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Do Lawyers Make Good Parents?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 27, 2015 10:32 AM

Two-thirds of parents want their kids to grow up to be lawyers. The other third have probably read the stats about lawyer depression, alcoholism, and student debt.

But forget lawyer kids, what about lawyer parents? There are plenty of perks that come from being an attorney, including pleasing your parents, but how does the legal profession stand up when it comes to actually being parents?

Baby's First Summary Judgment

First, parenting is an individual skill, not an industry-wide one. A lawyer's ability to be a loving, nurturing parent isn't wholly determined by his or her profession. Of course, the legal profession attracts a certain group of individuals and if we can generalize about lawyer characteristics, we'd wager that they're more good than bad when it comes to parenting.

Assertiveness, dedication, and tenacity are all important when it comes to raising children. This holds true whether you're drafting a dog-walking contract with little Maria or walking Billy through his first Teddy Bear voir dire.

If parenting ability is an individual characteristic, then let's look at what can actually be examined on a large scale -- the legal industry itself. As most parents will tell you, one of the biggest struggles with raising a child is finding the time and money to dedicate to your child. The same is true whether you're a partner-track associate or a retail worker.

Strong Official Policies, Stronger Subtle Pressures

When it comes to law firms and parenting, the reviews are mixed. Many firms have official parenting policies that are, at least superficially, very conducive to parenting. Most firms offer at least ten weeks of paid leave for new parents, according to a 2013 Vault survey. Some new parents can combine paid and unpaid leave for a total of six months. The Vault survey, which focused largely on mothers, also found that 83 percent of new mothers were offered telecommuting and flex-time arrangements which can help new parents balance work and childrearing.

But billable hours are billable hours. For lawyers who want to advance in a firm, time that is spent on children often has to be made up. Taking extended leave can be seen as not caring enough about your job

These subtle pressures often pose the greatest problem. Choose to go part time and you might watch your career advancement peter out. Leave early to catch a child's soccer game and you could be making up those hours overnight. Despite these pressures, the Vault survey found that almost three quarters of respondents would recommend their employer to working mothers.

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