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Solicitors out there returning to work after maternity leave

(19 Posts)
vanillacinamon Thu 24-Mar-11 11:15:38

Curious to know if you are solicitor returning to work after maternity leave how many have managed to get 4 days per week or even (holy grail!) 3 days per week or are you all back at work on 5 days per week.

Do you have regular hours or have you employed a nanny so you can work "solicitor" hours.

I am not making any judgements here literally and simply curious to know what any female solicitors have managed to negotiate on return from maternity, no need to give the name of the firm/ inhouse (unless you want to), just your return to work package?

csla Thu 24-Mar-11 19:15:02


Im due back shortly. Im a junior lawyer in com prop in a large regional firm and have agreed 4 days per week. A colleague has been back for a while doing the same and she manages to do decent hours (ie 9-5/6) the vast majority of the time. I discussed in my flexible working meeting that I'd need to leave on time most days but would be flexible where I can. I think you have to be upfront and quite strict with what you can do. I do think however that the fact we're in property helps with this and other departments might be harder.

cbmum Thu 24-Mar-11 22:11:14

I returned to work after DD1 on 3 days per week (tues/wed/fri) and it worked really well as I was never away for 2 working days in a row. I found the key was to be upfront with clients about when you are in the office and if they are a big deal client then at times let them contact you on your off days.

I'm on my second maternity leave, due back in August and have no plans to change my arrangements. I will probably go up to 4 days when my youngest is at school but have no
Plans to work 5 days!

I work in family law btw so I have sometimes had to swap work dates to accommodate hearings but if I do 4 days one week I only do 2 the next. The downside us that although my firm is pretty good at having an empty car park at 5.30 they don't pay well.

vanillacinamon Fri 25-Mar-11 15:23:02

thanks csla and cbmum
very interesting to know
i am an ex corporate lawyer from large regional who "gave up" and went in house because i just couldnt see how regular hours let alone part time (4 or 3 days per week) would ever work
just as well i love my two babies absolutely to bits because the money is so much less.....
however i am v grateful to you for replying as i was not sure whether anyone ever gets offered less than 5 days in private practice

emsyj Fri 25-Mar-11 15:59:16

I am due back shortly. I currently work in a large regional.

They refused my request for 3 days but agreed to 3.5 days.

As it happens I have been applying for other jobs and have been offered 2 roles, one at another largeish regional and one at a niche firm. Both agreed to my request for 4 days, although the niche firm weren't delighted about it. I will be taking that role as it is more local.

stabiliser15 Fri 25-Mar-11 20:42:47

I am going back full time in a few months but that is my choice. I work for a large regional. I'm trying to think of any solicitor I know in the firm who has come back from maternity leave and not gone part time. There are solicitors who do 2, 3 or 4 days but I'm struggling to think of anyone in my office at least who has gone back full time immediately after maternity leave as I intend to.

MissLP Mon 28-Mar-11 13:45:07


I am a trainee solicitor about to qualify this Friday. I have a DD who is 14 months old and I am not being kept on by my firm. My training has been rubbish to say the least since they found out I was PG and now I am worried that once I get out into the 'real work' I will struggle. I am looking for part time but there is very little out there. I am thinking maybe to just give it up and get another type of job...I don't want to work full time but looks like I will have to if I stick with law.

Anyone else found similar?

emsyj Mon 28-Mar-11 14:01:06

MissLP you might find it easier to get a part time role if you either go into an undersubscribed area (in the north west, that would be insurance fraud at the moment) or get some experience first and then seek to reduce your hours later on.

The market is flooded with NQs, so if you are competing with others who will work full time then it might be a struggle. In the medium to long term I don't think you would have a problem getting part time hours, but you will need experience to do that. Also firms might be concerned about how quickly you will get up to speed with things if you are NQ and part time.

HappyAsIAm Mon 28-Mar-11 16:19:25

I am a PSL in a major City firm. I am 9 years PQE. I came back to work after maternity leave (i took a year off) 2 years ago, having previously been fee-earning. As DH is also a solicitor in the same firm, we knew that one of us had to take a back seat career-wise if we wanted DS to see anyone but our nanny, so I now do 3 days a week as a PSL. Luckily my firm was accommodating of this.

But yes, we have a (fabulous) line-out nanny. For lots of reasons-

Easier for me to get out in the morning, as DS can still be in his pyjamas and not yet had breakfast when nanny arrives
If he is poorly, me or DH doesn't have to take time off work to look after him (of course if he was very poorly, he would want me there, so I would take time off)
Nanny is flexible eg she will swap her working days if I am asked to swap mine to attend meetings, seminars etc; nanny can work late if we have to

All the usual things.

I took a pay cut on top of my salary being pro-rated down to 3 days a week. I don't have a fixed hours contract though - its just a reflection of the change in role (and status, I suppose). Having said that, I only ever stay late at work if it is for something pre-arranged like a seminar, lecture, client/business development event. I have never been asked to stay late to finish a task so to speak. I am however available on my blackberry in the evenings to a certain extent, and I do respond to emails when I can on my non working days.

pinkcamera Mon 28-Mar-11 18:50:11

I'm a solicitor (2yrs PQE) at an international city firm, who's 6m into her maternity leave with DD1, and I've just resigned. I didn't see how PT would work (too many horror stories of fitting 5 days work into 3, of being called at all hours on days off etc etc) and didn't think it was right to leave DD with a nanny from Monday morning to Friday evening (which it effectively would have been, considering the hours I'd have been expected to pull). DH works very long hours too which was a major factor in my decision.

I know two women well who've tried to go back to work after a baby. One works in my (old) firm in finance: the last I heard she was FT with a nanny and hating every minute - not feeling on top of her work and never seeing her little girl. The other worked in corporate at another firm and had organised a 3 day week with set hours - which, needless to say, was totally ignored by her boss and she was expected to be on call 24/7 just as she was pre-baby. She resigned last week.

I honestly don't think it can work for solicitors at the more demanding firms (hours/face-time wise) unless you're prepared to never see your child. No judgment on anyone who's doing that, that's just the view I've come to.

minipie Mon 28-Mar-11 18:59:50

Very interesting thread. I am F/T at a major city firm (no DC yet but soon) and I cannot see F/T plus DC working out, especially as DH works even longer hours.

My firm has been making noises about considering P/T, however, there are very few women who do this and I am sceptical.

Anyone managed P/T at a City firm (not as a PSL)?

Batteryhuman Mon 28-Mar-11 19:05:52

I am part time in a smallish provincial firm, 8.30 til 2.30. The hours work fine but the money is crap!

emsyj Mon 28-Mar-11 19:33:35

pink camera, I think it can work in certain limited practice areas. At my old firm, there were a number of part timers on 3 days fixed hours. Clearly, that sort of arrangement is much harder to make work in the more core City areas such as corporate (although I believe they were trying to offer alternative working styles in those teams, in particular 'deal based' working whereby associates would work on a deal normal hours, then have a rest period before starting the next one).

I believe they don't offer three days fixed hours any more though - 4 days no fixed hours is their current best deal. sad

I remember walking past a colleague's office one evening at about 8pm and hearing her saying goodnight to her children over the phone. I have to admit that was the moment I decided that I would not even attempt staying there and having a family. It would be too hard sad

meep Mon 28-Mar-11 20:00:50

I worked at a large firm in Scotland and negotiated 4 days a week and have to say I returned from maternity leave to more work so it was doing 5 days in 4. Ended up working a lot of weekends which defeated the purpose!

When I returned after my second maternity leave it was into a full on recession hit firm. I asked about going back to full time (I wanted to be paid for doing that extra day per week!) and it was clear that this would be refused.

I have to say that I knew the head of division felt that I was "taking my foot off the gas" because I left at 5pm - even though my time recording etc showed I was doing the work and more (just worked from home once the baby was asleep!). I also felt that any chance of promotion was over.

so..........I now work full time in public sector but have the benefit of flexi-time and paid dependants leave (for sick children etc) and I have to say that while the pay going forward won't be as good, the working environment is so unstressful that I actually love going to work.

It is interesting to see the difference between Scottish and English firms. I was one of the first in my division to have a baby - but those who went off after me all came back on 3 days a week.

lilajanesmum Sat 20-Aug-11 21:47:59

Hello, this is the first time I have used this forum so apologies in advance if this isn't the right place to ask this question but...hoping for some advice.

I have a 2 year old and am currently working more or less full time. However my job is quite flexible and I am luckily able to spend quite a lot of time with my daughter and work at weekends and in the evenings. (I am the Commercial Manager for a weddings and conferences venue)

For many years I have considered doing the GDL followed by LPC to become a solicitor, and actually applied and was accepted to the College of Law, Birmingham, 6 years ago but deferred and since then the time has never been right and I have never since been in a position to afford the training until now.

I am seriously considering starting the GDL, and I am very keen on this career path. However...I am very worried about getting into a situation where i am having to work 50/60 hours per week, especially as a newly qualified solicitor and never being there for my child.

Can anyone give me any advice? Anyone got experience of trying to become a solicitor whilst also trying to be a good and available mum?

Any comments would be helpful.


auroraday Sun 21-Aug-11 18:47:19

I'm in a similar situation to HappyAsIam - I know this is aimed at fee earners, but thought I would post anyway - I am a part time PSL. After my first ML one of the partners wanted to send me on secondment to a client but I was keen to get the PSL role so I rejected it. I am so disheartened by the PSL role (bad money, you figure somewhere above IT and way below marketing/business development in the pecking order, not very interesting either). I thought I would post in case anyone else is faced by a decision whether to move away from fee earning or trying PSL -while I couldn't do the hours PP fee earning requires, I sure wish I had done something other than PSL.

wearenotinkansas Mon 22-Aug-11 10:14:34

For OP (mainly) - I know, or know of, people in City and London (Westminster type) firms who work park time in real estate, corporate tax, family (HNW type), trusts, planning and corporate (private equity type stuff I think). Most of them do 4 days a week (and they don't all have children actually) but some do 3. I even know one person who does 2 days a week but that is part of a job share.

Don't know what area you are in but it is possible. It seems to me the people who have the best work/life balance have managed to arrange some kind of formal or informal job share (informal being were you work in a team and cover for each other on respective days off). Unless you are very junior you will get called/emailed on the days you are not in though - and sometimes it might involve a 2 line email - sometimes something more onerous. That is when it gets tricky.

IME, the greatest difficulty with part time is getting the partners on board with it. Clients aren't that concerned as long as deadlines are met and they can get hold of you in a crisis.

As for hours/nanny - think it really depends on your practice area and expectations of the firm. Nanny was the only realistic option for me - but I would have wanted that anyway. I did once meet a very scary and ambitious french lawyer at a US firm that had two nannies - one for the day and one for evening/nights!

minipie Mon 22-Aug-11 17:36:41

lilajanes people will generally respond to the first post, so you might find it better to start your own thread with your question?

Also, there was a recent thread in the AIBU section called "to consider training as a barrister" or something similar. If you do a search for "barrister" you will probably find it. The responses were also discussing training contracts for solicitor roles. I'm afraid to say the overall response was pretty negative.

IMO there are three main things to bear in mind.

(1) It is a lot, lot easier to get onto law training courses (the GDL, LPC etc) than it is to get an actual training contract. These are hotly competed for and there are many people who do the GDL/LPC (and run up debts doing so) but then cannot find a training contract. For this reason I would not advise anyone to try to become a solicitor unless they have at least a 2:1 from a well respected university, and good A levels.

(2) Being a trainee - and even a junior qualified solicitor - means you are not in control of your hours. You work when someone gives you work. That may be at 6pm just as you were getting ready to leave. In fact even when you are more senior, although you have a bit more control, your hours are dictated by the client - they may need something worked on into the evening or at the weekend.

(3) The hours depend on the kind of firm you want to work for. City or big regional firms will expect 50+ hours a week. Smaller local firms or public sector will, usually, not - but even then they can do, it depends how busy they are. Of course, they also pay less, and are less likely to cover your GDL/LPC costs. As this thread shows, part time options are very limited in the law.

Sorry to be so negative! Personally I would say, if you have a job which you enjoy and which enables you to spend time with your DC, don't let it go!

LoveInAColdClimate Mon 22-Aug-11 17:46:19

lilajanes - when I was a trainee 50/60 hours per week would often have been a dream! 80 hours was more realistic in some seats, and sometimes 100 with more than one all nighter in a week. This was in a regional office of a multi-national, so not even city hours. These days I am more in control of my workflow (over which you have no control as a trainee/NQ) and very, very rarely do more than 50 hours, but when it needs doing, you have no choice but to do it. I would stay where you are

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