An essay in the Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the summer of 2012 raised many perplexing issues about the roles of women in America. It challenged some of the established concepts that came out of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s and ’70s and made it clear that nothing is clear about the roles of women today.
Ironically, at about the same time that Slaughter was telling women they cannot have all they might want in both their personal and professional lives, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo were telling women that they should aspire to the corner offices and positions of leadership, almost without exception.
Not much has changed in the ensuing years. Women are still conflicted about their career paths and feel that they cannot have it all, and they struggle harder than ever to overcome the gender and work-life challenges. This is particularly true of women lawyers, some of whom leave law practice altogether, and many of whom leave private practice for what they hope will be more flexible and satisfying positions as in-house counsel and in other alternative practices.
It is no secret that many women prefer in-house practice to law firms, and for some very good reasons. The hours are often more manageable, and value is not measured principally by time billed to clients. There can be more opportunities for flexibility and the proportional number of women in senior positions in-house is encouraging. For these reasons alone, women in-house see their choices as progress, and they are.
However, many of the women who choose in-house practice do it as a default choice after law firm practice proves unsatisfactory in meeting their needs and career goals. It is that cause and effect that continues to plague the profession. Women should be choosing in-house practice and other alternative practices to satisfy their interests and to match their talent and skills, and not because the job is less disruptive to their lives than the alternative. For women who must make that kind of comparative choice, the profession fails them.
Read the full post at Corporate Counsel.