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Women Lawyers See Generation Gap

At her blog Bag and Baggage, Denise Howell says, "This month's cover story in the California Lawyer is right on." The story, We're Outta Here: Why Women Are Leaving Big Firms, by Malaika Costello-Dougherty, describes a generation gap among women lawyers in larger law firms. Whereas  women from the Baby Boom generation were often willing to put their jobs and careers ahead of their friends and even their families, Gen X women are increasingly saying that no amount of money is worth that sacrifice. And increasingly, they are turning to solo and small-firm practice in search of work/life balance. Writes Costello-Dougherty:

"There is a growing disconnect between the last two generations of women lawyers, a development that is most apparent in large firms. Female senior partners from the baby boom say they are frustrated that the younger women don't want to give the same amount of blood to their careers. And many of the younger female attorneys look at the few women at the top and label them drudges who sacrificed too much personal freedom for their jobs."

In her post, Denise Howell points to the article's money quote:

"If law firms want to get the best and brightest young women to join them and stay, they will likely need to change radically and adopt different definitions of sacrifice and partnership."

But there is something else equally fascinating about this article -- the phenomenon is not limited to women.

"The past few years have witnessed the highest levels of associate attrition ever documented, with an average annual attrition rate for both sexes of 19 percent, as recently reported by the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education. Within five years of entering a firm, more than three-quarters of associates leave. Female associates were nearly twice as likely as males to depart to pursue a better work/life balance."

Women are leaving large law firms faster than men. But men, it would appear, are jumping ship in greater numbers than ever before. That suggests that Howell's statement about the need for radical change at large firms applies across the board. Men, too, are choosing balance over billables.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 6, 2007 at 05:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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