Have you considered the option of a women-owned law firm? Even if it is not appropriate for this time in your career, you should file the information away for a time when it might make more sense.
I have written about women-owned law firms before, especially in my second book, Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2012). In that book, I devoted part of the discussion about alternatives to traditional law firms to the concept of women-owned firms because I recognized the importance of that option to those women who found traditional law firm practice unmanageable for their life styles. I wrote then, “If you can’t beat them, band together and beat them better.” And that is exactly what some women need to do and are doing.
It was obvious to me then that a women-owned law firm could be an attractive alternative because it gives women some of the flexibility they need for home and family and provides back-up from colleagues who understand the work-life struggle. Those colleagues are all in the same boat, and they “get” the challenges. Whether it is flexibility to deal with sick children, flexibility to pick up kids from school, flexibility to attend children’s programs and teacher meetings, flexibility to deal with aging parents, or just plain flexibility to unwind a bit, mothers “get” other mothers. Or at least they should.
Now, years later, it appears there are more reasons than work-life that make women-owned firms appealing. According to a recent article, a growing number of women are establishing women-owned firms more for reasons of frustration with gender inequality in the profession than for reasons associated with raising children or having more time for family.
One of the founders of a women-owned firm is quoted in the article as saying, “If women were feeling valued, were getting properly rewarded for their efforts, were getting their fair share and it wasn’t a constant struggle to get your origination credit, and feel you are part of the team — then you would stay.” Makes perfect sense.
As evidence of the growth in women-owned law firms, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council reports that 16 per cent of newly-certified law firms in the recent five-year period are women-owned. Similar statistics are reported by other trade associations, including the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Firms.
New rules are a part of these new firms. The emphasis is on fair compensation, equal promotions, full inclusion and better career development opportunities. The option of a women-owned law firm also allows “Big Law refugees” to have control over their lives, pursue entrepreneurial business ideas, and be compensated properly for their contributions. According to one woman partner quoted in the article, “They get control over their practices, treat their clients how they want to treat them, make more money, while also gaining some flexibility for work-life balance.”
There was a particular emphasis in the article that I loved — that lawyers’ outside lives must function well enough for them to do their best work at the office. Bravo! It is so fundamental.
There is much more in this article for you to chew on. Check it out. File it away. It may become important to you one day.