Thursday, February 1, 2007

Porter on Vaulting the Maternal Wall in Law Firms and Law Jobs

Posted by Alan Childress

Nicole Porter (St. Louis Univ.--Law) has posted to SSRN her essay, "Re-Defining Superwoman: An Essay on Overcoming the Maternal Wall in the Legal Workplace."  It is also published in 13 Duke Porter_2 Journal of Gender Law & Policy 55 (2006).  Its abstract:

In this Essay, I discuss the work/life balance challenges facing women lawyers who are mothers. Despite these challenges, I believe that mother-attorneys can successfully manage a career and a family. In reaching this conclusion, I attempt to dispel the myth that mother-attorneys need to be “Superwoman” in order to succeed in this profession. The essay first discusses the obstacles women face - from stereotypical views of their competence (both in the workplace and at home), to the difficulty of maintaining a successful and meaningful law practice while working a reduced-hours schedule, to managing the guilt that inevitably accompanies the fact that it is impossible to be everything to everyone, all at once.

While I examine the many possible legal and structural solutions to the problem of the “maternal wall,” I ultimately conclude that major change is unlikely to occur in the near future. Accordingly, in an effort to adopt an optimistic view of being a mother-attorney, I conclude this essay with my advice on changing what is in women's capacity to change immediately - their own actions and attitudes. In my opinion, the key to being successful is to focus on the goals and expectations that matter to you - rather than the goals perceived to be set by society. I do not advocate mediocrity; quite the contrary, I suggest women strive to do the highest quality work possible while focusing on the aspects of work and home that really matter to you, your family and your career. Feeling guilty that you cannot be both “mother of the year” and “superstar attorney” at the same time is a fruitless waste of energy, and will ultimately keep women from being both happy and successful as attorneys who have the joy of also being mothers.

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