Friday, April 24, 2015

The Mommy-Track for Lawyers: 5 Career Options

Mothers' Day is creeping up on us again and it's always a good time to talk about work issues for lawyer moms looking to re-enter the legal workforce.

After taking a break to raise kids, it won't come as a surprise to you that many legal employers can be unforgiving. To some degree, that's the nature of the legal profession. It's built in the billable hour and when you're raising a family, the billable hour is a demand that can be very hard to juggle. 

I'm an advocate of mommy-tracking your way back. Not all will agree with me, but it's a soft way to ease back in to the market without dealing with the pressures and expectations of the work world. 

The great thing about mommy-tracking is that you can work an easier job when the kids are small, and you never have a huge gap to explain. Then, as your kids get older, you can slowly move up to more challenging roles. 

Some examples of great mommy-tracked legal jobs:

1. The legal writer. I spent a large part of my mommy-tracked career at Of course, you'd have to live in Silicon Valley to work there, but their two-day-work-from-home policy was great and they had a solid 40-hours-a-week schedule. There are many legal writer and legal blogger jobs available and some will let you work entirely from home. 

Pros: Great flexibility. 
Cons: Low pay. Most jobs pay $20-30 an hour. 

2. The ghost writer for briefs.  There are many small litigation shops out there that are in need of a "behind the scenes" writer for legal briefs. It's hard work and not everyone has appellate brief experience. If you've been an appellate attorney in the past, then consider attending a few legal networking events and get to know litigators. You can easily charge $50-$150 per hour to draft these briefs.

Pros: Great flexibility, decent pay.
Cons: No stable income. You have to network and constantly find your next source of income. 

3. The contract manager.   In house legal departments are a beast of their own. While some believe that the in-house world is an amnesty for working parents, it's not always so and if you're negotiating sales contracts, don't expect to get the winter or Labor Day weekend off. But a contracts manager isn't on the hook as bad as the in-house attorney is and it's a great 9-5 job if you're buying your time before becoming in-house counsel. Here's the caveat, however: Don't expect that you'll be promoted to counsel at your current job. You'd likely have to apply to a different company as most companies won't promote their contract managers to "counsel". 

Pros: Great pay, great exposure to in-house legal
Cons: Don't expect to be promoted to "Counsel". 

4. The contract attorney. There are many great managed services out there that provide offsite lawyers into Fortune 500 companies. Many Silicon Valley companies are moving towards the managed-services model, where the are doing legal process outsourcing. You'd negotiate contracts and perform legal services from the comfort of your own home. Managed service providers include Axiom, Paragon, Elevate Services, and Flex by Fenwick. 

Pros: Great pay, great flexibility.
Cons: You can go large periods of time without an assignment. 

5. Your own practice. Many lawyer moms start their own shop. For some, it's a great fit. For others, it's not what they want. Having done it, I realized early that this wasn't what I wanted to do. I was always a corporate person who wanted to be in-house. But I have friends who swear by this-- from a financial standpoint and from a flexibility standpoint. 

Pros: You make your own hours, sense of accomplishment.
Cons: You eat what you kill-- no stability. Also, it can be a lot of work. 


Drew Harrison said...

Raising a family while maintaining a decent job can be quite the juggling act! Especially for a woman trying to make it on her own. Do you know of any good companies in regards to legal writing to work for?


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