Hey Women — Men’s Lives Suck, Too

While women are often the subject of discussion about lifestyle woes in the legal profession, moms at big firms aren’t the only ones struggling to balance their work with their personal time (or lack thereof).

If one thing was evident Thursday at a Bar Association of San Francisco conference about the need to balance the two, it was that the lifestyle issue is becoming a more universal problem for attorneys and their employers. And there is no cookie-cutter solution.

Drawing on 10 years of exit interviews from his time as a managing partner at Arnold & Porter, panelist James Sandman observed, “This is not just a woman’s issue, although it affects women disproportionately.”

And a recent survey BASF conducted of 54 legal workplaces in the Bay Area found that, at six firms, “high numbers” of men were working part-time — in some cases, more than women.

Four of those firms reported their part-time female employees had generally made adjustments due to child care, while their male lawyers had more typically done so to reduce hours before retirement, or to write books, do pro bono work or teach.

The afternoon’s Generation X panel happened to be made up of parents — one man and two women, all in their 30s — whose needs had changed after they had children. Though all said they were happy in their current job arrangements, they had wound up in completely different places.

Gigi Orta and Adam Mizock eventually left their big firms; she got out of litigation and started a two-attorney firm based in her home in Piedmont, while he went in house at an asset management firm.

But real estate transaction attorney Aleka Skouras Eisentraut had found her small in-house legal department needed her in the office so consistently it couldn’t offer much flexibility after she had her second child. So she went to work with former colleagues who had moved to Preston Gates & Ellis.

“I found myself at a big firm, and I absolutely love it.” While she works more nights and weekends now than she had in her more traditional schedule, she added, she can make time for dinner and bedtime stories with her kids, and that’s the way she likes it. “It is so much better than in house.”

Pam Smith

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