This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

On ambition

Yesterday the Women's Law Caucus had a speaker come in, as October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month. She basically did a run-through of statistics on domestic violence, reasons why abusers aren't prosecuted, laws that fail to protect victims, etc.

Anyway, the woman started off her presentation by giving the statistics of women in law, percentage of lawyers that are women, etc. Then she started talking about how the reason the numbers aren't higher is that women don't embrace their history, and don't challenge their place in society. Well, sure, maybe that's part of it. But I think the environment of the legal profession probably contributes more to the exodus of women than any deep-seeded psychology that makes women believe they are inferior and want to be subordinate instead. Any profession that tries to completely take over your life, is obviously going to suffer a great deal of attrition. However, men's attitudes are beginning to change, which I think is even more important than anything women can do to effect change in the profession. When no one is willing to sacrifice having a personal life for the demands of their legal career, when men decide they won't miss out on life in order to bill 16 hours every day, that's when the most change occurs. That's why, for instance, there's a new trend in Big Firms negotiating lower salaries for fewer hours, yet still keeping on the partnership track. Firms want to hold onto their talent, and not see them slip away into less demanding jobs because they get burned out, want families, etc. When more firms begin to embrace the philosophy that there's more to life than just work, I think the statistics of women in the legal profession will increase.

The question has been posed by a few other bloggers, about the ambition of women in the legal profession. I have to admit, I'm not all that ambitious. Part of it's being lazy, part of it's that I just never wanted work to be my entire life. Which is funny, because I also never wanted a family. But I still wanted the freedom to be able to travel, write, do other things that I enjoy. I don't really need to be the best at anything, in fact, I'm perfectly happy to let others win. I just want to feel like I did my best and achieved something good. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't. It's easy to get caught up in others' ambition. Sometimes I feel that sense of competition, and it irritates me. I prefer teamwork to individual ambition. I know plenty of men who feel the same way, so I don't think that it's a tragedy for feminism that not all women want to be at the top. It would be nice if more women were CEOs and partners at enormous law firms, or if we had a woman president. But I don't want to be any of those things.

I'd like to be partner at a firm someday (mostly so I can come in at 10 and leave at 3 every day). I want to be a good attorney. I think I'd like to be a mediator someday. I want to give back to the community in a variety of ways. I might even want to teach someday (although definitely not at a law school, I'd rather teach a class in IR). I want to be a role model for my daughter, and any additional children we might have. I want to spend as much time as possible with my husband. I want to travel, and write, and spend time with my friends. I want a full life with many different things.

But on the other hand, maybe I actually am ambitious to a certain extent. I could have dropped out of undergrad because it was hard due to a variety of setbacks I faced. I could have decided not to go to law school because it was hard. I could have stayed a secretary. I worked hard to get to where I am, even if that's not top of my class at a top school, editor of law review, etc. I'm just me, struggling with my own mediocrity, average fish in an average pond. I'm okay with that.


legally certifiable said...

Excellent post. I completely agree.

caradepollo said...

I always talk about this with my friends.

I, too, am a doer. I teach English full time in Juvenile Hall. I take teaching credential classes because I HAVE to. I go to law school at night because I WANT to. And I am almost 6 mos pregnant with a girl. I got straight A's in my Masters program, and I have had to learn to be ok with 73s on my ls exams.

This is as much as I will EVER do at one time because I have realized that life will slip by while I am busy being ambitious. Or even just working like a normal person. There's a lot to be said for the hum drum. I do not remember the last time I made cookies.

Making cookies is good. And I think we CAN have it all. We just can't be perfect at everything.

PT-LawMom said...

Great post! I don't try to compete with the straight A crowd. I just do what I can, trying to focus on those things at which I can succeed and make a name for myself. Hopefully it will pay off and I will make it through!