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Lawyer life question

 
 
Reply Wed 16 Mar, 2011 06:39 pm
I really want to become a lawyer. I am an ESTJ (myers brigg personality type) so I naturally like order, structure, organization, responsibility, and helping people. I've read quite a bit on these forums. I have a few questions:

1. I am a mom of a soon to be 1 year old. I hope to be in law school in 2-3 years so he will be in school by then. I'm not so concerned about time when I'm in law school as I am when I get out and get a job. I hear that lawyers have no time and work 80+ hrs/wk and yet I still hold on to the belief that I can be a lawyer and a mom. Is it reasonable to believe this?

2. How do I speak with lawyers? Everyone says that talking to practicing lawyers helps but how? Do I just call a random lawyers office and ask to take up their precious time with questions?

Thanks for any help
 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Mar, 2011 06:42 pm
@lizkirtland,
You certainly have your work cut out for you. Do you have a life partner/spouse/parents to help with child-raising duties?

My thought off-the-top-of-my-head is to call a Law School and speak to a law professor.

What was your major and from where did you matriculate? When did you get your degree? What was GPA? Did you graduate with honors?
0 Replies
 
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Mar, 2011 07:47 pm
@lizkirtland,
If you live in the United States, you should be able to find a local American Bar Association. They'll be very happy to provide you with the information you seek.

In the meantime, here's their national website.

http://www.americanbar.org/aba.html

And here's their Career Center for lawyers and aspiring lawyers:

http://www2.americanbar.org/careercenter/Pages/careercenter.aspx

Here's a link for finding your state or local bar association:

http://www.americanbar.org/groups/bar_services/resources/state_local_bar_associations.html

If you're not familiar with the ABA, here's a Wikipedia article on them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Bar_Association
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Mar, 2011 03:52 am
@Butrflynet,
Oh and I'd like to add -- not every lawyer is like the kind you see on TV. They don't all work 80+ hours every week. However, if you want the big $$, you will.
lizkirtland
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Mar, 2011 01:37 pm
@jespah,
Actually I've been reading alot of forums and thats where I read alot of 80+ hours. I found the post from 2004 "Lawyer FAQ" that you contributed to to be the most informative. I didn't realize there was a "lawyer and mothering" forum, I'll have to read that one.
Thank you all for the information. I guess what I was looking for was advice from lawyers who've been in my shoes or know someone who is/has.
Oh I forgot to mention, I'm not sure of a specialty yet but I do know that I won't be working as a criminal lawyer.

And yes I have a wonderfully supportive husband. He has his Phd so he undertands the time/work I will have to put into it and is willing to help however he can. I just dont want to miss out on my husband and child because I'm stuck at work for 80+/hrs a week. I understand i will miss alot, and I wont be able to go to every game or what not, but I don't want to be absentee.

As for my schooling, I haven't finished yet. Like I said I hope to be in law school in 2-3 years. At the rate I'm headed my GPA should be 3.6+ and of course I have not taken my LSAT yet. I will be graduating from University of California Riverside with a BA in psychology/law & society (thats the title of it).
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Mar, 2011 01:41 pm
@lizkirtland,
I'm the one that put that tag on, so that anyone else interested in the combined subject will find this in the future...
I'm not an attorney, just thought yours was an interesting question for A2K.
0 Replies
 
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Mar, 2011 01:53 pm
@lizkirtland,
Since your focus is more on lawyering and motherhood rather than just lawyering, you may be interested in these two links.

http://solopracticeuniversity.com/faculty/julie-tower-pierce/

Quote:
Julie Tower-Pierce is an attorney, mom, writer and author. She will serve as both faculty and resource facilitating a workshop called, “Staying at Home, Staying in the Law” at Solo Practice University®.


This is a thesis someone wrote on television's depiction of women lawyering and the challenges women lawyers face. Starting at about page 32 they go into motherhood and lawyering. It is a pdf file:

http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1316&context=etd_hon_theses&sei-redir=1#search=%22lawyering+and+motherhood%22
0 Replies
 
talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Mar, 2011 02:26 pm
@lizkirtland,
If like arguing then law is for you. Get into a few of the argumentative posts here on A2K. It will give you good practice. A2K is an argumentative lot.
0 Replies
 
firefly
 
  2  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 10:42 am
@lizkirtland,
I also think that which area of law you specialize in affects time commitments and demands. Civil law, for instance--estate law, real estate contracts, etc.--might allow for an easier, more flexible schedule and less work in the evenings, which would permit more time to be a mom and available to your child.

The time demands associated with different areas of the law is something you might want to discuss with some lawyers who practice in various areas of civil and criminal law--particularly female lawyers.

Since law school is 2-3 years away for you, and obtaining your law degree will take at least 3 more years, I wouldn't be overly concerned about balancing work and motherhood just yet. It is definitely possible to do both. Depending on your choices, and options, and priorities, it can be made easier or more difficult, but you certainly can be both a good mom and a successful lawyer who doesn't work herself to death.
lizkirtland
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 12:18 pm
@firefly,
thank you so much everyone and thank you especially firefly. Your words really help put things in perspective and filled me with hope Smile
Cycloptichorn
 
  3  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 12:25 pm
@lizkirtland,
Okay, lemme throw a little cold water on this here -

Quote:
I'm not so concerned about time when I'm in law school as I am when I get out and get a job.


You ought to be worried about that part. I work in a Law School and lemme tell ya, it's no picnic. Our students are stressed, all the time, and while they don't work 80-hour weeks, they certainly are putting in 40-60 including studying.

I still say go for it - if it's what you are determined to do - but be prepared for those three years of law school to suck really, really hard. Additionally, you may have a hard time landing the judicial Internships and other summer work which is typically considered key to building a resume and landing a job after law school, because this mostly requires moving somewhere across the country for a few months. This is important these days, because the law biz has taken a real hit with the recession and graduates are having a lot harder time finding a job than they used to.

Good luck! You'll need it.

Cycloptichorn
firefly
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 01:30 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Law school is demanding, but, depending on the area one lives in, it may also be possible to attend on a part-time basis if a full course load is not feasible.

Travel for judicial internships, or other "resume builders" is not necessary. Again, it all depends on the area of law you want to specialize in, and what your ultimate career goals are.

Landing a job might not be easy, but hopefully the economy will have improved 5 or 6 years down the road from now. Besides, a law school grad, who has passed the bar exam, can always go into private practice. They can either hook up with an older, more established attorney who is looking for a younger associate, or they can go into practice by themselves or with one of their classmates from law school. Not everyone wants to be part of a large law firm nor does everyone have very lofty monetary or career goals.

There will always be a need for lawyers--people need to have wills and trusts drawn up and estates need to be settled, people get divorced and have custody issues, people buy and sell real estate, people set up and run businesses and small corporations, people have legal tax issues or go into bankruptcy, people are injured in automobile accidents or through someone's negligence etc. So, as long as demand is there, lawyers can expect to earn a decent income even if self employed.

One suggestion I have for lizkirtland is to get involved in local politics, at least to the extent of checking out meetings of her local Democratic or Republican clubs. Lawyers network in order to build up their practices in the community, and one way to find, and meet, lawyers socially is through local political organizations, since those groups have particular appeal to lawyers. That would afford her additional opportunities to chat with attorneys and have her questions answered. It's also a good way for her to network and establish contacts who might be very useful to her one day when she looks for a job or starts her own law practice.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  3  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 02:49 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Cycloptichorn wrote:
You ought to be worried about that part. I work in a Law School and lemme tell ya, it's no picnic. Our students are stressed, all the time, and while they don't work 80-hour weeks, they certainly are putting in 40-60 including studying.

Well, I went to law school and that wasn't my experience at all. Of course, I didn't have a spouse and small child either, so I don't know how lizkirtland would handle those additional responsibilities.

Cycloptichorn wrote:
I still say go for it - if it's what you are determined to do - but be prepared for those three years of law school to suck really, really hard.

Again, not my experience. I enjoyed law school.

Cycloptichorn wrote:
Additionally, you may have a hard time landing the judicial Internships and other summer work which is typically considered key to building a resume and landing a job after law school, because this mostly requires moving somewhere across the country for a few months.

I presume she would go to law school somewhere near her home and also seek employment/clerkships/summer associate positions nearby. There's certainly no requirement to go across country for a job.

Cycloptichorn wrote:
This is important these days, because the law biz has taken a real hit with the recession and graduates are having a lot harder time finding a job than they used to.

That's very true.
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 02:53 pm
@joefromchicago,
I'm not saying she shouldn't go - she should, if that's what she wants to do - but it's a tough thing to go through, a stressful thing. At least, that's the experience I see in the students I deal with every day. Your Mileage May Vary.

Cycloptichorn
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 03:03 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Cycloptichorn wrote:
Your Mileage May Vary.

Indeed.
0 Replies
 
lizkirtland
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 09:32 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
The reason I'm not concerned with the time constraints with law school is not because I think it'll be a walk in the park. It's because I know without a shadow of a doubt it will take up most of my time. my son will still be very young and not into sports/activities quite yet. What I don't know is after all that work, after all this time put in (not to mention money) will I end up saying "I can't do this because I have no time for family." The only, only, only thing that would keep me from pursuing this dream is knowing that I'd have to give up my family. I know thats a little dramatic but I don't strive to be that amazing career woman who doesnt even know her own husband or son anymore.

So that is why I was hoping to hear people say, yes you can do it. you can be a mom, be there for your kid (like I said I know I can't be at everything) but not be an absentee parent and still be a great lawyer. I wanted to hear, it'll be hard but its possible. Because if there is a possibility thats enough for me to forge through.

I'm a strong believer in if youre a hard worker and good at what you do, you will find work. Riverside CA is one of the worst economies in the US at the moment so I know about the economy. I don't need to make 120k/yr to be happy. My husband has a great job and I get to stay home with my son. I just want to do this because 1. I know I will love it and 2. It's a good wage to live on. Win win there. 3. Because although my husband has a Phd I want to be a good model to our son too, I want him to know that hard work and dedication pay off.

So thank you all for the support, opinions and info!!
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 10:47 pm
@lizkirtland,
Meantime, an aside...

When I was a senior in high school, I was invited for some reason to check out the new university at Riverside. By now I've thrown away a photo. Too bad, as it looked rather plaintive when we visited. It was just starting. You can tell by this that I'm old now. I'm a UCLA person, school a couple of times and two different jobs in two different fields. I'm so old....... that there was no tuition when I was there.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Mar, 2011 11:02 pm
I'll add that I read an article a couple of months ago that talked about how law schools are rated, and that a lot of people go into great debt to get through based on a not very sensible rating system. If I manage to remember where I saw that, I'll post the link as a heads-up for you.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  3  
Reply Sat 19 Mar, 2011 07:28 pm
@lizkirtland,
lizkirtland wrote:
So that is why I was hoping to hear people say, yes you can do it. you can be a mom, be there for your kid (like I said I know I can't be at everything) but not be an absentee parent and still be a great lawyer. I wanted to hear, it'll be hard but its possible. Because if there is a possibility thats enough for me to forge through.

No, you can't do it.

Let me clarify that remark: you can't work at the kind of big, urban law firm that it sounds like you want to work at, make tons of money, and still be there for your child and husband. Big law firms will say that they make special allowances for women, that they don't penalize them for taking time off for their families, that they give the same consideration to women who followed the "mommy track" as they do to men when making partnership decisions, but that's just not true. A recent report showed that women make up only 19% of all partners in big law firms, and only 6% of the managing partners. And if you really want to advance in the legal profession, don't have kids:

Quote:
The last three men nominated to the Supreme Court have all been married and, among them, have seven children. The last three women — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Harriet Miers (who withdrew) — have all been single and without children.


That being said, you can still have a successful legal career and be the wife and mother that you want to be. A lot of lawyers these days -- both men and women -- have traded the dream of untold wealth (and the corresponding 80-hour work weeks) for jobs that pay less but offer far more personal satisfaction. Some big law firms are even getting on board, offering more flexible hours and obsessing less about billable hours. Get one of those jobs and you may just find that you can "have it all." Be aware that there are choices available -- and not all of them lead to big salaries at big law firms.
firefly
 
  2  
Reply Sat 19 Mar, 2011 11:43 pm
@joefromchicago,
Actually, I didn't have the impression that lizkirtland was thinking about a big urban law firm, an extremely high powered career, or making tons of money. In fact, she said
Quote:
I don't need to make 120k/yr to be happy.
.

Obviously, someone, male or female, who chooses to work 80+ hours a week, isn't going to have much of a life outside of work. It's not a problem that's unique to women, although I think we tend to admire the driven workaholic much more when it's a man rather than a woman, and an absentee husband and dad seems more acceptable than his female counterpart--he's allegedly doing it for "the family", but it's a family he may rarely see. If people go into law primarily to earn a very high income, and measure success mainly in terms of money, that may well come at the cost of other aspects of their lives, including a real sense of satisfaction with the work itself.

It seems to me that lizkirtland is thinking about her future in just the right way--she's already considering the quality of life she wants to have and, for her, being with her husband and child is part of that quality of life. Her reasons for going to law school are also framed in terms of adding to the quality of her life--"I know I will love it". Something about the law appeals to her, and she feels it's a good match for her personality type. Those are pretty good, and sensible, reasons for wanting to become a lawyer. It doesn't sound like she is doing this because she wants to trade her present life for a high powered, consuming career, she's doing it because it will add something to her already happy sounding life. I can't think of a better reason to get a professional degree in law, or any other field.

I was actually surprised that lizkirkland even posted this thread to ask whether she could successfully balance a career in law with her family life. Why would she even think she couldn't do that? Practically every woman I know has a professional degree, or an advanced graduate degree, and they have all successfully combined a career with being a wife and mother. It involves choosing options carefully--perhaps going into radiology or dermatology, rather than neurosurgery, as a medical specialty, or working in a two person office rather than a huge law firm, or teaching in a university rather than doing work that involves a lot of evening hours or travel--you can't single-mindedly focus on a career if you have other obligations, like a family, that you really don't want to neglect. Women who want to be there, particularly for their children, really can't have the luxury of fulfilling unfettered career ambitions. There has to be some compromise in career options, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. One can still find enormous satisfaction and challenging work. It's a matter of keeping your priorities in order and being well organized. And having a great, reliable housekeeper also helps a lot. Smile

I think it's tough for a woman to "have it all"--a blazing, sky's-the-limit career, and a satisfying family life that doesn't leave her with pangs of guilt about short changing her children or missing the important events and moments in their lives. But, even if a woman can't "have it all" she can certainly enjoy the best of two worlds--a very satisfying, successful career and a very satisfying, successful home-life. She might have to modify her career ambitions, or earning potential, but that's a small price to pay for not having to choose one over the other.

I think lizkirtland is at an advantage because she already has a child, before even getting to law school, and, because of that, she's already thinking about keeping things in balance. She knows what's important to her, and she already has other obligations, and law school and being a lawyer has to fit in with that part of her life. And, I have no doubt that she will be able to balance it all. She's already thinking about it the way she has to think about it if she doesn't want to wind up severely conflicted and pulled in opposing directions. Her career ambitions might have to be more modest for a while, but, as her child grows older, those constraints lessen considerably and then she can really hit the accelerator full force, if that's what she wants to do.

There are so many areas of law, and such a wide variety of employment possibilities, I think an intelligent sensible woman can find a very happy niche for herself that doesn't include the craziness of an 80 hour work week to rack up those billable hours. Money isn't everything when it comes to personal happiness, and career success shouldn't always be measured in earning power. The sooner most people realize that, the generally happier they are likely to be. lizkirtland seems to be already thinking in that direction. Let's hope 3 years of law school doesn't change that.

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