Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

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midnightexpress
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Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby midnightexpress » Mon May 08, 2017 12:27 pm

Hello solicitor mummies out there,
I'm a mummy to 3 young children and also work full time in a very demanding international sales job that involves some occasional travel abroad. I've been doing this work for over 15 years and it's not something that I love but have built a good reputation in my industry and it's very well rewarded financially. However, I do feel that my boss has been treating me differently since I become a mum (from having total autonomy to do my job before to now being constantly micro managed) and making my life in the office somewhat difficult! But that would be a story for another thread...
I've been trying to find a new similar job but have also asked myself honestly if I really want to keep doing the same for the next few years and tbh I'm not sure... Plus I need to spend some more time with my children - at the moment I'm always running around as a headless chicken, have no time for myself, half of my salary goes on childcare/housekeeping (full time, mon to fri nanny plus a weekly cleaner) and with my boss' daily clock-watching I can't really afford to spend any time with them in the mornings otherwise I get late at work and during the week come back home exhausted and only see them for about 30-45 minutes before they go to bed. Daddy works from home in his own medium sized, very successful business (but he's always complaining about cash flow, the school fees etc and hence the pressure on me to keep working in case something ever goes wrong). He's able to spend a lot more time with the children throughout the day, drops off or picks up the older one at school most days, goes to the gym etc. And when I come home they cry because they still want 'daddy' to put them to bed - am very envious of all that at the moment but again, that's another separate story...

So, I'm seriously considering resigning from my very well paid, established job (gulp!) and going back to full-time study. Have saved enough now to take a couple of years break and considering to re-train as a paralegal or solicitor (in my current job I'm always liaising with the Legal team and review lots of contracts on a daily basis and feel very comfortable with it).

So, I gave you the background to my thinking and now this is MY BIG QUESTION - I've heard lots of stories about the crazy demanding hours and cut throat world of Law firms in the city but am I being unrealistic to think that with my business experience I could eventually work part-time in a Law firm or even work independently (as a freelancer) from home, during family-friendly hours? Does age matter (I'm in my late forties)? Would it take years of experience (as a solicitor) to be able to achieve such a balanced position? All I want is to make a decent living in a motivating job whilst having flexible working hours so I can spend some more time with my family - probably what most working mums here would want to - is that too much to ask? If you're a solicitor yourself, do you thing I got it all wrong and am going down the wrong road? Any tips/suggestions? x

2009Kat
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby 2009Kat » Mon May 08, 2017 6:36 pm

If you're thinking of city law, I wouldn't bother. It will take you at least a year of study then two years training at the beck and call of seniors (fancy cancelling your weekend plans at the last minute?!) before you qualify and have a shot of a job with less or more flexible hours which in any event may be rarer than hens teeth. Possibly sweeping generalisations - things are probably better in other areas of law.

Fairylights
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby Fairylights » Mon May 08, 2017 7:24 pm

If you are looking to get more control over your work/life balance then I don't think that training as a solicitor is going to give it to you. I trained at a city law firm and worked for a number of years post-qualification (my husband is a partner in a city law firm). In my experience most female lawyers want to get out of law when they have families rather than look to get into it. The vast majority of my friends who still work in private practice work full time, whether they want to or not, because they are in areas of law such as corporate or banking where it's just not feasible to work on deals part-time. There are roles which can be carried out on a part-time basis such as professional support lawyers or in-house at a corporate, civil service etc, but people generally make the move once they have built up some experience in their chosen practice area. I should mention that depending on your level of education, you'd be looking at at least 2 years at law school (costing around £25,000 unless you secure a training contract in advance in which case your firm might sponsor you) which would not guarantee you a job, and then a 2 year training contract, again with no guarantee of a job after it. City law firms in particular are incredibly hierarchical places and you'd be at the bottom of the pile. You'd be expected to do whatever was needed, irrespective of time of day. You would be unlikely to see your children in the evening and would not see much of your husband either. In some departments working all night is "normal" when deals are happening (my husband did a double all nighter while we were training). I've focused on City firms because that's what I know. Things are definitely different in non-city/smaller firms, but you mention the pressure of earning a "reasonable" salary to pay for childcare etc which you're more likely to earn in a bigger firm. I do 't know much about the paralegal side of things. That might be a more realistic route if you could find a role that had something to do with your work experience. I hope that helps.

Superunknown
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby Superunknown » Mon May 08, 2017 7:53 pm

I'm a city solicitor and would say that it is not a job for someone looking for work/life balance. I normally start work at 9.30 and don't finish until 11/12 most nights. I work most weekends, sometimes 4/5 hours but sometimes full days. I work every day on holiday too.
I love my job and am senior enough to work at home in the evenings but as a junior you wouldn't get that flex... although your business experience would be welcomed most city firms have a fixed qualification ladder...

FLH03
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby FLH03 » Mon May 08, 2017 9:22 pm

I would have to agree with other posters, I don't think becoming a solicitor is the ideal career path at all for happy work-life balance.

I worked in private practice in the City (corporate) then went in-house for an IT company, with offices in and out of London, hoping the latter would give me more of the work life balance and less stress, but you just exchange one type of client for another. I worked "part time" after having children and tried various roles but was just as much at the client's beck and call, whether that client was a an external corporate, in-house business division, senior management or the procurement team. Conference calls and client meetings and negotiation meetings are not set or determined by you. I stopped work while my children were all still primary school age, even with a really understanding and flexible nanny and supportive husband it became too much for me. It would be less difficult with mine now they are secondary school age but in a funny way I find they need me more in a different way now. Just my own personal view.

I don't think age is a factor, and you have a huge amount to offer, particularly in house with your sales and business experience. There are many strands to law, but company/banking/finance/ commercial/litigation/property would be very demanding. Private client work such as trusts, tax, wills, probate and administration are less deal-time driven so may offer more flexibility. Other women in my group of solicitor and barrister contemporaries chose to go down the professional support, company secretarial, or training and education routes to work around having children, but as another poster has said, that was leaving the hard-core legal bit after gaining experience. Law firms do need marketing, PR, business skills people and the big ones take on people in these roles specifically more and more.

Could you use your current skills in an industry, goods or service, that is more specifically family/working mother focussed, and hopefully offer some more flexibility. Whatever you decide good luck and I hope you find the answer - please do share it if you find it!

HoneywellMum
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby HoneywellMum » Mon May 08, 2017 10:20 pm

I agree with other posts. I am a city solicitor and am about to return to work after my second child and it's not easy at all. I am going back part time but time will tell if that is going to work out. The academic training alone for law is a huge financial commitment and then after that you have to train for two years at a firm where basically you are at the beck and call of your boss, are at the bottom of the pile doing often what seems like v menial tasks and often working v long hours. In a city firm it would be highly unlikely that you could go part time while training and even after qualification it would be hard. In my firm people who go part time tend to have worked there for many years. City firms are trying to be more flexible about working patterns but it's still not yet seen as the "done thing" and many of the partners/senior lawyers don't think you take your job seriously if you aren't working long hours often 7 days a week. Even if you didn't go to a city firm a smaller firm can be just as demanding as clients at any firm are demanding and have high expectations of their solicitors. In fact in a smaller firm you can end up working longer hours as you don't have the back up of support staff. What I would say before you make any decision is to see if you can get some work experience in a law firm - often the reality of being lawyer if not what people think it Is!

pie81
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby pie81 » Tue May 09, 2017 5:46 pm

Gosh, I can almost hear the hollow laughter from all the solicitor mothers I know. Work life balance is notoriously bad for lawyers, especially at the junior end (and unfortunately I don't think your previous experience would help much in propelling you upwards more quickly). Perhaps better outside the City (maybe), but then your pay may not cover childcare. Law also doesn't lend itself very well to freelancing/self employment.

I suspect there are other jobs where your sales experience would be more valued and which would give you greater flexibility. At least I hope so!

BecsB
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby BecsB » Tue May 09, 2017 9:21 pm

I'm a mum of three and currently working a 3 day week as a professional support lawyer in finance at a city firm.

I've been qualified for 9 years so it's taken several years of working long hours to now get a good work life balance. Generally PSL roles are filled by mid and senior level lawyers and can be in high demand.

However, some of the big firms have very big knowledge management teams so there are some junior professional support/knowledge management roles so this could be an option. You would still need to go through the rigours of the training contract.

Other options could be being paralegal or working in business development in a law firm, both of which could benefit from your previous experience.

All the best and good luck!

Confus_ed
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby Confus_ed » Tue May 09, 2017 11:34 pm

Most of the replies you've had so far have been in relation to city corporate law so thought I'd widen the pool a bit - although it's not much better news.

I'm a divorce lawyer. In my field it is possible to work alone but you first need to go to law school, get a training contract (against very stiff competition at all levels of firm in London these days), then land a job on qualification, put in 3 years post qualification working at a law firm (crazy hours), build a client followimg and then you can set up alone (subject to getting all the necessary authorisations and insurances). It is a long slog and frankly whilst you'll be your own boss and the pay is good the hours are on a par with if not worse than at a law firm, as you need to be constantly recruiting new clients.

There are now various virtual law firms who you can work for remotely but they usually demand 4 years post qualification experience plus a client following.

I'd rule out solicitor if I were you as whilst it might be possible to achieve the balance you want it's only an option after 7 years or so of very hard work and seriously long hours.

Paralegal would be a better option if time at home is your priority but if your sales job has been well paid it would probably involve a pay cut.

alongwayfromhome
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby alongwayfromhome » Wed May 10, 2017 8:57 am

Hi

I think all of the above responses are very honest and accurate - law is definitely not an easy option in terms of life/work balance and I have spent a long time trying to work out how to make it work for me!

I am a mum of 3 young children. I qualified 10 years ago at a large City firm and slogged out the long hours for a bit before taking an enforced break from the law to move overseas with my husband's work, where I discovered that working 16 hour days as standard wasn't the only way of living and had a bit of a reality check. Fast forward a couple of years and I found myself back in London with a 1yr old and a husband trying to forge a new career. I approached my old law firm who enthusiastically told me that they would love to hVe me back working part time.... 9days out of 10.

That wasn't for me, so I started looking at the freelance route. I was very junior at this point (about 2yrs PQE), which is really too junior for freelance but I got a lucky break and have freelancing through the freelance arms of a couple of the big city firms for the last 5 years (around two more sets of maternity leave). It has worked well for me, but isn't the Holy Grail. There is no financial security, and I survive on bare bones childcare as a result. You get none of the financial perks of being employed and little career progression. If you want to work part time (I do 3 days a week) then you will also sacrifice quality of work. The viability of it is also hugely practice area dependent.

In a nutshell, freelance can work, but only several years down the line and sacrificing a lot of the "good bits". It is serving a purpose for me at the moment but isn't something I will look to do forever. On the plus side, I have huge flexibility and am about to take all of August and September off to have the summer with my kids and settle them back into school. For me, that more than makes up for the limitations

AbbevilleMummy
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby AbbevilleMummy » Wed May 10, 2017 1:21 pm

Have to agree with everything else everyone has said. My hubby is a lawyer and also a number of my friends are.

The legal profession is such an antiquated one and most definitely not family friendly, to women or men for that matter! Most women I know have left their law firms once they have had children, returned to work and just simply couldn't achieve anything close to a work life balance as its not something that is promoted in most firms. It has even driven my husband mad as he's sick of missing school plays, sports days, holidays etc and really envies his friends in other industries who are able to work flexibly or from home in order to fit in family time when needed.

I don't have any suggestions I'm afraid, but you definitely need to pick an industry that is not law!

actuallyadad
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby actuallyadad » Wed May 10, 2017 2:12 pm

I cannot think of a job which is less family friendly than being a lawyer.

Ok maybe army officer posted abroad. Prime Minister is probably busy. That's about it. I'd think again if I were you!

CDSW11
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby CDSW11 » Wed May 10, 2017 9:35 pm

I'm not a solicitor but am the breadwinner working in the city and my husband in the same situation as yours. I dropped everything for a start up FD position a couple of years ago. I was working crazy, my husband hated the pressure this put on him to earn money (whilst before his salary was a bit like pocket money for him tbh|) and this taught us one thing: our couple works with me as working hard and earn a lot. That's how it should remain.

Flowermummy
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby Flowermummy » Thu May 11, 2017 1:20 pm

My husband is a lawyer and law is not really a profession you go to for work/life balance.
Out of his women lawyer colleagues/friends who had children, most opted to take a step down after children and went into part-time jobs/less demanding jobs (i.e. jobs in various government agencies) - this of course came with a significant pay cut.
So for you, I am not sure it makes any sense to go through a new degree, a training contract, the difficulty of finding an entry level job, etc - only to make probably less money than you are on now.

If you are after work/life balance, then I think your best bet is look for a new job similar to yours (or at least a job where the skills are transferable so you can go in at the same level, like someone mentioned already - business development in a law firm). And just work 4 days a week or have the ability to work from home a couple of afternoons per week.

petal
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Re: Can a solicitor mummy ever achieve a work/family life happy balance?

Postby petal » Thu May 11, 2017 5:12 pm

No... the people I know with the WORST ever work life balance are all solicitors.
They are well known for their hours, if a client needs to get something done you stay until it's done. It's not the done thing to say sorry it's 5pm got to go now ...
Of course it might vary but doesn't seem ideal


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