Women in the Law
Women Lawyers Are Happier Outside of BigLaw, Survey Says
Posted Feb 4, 2009 2:15 PM CST
By Rachel M. Zahorsky
Former large-firm female attorneys are finding career satisfaction and happiness in the law—in second careers as in-house counsel, government attorneys and solo practitioners.
The leaky pipeline in the progression of women lawyers from law firm neophytes to equity partners is a common BigLaw problem. However, most women who leave their firms are relocating within the profession, and those who find contentment are in positions that give them control over their work and schedules, according to NALP data and a recent Philadelphia Bar Association survey.
“Flexibility, control and predictability are the most important qualities that women seek,” wrote Phyllis Horn Epstein, a partner at the Philadelphia-based firm Epstein, Shapiro & Epstein, in a report (PDF) of the survey’s findings. Those three factors trumped monetary compensation and accounted for small-firm lawyers and solos being among the most satisfied of all the respondents.
Judges and academics also reported happiness with the predictability of their schedules. And one surveyed attorney said flex schedules available to federal government attorneys were enormously helpful to raising children and caring for elderly parents—tasks often taken on by women.
While Epstein doubts the number of women reaching the highest levels of partnership within BigLaw will drastically increase in the near future, she predicts women’s participation within small firms and other occupations will continue grow as they leave large firms and seek to redefine the meaning of a successful career.
Esptein will present her findings at the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession's 2009 Midyear Meeting on March 31.