Work-Life Balance: The Art of the Interview

For Tamina Alon, the choices are clear. The 26-year-old Hastings student would much rather have her law books in one hand and her two little boys in her lap than juggle her parenting obligations and a 90-hour work week at a firm — which is why more law students seem to be having kids while they’re still in school.

The flip side, Alon said, is that you get the short end of the stick in interviewing for jobs. “They don’t want people with families,” the president of Parents at Hastings said. “They say: go to the government, they have nice 9-to-5 positions, you will do fine there.”

When she asks working attorneys how their family life is, she invariably gets two responses. “They are surprised,” she said. “Or I get laughter: ‘What family life?’ they ask.”

The advice Alon gets is to wait to get the job offer, then spring the news that you’re pregnant or a parent.

The strategy worked for Misti Groves, though she was surprised how accommodating everyone she dealt with was. Groves, 30 and a second-year Boalt Hall student, didn’t tell her potential employers this fall during on-campus interviews that she was pregnant. “No one asked me, and in most cases it was completely irrelevant to my interview,” she said. “Now all firms I’ve gotten offers from know I’m pregnant.”

Daniel Schacht faced the issue squarely. The 32-year-old looked only at family-oriented firms when he started considering post graduation work, and asked law firm partners point-blank during callback interviews how they dealt with family issues. His resume features his involvement with Parents at Boalt, where he is co-president, which helped weed out poor fits.

“I looked for their billable hour minimums and whether their pay was connected to a minimum billable hour requirement,” he said. Eighteen hundred seemed a reasonable cutoff, he added.

Also, he looked to see that a firm not only offered a part-time schedule, but that employed part-time attorneys. He found his match in Oakland’s Donahue Gallagher Woods, where he accepted a summer 2007 job.

Petra Pasternak



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