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Linked – Female Expats on Why They Left Paul Weiss, Hogan, Paul Hastings

The article below is based on interviews with three women who made it to partner at large, prestigious law firms, and then left to go out on their own.

You may be asking why I’m sharing this. That’s a fair question. I don’t think any of the comments from this article will be a huge surprise to anyone who’s been around law firms. These women were not taken as seriously as partners, were not seen as “rainmakers” by their fellow partners, got very little understanding about child care from fellow partners who had a stay-at-home spouse, etc.

None of that surprises me. I’ve seen it, and that’s why I wanted to share this because these are the questions I always wanted to ask some of the female attorneys I’ve worked with over the years.

When you work in eDiscovery within a law firm there are certain groups of attorneys you get to know pretty well. Yes, the litigation partners will be very familiar, but the other group is usually the new associates. Let’s face it, who does the grunt work of document review, and often needs assistance with the technology? New associates.

Over the years I got to know quite. few associates and many of them are female. Most of them impressed me as being very smart and talented. They were easy to train, willing to take advice, and generally treated me well. Often they were the kinds of people I wished would become partners and run the firm one day.

Most of them left long before getting to that point. Some of them before even being considered for a partner, a few after they made it to partner. I’m sure if I did an interview series with them, they’d all have their own reasons for leaving – kids, pressure, lack of respect, etc. Possibly some of them may have even been subject to sexual harassment and bullying. Surveys suggest that happens way more often than it doesn’t happen.

The question I’ve always had though, is what exactly changed and when did it change? Because I can’t believe most women go to law school and graduate planning on working at a large law firm for a few years and then leaving to go solo, in-house, public sector, or teaching at law school, despite the fact that it happens a lot! Again, in my anecdotal experience, it happens much more often than it does for male associates.

If we have a system that “works” for male lawyers this much more often than female or gender non-binary lawyers, maybe it’s not a good system.

If you’re a female attorney who’s left a law firm and wants to share your experience and reasons, I’d love to hear about it and possibly write about it. (You can reach out to me privately if you’d like to remain anonymous.) I am truly curious about what it’s like to graduate law school versus the reality of law firm life a few years later, and what law firms could have done to keep you.


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