Women make up 47 percent of law school graduates, but still only compose 31 percent of the industry’s lawyers, according to The American Bar Association (via WSJ Law Blog). One of the major factors in leaving the practice of law? The stresses of motherhood.
“I’m like so many other lawyers who are mothers, trying to fit into a culture . . . that collides directly with our needs and schedules,” said Laura Mattiacci to the WSJ. Mattiacci founded the Philadelphia chapter of Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association, or “MAMA,” which is a nationwide organization that aims to:
- enhance the recognition of mother attorneys in the community;
- promote the advancement of mother attorneys within the profession;
- facilitate the achievement of work-life balance;
- provide a forum for informing members and the legal profession about issues of particular concern to mother attorneys; and
- support mother attorneys contemplating alternative work schedules or extended leaves of absence; and, increase the interaction between mother attorneys of diverse backgrounds and practices.
When looking at the above list, it’s not difficult to see that these goals could easily overlap with those at your firm.
Promoting more women in law makes sense ethically, in terms of gender equality, but it also makes sense professionally. Both female equity and non-equity partners are compensated less on average than male partners, despite operating at equal productivity levels, according to a Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper. This means for less money, your firm has the same work output.
Also, statistically, women perform higher than men in team exercises, including tasks, such as brainstorming, moral reasoning, puzzle-solving, typing and negotiating.
But, like all lawyers, female attorneys are not exempt from work while at home. So, those with children need extra support to manage this heavy caseload.
“There are unexpected urgencies – client emergencies, new cases that come in the door, the need to seek a restraining order from the court,” Mattiacci explains about managing her time as a lawyer and mother.
If motherhood and the time and emotional constraints it places on women is the sole greatest inhibitor to more women in law, there are ways your firm can help. Even if you are unable to provide tangible benefits, such as free childcare, try implementing these three cost-free ways to help retain working mothers at your firm:
- Listen. As administrator or managing partner, you may or may not be aware that school started this week. But if you stop to listen to some of the personal stories and anecdotes of young mothers around the office, you’d be more than informed. Then, when a female attorney arrives late this Monday morning, you don’t overreact. This will limit her emotional stress, which is likely already high.
- Be Flexible. Many firms are already instituting FLEX scheduling for their employees. Show your support for working mothers by allowing them to work from home one or two days per month. More than likely, she’ll already be forced to take a day off when it’s time to bring her child to the doctor’s office or run other (necessary) motherly errands. Plus, lawyers who work from home are shown to still add value to the firm.
- Do Your Research. There are ample other services, like MAMA, that offer support to working mothers. Do your research, and find pertinent events in your area. Advertise them through company resources, and allow your female attorneys the time to attend. In addition, before choosing your employee’s benefits packages and healthcare options, investigate which healthcare companies are best suited for working mothers (and for that matter, working fathers) and their children. Choose accordingly.
Across the board, juggling work and family is difficult. Showing support for your struggling associates is not.
Interested in ideas to increase the firm’s profit as well as employee satisfaction? Try CCM’s Worklife Flexibility CD Box Set, which combines two of its most popular programs into one complete and invaluable collection, featuring: Flextime Strategies that Boost Productivity and Your Bottom Line and Telecommuting: Protect Company Interests and Increase Employee Satisfaction.