Jan Lindsay has just been elected the new president of the Law Society of British Columbia which regulates about 10,000 lawyers. Lindsay, 56, has been a partner at the Lindsay Kenney law firm since 1989 and has learned to do the work life balance as she is also a mother of four. She was appointed to the Queen’s counsel, an honorary distinction given to lawyers for their service in the community, during her career. She is the fifth woman to hold this title but she is the only one who is also a mother.Why is Jan Lindsay considered to be an exception for female lawyers?
According to a recent study on female lawyers, most of the respondents—almost two-thirds—said they were satisfied with their ability to integrate their work and personal lives and the predictability of their hours. The most often reasons cited for dissatisfaction with a previous employer were an unsupportive work environment (cited by 41% of the women) and poor promotion opportunities (cited by 40%), according to the study, conducted by Rutgers’ Center for Women and Work.
Vanessa Lloyd Platt wrote a tremendous piece for The Times two years ago on the stress of being a female lawyer. She wrote:
“The first overwhelming burden that faces a young legal mother is the question of when she goes back to work again and whether she will be downgraded according to the time she takes off. In a still predominantly men-orientated world, male lawyers seem to resent the time that women have off for maternity leave, many complaining of what they perceive as holding the fort after a woman’s decision to become pregnant. Many women complain that on their return to the legal profession, they are expected to work at twice the pace to make up for the time off, which puts inordinate pressure on them when they are trying to develop a sensible working pattern and balance. “
A study by the law society found that while more women than men are entering the legal profession in B.C., women are more likely to leave the profession after five years. The study found that of the women lawyers called to the bar in 2003, only 66% were still practising in 2008, compared to 83% of men who became lawyers in 2003. The life balance issue is obviously a factor in this decrease in women in the legal field. More women are going to law school than men and nearly half of all graduating law students are women. However, the route to partner for women is still falling off.
It should be noted though that most of the firms that make it on to the “50 Best Law Firms for Women” list have several policies in common. All of the law firms on the list have reduced hour policies, and all give lawyers who opt for the lighter schedules the same consideration for bonuses as full-timers, reports Working Mother Media. . Of the firms, 90% offer management and leadership training, 80% offer mentoring circles, and 78% offer full-time telecommuting. Seventy-eight percent offer backup childcare and 62% offer subsidized in-home backup childcare. If more firms did these things than perhaps Jan Lindsay wouldn’t be considered such a rarity.