LIV Babies and Lawyers Survey

I just completed a survey sent to me by Victorian Women Lawyers and I was surprised. As I completed the questionnaire, I was filled with rage towards my firm. I didn’t realise I was so angry and bitter.

No, I didn’t get paid maternity leave. Not one red cent. Only partners at my old firm are entitled to paid maternity leave (although to do the firm justice, some had fought for other employees to receive paid maternity leave). I had to go on maternity leave much earlier than expected as a result of medical advice. So now we are struggling financially.

I have realised that I feel very angry because I don’t feel like I was appreciated by my firm. If I had received paid maternity leave, I probably would have returned to my firm (out of a sense of obligation and loyalty, if nothing else). As it is – well, you fill in the gaps! If they had actually wanted me back after I had my baby, they would have made approaches to me to see what they could do to make my return to work easier. No, they haven’t done that either. However, I didn’t even get a bunch of flowers from the wider firm after I had my baby, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t think they’re going to bother with more important niceties when they can’t even manage a bunch of flowers. If you want loyalty and commitment from your employee, the best way is to treat her with care, respect and loyalty in return. But that seems too hard for workplaces these days – chew ’em up, spit ’em out, it doesn’t matter.

I also feel very angry because of the way law firms operate. I refer, again, to my post on six minute billing units and my post on the Junior Lawyers’ Union.

I would be unlikely to be accepted back at work on a part time basis because of the way in which my section operated (despite the willingness of colleagues on my level to job share with me). And the hours are not ideal for family life either, even if you are only part time. What happened to reasonable work hours? They seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Modern technology has only made things worse. Now you can be contacted on your Blackberry while on holiday with your family in Queensland or on your mobile in the middle of the night at home – there are no limits as to when and how work intrudes on family life.

And as for worries about childcare…see my previous post on that topic. I feel like everything is working against me, and I’d just be better off opting out of law firms altogether and doing something else.

What a great idea! I think I’ll just go do exactly that.



Filed under feminism, law, law firms, morale, motherhood

5 responses to “LIV Babies and Lawyers Survey

  1. cherry ripe

    Public service cha cha cha… Public service cha cha cha… I read this and I can’t recommend it enough.

    I have to tell you we’re getting lawyers from high-level firms, oxford barristers, Masters graduates, etc, applying for middle-level jobs because they’re jack of it. And they’re the men.

    The other good thing about the public service is that if your workplace isn’t appropriate for part-time work, you can organise secondments and exchanges, which is exactly what I’ve done. My previous area worked to strict 3-day deadlines, which meant at least one of my 2-days was taken up with handing over things I had been working on! So now I’m at a different, long-term, project-based area, where I can leave things for 5 days and it’s not a disaster.

  2. Legal Eagle

    The problem is that we can’t all go and work in the public service. I think law firms have to change the way they operate, perhaps more in line with the way in which your workplace seems to operate. But at the moment, they just seem to be happy to lose talented young lawyers and replace them with a fresh batch of cannon fodder. I’m sure they just say to themselves, “Well, obviously those lawyers are wusses and couldn’t hack it”.

    I don’t understand it; it seems to be very short-sighted.

  3. cherry ripe

    Yes, I guess my argument is that if the best lawyers choose lifestyle over prestige, then hopefully the culture will change, instead of a race to the bottom…

  4. Legal Eagle

    Ah, I take your point. I agree, surely firms see that talented people are going elsewhere, whether to the public service, the Bar, academia, or in house? The logical response IS a change in attitude. But I think we’ll have to wait a while before that happens, because law is so conservative. The thing is that people like you and I (who might run things differently) aren’t going to want to hang around in that system. It frustrates me so much! I guess there’s still enough good people for firms to manage and make excuses as to why people left.

  5. Pingback: Women and the law « The Legal Soapbox

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