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Can Female Lawyers Go Home Again?

They say that you can't go home again, but a few female lawyers are proving otherwise. As this story, "Law Firms Opening Up to the Idea of Attorney Re-Entry" reports, some women who left their firms to raise children are now discovering that they can return to the fold, even after as much as a decade of absence.

Shari Solomon, now an associate at Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen is one example. She left her firm in 1995 following the birth of her third child. Ten years later, when she felt ready to re-enter the work force, she contacted a Wolf Block partner with whom she'd kept in touch, which eventually resulted in an offer to return to the firm. 

Still, how common is it for law firms to welcome female lawyers after they've been gone for a while? My guess is that these reunions are fairly infrequent and somewhat ad hoc. Indeed, the article mentions just one firm -- Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom -- that has institutionalized a revolving door option for women. Skadden's Sidebar program allows lawyers to take a leave of absence for up to three years and return to the firm thereafter. All of the other programs mentioned discussed leave time of six months which, while generous, hardly qualifies as extended time off (especially where women pop back in for meetings and conference calls during their leave).

In addition, it's not clear whether most women actually want to leave their firm for extended periods, or simply prefer more flexibility that would enable them to balance work and family. According to this post at the ABA Journal news site, a recent study by the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers found that 86 percent of women are interested in flexible and part time arrangements. So it's not clear how many women would avail themselves of a formal re-entry program even if firms were to offer it. In short, even if women could go home (to their firms) again, it's not clear how many women want to leave their firms for home in the first place.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 7, 2008 at 07:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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