Women in the Law

The Resume Gap: How Lawyers Who Left Law Can Get Back In

Women lawyers who take off more than a year of work to care for their children face big challenges when they decide it’s time to return to the law.

But there are some strategies that can help, the New York Law Journal reports.

Deborah Epstein Henry, founder and president of Flex-Time Lawyers, told the publication that many law firms are “so linear and so traditional and so conventional” that they don’t know how to view employees who don’t follow a regular career path.

Some new programs aim to assist these returning lawyers. Among the sponsors are Pace Law School, the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and the New York City Bar. Consultants also are offering advice.

Henry said lawyers seeking to re-enter law practice should be clear about what they are seeking in their cover letters. “The first sentence of the letter should say, ‘I’m interested in seeking a position as a midlevel associate in your labor and employment group,’ ” she told the law journal.

She also said women should account for the time they are gone, even if it is referred to as “primary caretaker.”

Linda Marks, director of training and consulting at the Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings, told the publication that resumes should also include volunteer work women have done leading nonprofit groups or raising money for schools. They may want to propose working on a short-term, contract basis with a law firm. Such a job can help lawyers dispel a law firm’s misgivings and get a full-time job offer.

She also said job seekers should call all their contacts and let them know they are looking for work.

Several lawyers who took time off said women on leave shouldn’t wait until they are looking for a job to talk to their contacts. “Even if it’s just on an informal basis, you need to keep in touch with people,” said Janice Mac Avoy, who took off five months from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson to care for a newborn. “They don’t mean to, but they could forget about you.”

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