented me from going to college. Now I wonder about going back to school, slowly, while my kids are young, then more as they get older. But, what would it be like for a new lawyer in her 40s?
post #20 of 369
This such an interesting thread! I am a new lawyer. I worked in government litigation but discovered litigation - even with the government - demanded hours I wasn't willing to put in. I went to a very small firm and do labour law now.

My daughter was born right after second year (she's almost four now) and I have struggled with my love for my job and my desire to have more time. I have a good balance right now - my job allows me to leave by six most days and I never do weekends. But the other lawyers here - all more senior - do work longer hours than me and I can see a day when I'm going to have to look for another opportunity because my practice will get too demanding (I can't junior people forever!) I'm interested in those of you who do poilcy/regulatory or in house work. It sounds like better hours, long term. And since law was a second career - I'm almost 37 - I never thought "making partner" was all that important. Just an interesting job and a decent salary.

It's not just the hours I struggle with. The client stress can make me a bit growly when I get home. And of course a second child could sink this ship....
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