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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Firms struggle to keep women

More women are taking on a new attitude -- if you can't beat them or join them, leave them. Mae O'Malley left her San Francisco law firm, but not before she lined up work and built her own company, Paragon Legal Group.
She has 20 lawyers working for her on a full-time or part time basis, 90 percent are women. They make as much as $175 an hour and work for big corporate clients. These women still can practice law but they are able to do it on a flexible basis.
It is businesses like Paragon that pose a challenge to the traditional professional service firms. "In a large firm, if you go part-time even if there are part-time policies, it sidetracks you, says Stephanie Scharf, a past president of the National Association of Women Lawyers told the National Law Journal.
Women are looking for alternatives to the firm track -- some choosing to go inhouse at clients or non-profits, others getting creative and starting their own firms. All big firms need to do is loosen up, allow more women to work from home, allow job-sharing and smooth the way for returning attorneys who may need flexible schedules. What firms fail to understand is that it is not only mothers that want these arrangements. Its also is women and men in the later decades of their career.
One 62-year old attorney left a big firm for a legal assistance foundation. She found she likes to be home for dinner and have time for gardening. Of a staff of 90 attorneys at the foundation, two-thirds are women. This attorney says firms aren't adapting to women's longer-term career needs. Do firms really understand what they are up against? And the bigger question is do they care?


Blogger Stephanie said...

Important topic. Interesting discussion. I especially appreciated your comment that "women are looking for alternatives to the firm track...all big firms need to do is loosen up, allow more women to work from home, allow job-sharing..."

These comments resonated with me. As a new mom who works part time from home for a very family-friendly company, I can attest that this arrangement seems to be working for all parties involved. I am fiercely loyal and working harder than ever (but I am also very happy). And they have a talented employee that truly cares about the company. Everybody wins.

1:40 AM  

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