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Should I give up work? Lawyer on the edge!

(20 Posts)
Ronipops Sun 12-Jul-09 19:11:00

I've recently returned to work after a year off with DH. I am a City lawyer. TBH, I've had massive reservations about returning, love being with DS and think he loves being with me ...and I suppose I just think it's good for him to have his Mum around all the time whilst he's still very little. Plus, not over the moon about my job, like the technical side of it, just not the cut and thrust!

It would have been just about do-able for me to stop work for a while from a financial perspective, but it would have meant a big change in lifestyle and possibly moving house (having only moved recently), not too mention the pressure that DH would have been under as the only earner...

I decided to give it a go on a part time basis (4 days pw, and being strict about leaving on time), however, it's not quite working out as I hoped. I don't feel well-supported really (feels like I'm being a nuisance not being around all the time). Furthermore, on my working days I've ended staying a couple of hours later than I planned, plus working on days off / weekends. Obviously, I don't mind checking emails & doing urgent stuff but it feels like I'm doing several hours worth of work on days off which basically ruins the time I do have with DS. Plus I feel stressed all the time.

Feel close to jacking it in but the "conventional" part of me says I can't throw away my career after all this training etc..but I just don't see how this is going to work out long term. It seems to me that it is not a job which lends itself to genuine part time working. Have looked into PSL work but nothing available in my field at the moment.

Should I go with my gut and give it up for a while and do something different in a few years (assume i wouldn't be able to go back to law)?

Or should I stick with it and keep looking for something more flexible - accepting that life's going to be a grim in the meantime?

Help! WWYD?

wrinklytum Sun 12-Jul-09 19:16:46

I work in a "Paraprofession" and am therefore obviously not strictly au fait with all teh demands of your job as a proper professional. (Which sound huge).I am lucky enough to work for a large public sector org,and was able to take a years unpaid "Career break" due to family circumstances.Would this be a possibility for you?Would there be any way your employer would condsider this,then you could spend quite a time with your ds yet still have the knowledge that you can return to your career at a later date.Obviously I have no knowledge of if your employer could/would sanction this but just a thought.

wonderingwondering Sun 12-Jul-09 19:20:02

Depends on how wedded you are to the City. There's a lot of intellectually satisfying work to be found in the public sector (and they are recruiting through the recession!) - central gov't, the regulatory bodies (FSA, Ofcom, hundreds of quangos!), Bank of England. I know HMRC are recruiting, or have been recently. Depends on your current field, but public bodies will often take you on and retrain.

Working as a lawyer in the public sector is much, much more family friendly. I left the City before I had children as I looked at the female partners and decided that wasn't for me. I work in the public sector now, part-time, and although there's always the temptation to stay a bit later or take work home, that pressure comes from me, not my clients or my boss.

The money is much less, but it's still pretty good given the benefits in terms of work/life balance, and in the worst case, it at least allows you to keep your hand in until your children are older, and if you are in the right bit of the public sector, many law firms will be desperate for your expertise!

Or there is always lecturing, law school or uni, which lends itself to flexibility, but the salaries are relatively low.

ilovemydogandmrobama Sun 12-Jul-09 19:20:03

Could you look into training other lawyers? I have a friend who ran CPD courses part time. Have you thought about doing mediation? Commercial mediation would be up your alley?

Cloudspotter Wed 15-Jul-09 21:48:24

I just wanted to add a comment because I feel very similar to you, but in accountancy rather than law. I do work 4 days, and I feel it is too much with having young children.

If it helps make your decision, my children are 3yo and 5yo, and this is the first stage at which I have really felt I can't go on. When they were younger they didn't need me as much as they do now.

I am now having to face up to the fact that their school performance and behaviour is not what I would have wanted, and I blame myself for not being around. Well, blame is not really the word, but 'responsibility' is.

SingingBear Wed 15-Jul-09 21:52:41

Message withdrawn

abdnhiker Thu 16-Jul-09 08:40:44

I'm a scientist and now that my DS1 is three I'm finding things much harder and am in the process of convincing myself that I need to quit and do the SAHM thing for a while. It's horribly scary but we are running on empty as a family (I've a one year old as well) and can't seem to make this work. I'm in the public sector and have already gone part time - it is better for the kids but harder on me - any professional position will struggle to condense itself into part time hours. Plus with all the cut backs they aren't recruiting anyone to fill the other half of my job so essentially I have a full time job in half time hours.

This is probably not what you want to hear... but maybe it helps to hear that you're not alone!

forehead Thu 16-Jul-09 08:50:32

I am an Employment Lawyer who left my job in the City to work as a self employed Employment Law Consultant. This allows me some flexibility as i can work from home. Could you possibly do something like this?
I also lecture at Law schools and universities which i really enjoy.

Pendulum Fri 17-Jul-09 07:09:47

Hi Ronipops,
I am a lawyer too with 2 DCs, but work in-house 4 days. The hours and the autonomy seem to me to be much greater than in private practice. Would that be a possible option for you?

Also, I find it interesting that this thread seems to have proceeded on the assumption that if the strain is too much, it is the woman's career that has to give every time. What about flexible/ PT working options for your DH/ DP? My DH works 4 days, same as m, and I find it a huge pressure valve to know there is one more day in the week when the household admin can be tackled; when there is back-up if the children are poorly etc. The DCs love having him around for that day and he has been able to participate in DD's school life by doing the run once a week, getting to know the other parents etc. I knw it is not widely accepted- DH was the first man in his organisation to request PT hours - but I think it is good to challenge the assumption that it is your career thst has to go.

Finally, I notice that you've only just gone back to work. It does take a while IME to feel that all is under control again and master the skill of fitting it into 4 days.

theoriginalmummypoppins Fri 17-Jul-09 13:29:13

im with you all. I am a 60 hour a week equity in a large regional practice and its really really tough.

DC's ar 10 and 8 bt I only survive by having a cleaner , gardener and Ft live in nanny/housekeeper.

I know I couldnt do it any other way. On top of the 60 work hours I have a considerable number of work related social events and expectations related to being a school governor and trustee of a local charity.

The dc's have needed more input as they have gotten older and there have been a number of times when I could have happily given it all up like a shot. I too have been worried in the past about their school work etc.

If you stick at it get your support systems in place early. You can have it all but you cant do it all and that is the key.

good luck

Cloudspotter Sat 18-Jul-09 18:35:40

Singingbear, I wouldn't despair. I think the fact that I have always gone back to work has left me with a residual 'guilt' that I haven't spent time with them, if that makes sense.

I think I just miss them. I see these fantastic little people, my children, who are fun to be around and who I miss. I then go into work and feel like I am being bludgeoned around the head with the blunt end of a shotgun (long story, not being treated v well).

The stress of work makes me half a mum in my opinion, and I wonder how to sustain it. However, the longer term is very scary, and I am not sure whether I really can give it all up. It is a radical one.

legalalien Sat 18-Jul-09 18:48:35

based on my personal experience, I would either (i) stick it out where you are and see whether you can negotiate a deal where you work five days a week but have extra weeks of holiday (much more "deal friendly" and means you won't be under so much pressure to squash a week's work into four days) or (ii) go in house full time in a job where you're comfortable that you won't have to work late often (depends what kind of law you do). Assuming you like your job to a reasonable degree, I think you may regret not keeping your hand in. I worked full time until my son started nursery school last Sept, and then cut my hours / took the PSL option - my experience is that he has been much more needy of MY time (as opposed to an appropriate other adult's time) once he started school. The city firms are gradually getting better about flexibility in my experience.

burybran Sun 19-Jul-09 16:11:22


I'm in a similar dilemma - have recently returned to work as an in house lawyer full time as part time is not a possibility in the organisation I work in. Have also been looking at other legal jobs with a bit more flexibility but the current market means that few places are recruiting. I also had massive reservations about returning at all. Think the legal profession is generally very much behind the times when it comes to accomodating flexible working and coming up with genuine part time roles. Government Legal service is one possibility if the pay isn't too much less than you are currently managing on - believe that some departments in the GLS have genuine part time jobs. Otherwise think it really boils down to how unhappy you are in your current role - if you think you can stick it out until next yr you may find more opportunities become available as the market picks up.

Good luck and let us know what you decide

burybran Sun 19-Jul-09 20:42:09


quick qu - you say that you lecture at law schools and uni's. How did you manage to get into that ? Any adverts I've seen for lecturers in law at uni's seem to want academic backgrounds ie research qualifications or previous experience of teaching at that level.

foxinsocks Sun 19-Jul-09 20:48:03

I stopped 4 day working because it was a myth. It wasn't 4 days at all. It was 5 days crammed into 4 with the whole of the 1 day I wasn't supposed to be working full of 'emergency' calls from work.

So I went back 5 days and took the full time salary and bizarrely, things have been a lot easier. I think I am now allowed a bit more flexibility as it's recognised that I'm in the office virtually all the time. Though I don't like this job, I think I will stick with the principle if/when I find another job (gawd, it's a horrid time to be looking).

Incidentally, I agree with cloudspotter. The older they get, the harder it gets. Perversely, it was easiest when dd was a baby. Now that mine are in junior school, it's far harder and they do seem to need me more (and they miss me more tbh).

spottedandstriped Sun 19-Jul-09 21:20:41

Have you thought about being a lawyer "in house" for a FTSE 100 company. I know that a lot of people find this easier than working in practice.

Bellsa Sun 19-Jul-09 21:31:30

I changed areas of law when I became a mother, as I was struggling to keep it all together (am a single mother too), and part-time is never really part time, you're expected to do the same work in less time, in my experience. I now work as a lawyer in the civil service, full time, but the culture is different...and you have flexi-time, can have some time off if the child is ill, and the maternity leave package is great. The downside is that the money is not nearly as good, and 4 years later the "typical" civil service mentality pisses me off. Also, I don't live in London, so downsizing was easier. Could you move area?

reluctantmpvdriver Sun 19-Jul-09 22:34:45

Some random thoughts on your predicament- :

Your children need you more the older they get - particularly once they start school they need support with reading and homework and with developing a social life after school ends and with getting to the after school activities. If money is tight now it might therefore be better to work for a few more years and save to stop or slow down once they get to school age.

On the other hand if you don't make the decision to down scale now so that you can stop working it will be more difficult to do it later - the more you get used to living on a generous budget the harder it is to give up.

On your comments about the overtime - You will inevitably have to put up with some extra work - as you no doubt did when you worked full time before children. I am also tussling with whether to return full time or work part time and get pissed off with having to do the extra hours unpaid. I think that those are the stark choices though - it's not realistic to expect not to do overtime. What might make it more palateable would be to try to negotiate some part of your week working from home - you can sell this to your employers on the basis that if you cut out travel time you will have more time to put in the hours for them - and from your perspective you will be doing the overtime in the time you would have been travelling. Working at home also allows you a little more freedom as to how you organise your day. Your employers will probably be very negative at first but maybe you can agree to it on a trial basis - if it then works out with your clients and you get through your workload they will find it hard to say no to a flexible working request to formalise it.

You sound new to the return to work - give it time to settle down and for you to get used to the new regime before making an irreversible descision. Your employers also have to get used to the new regime. My employer was very sceptical of part time working and home working initially but after some time he realised that it worked fine and now a number of the team do this.

If you were to jack in the job - it would not necessarily mean that you were throwing away a career in law. Although working in the city might not be possible there is no reason that you should not be able to get a job in the law in the public sector or industry. Industry does not tend to be quite so old fashioned in its approach either although it is not necessarily as liberal as the public sector can be - however it is better paid. However I think that you would find it pretty difficult to get a part time or a flexible job. People in these positions in the law tend to have negotiated them after having been working for sometime full time and having earned their stripes - you don't see many initial openings for part time. So in a way you are already in a good position and should think hard about giving it up.

I also think that how experienced you are has a bearing - if you are recently qualified and you then take a long break I think it would be more difficult to be recruited than someone with a good number of years experience - I think your confidence would also suffer more if your were newly qualified as it takes some years to be confident of what you are doing as a lawyer (although this might just be me!).

Finally - but by no means by way of conclusion - I have wanted to jack it all in many times but am beginning to realise that although I have resented being a working mum a good deal it also has advantages - not least financially but also I have a life outside school. I know many mothers with school age kids who have not worked while bringing them up and are now looking for something to do - and that is not easy for them - I don't have that problem.

TigerDrivesAgain Sun 19-Jul-09 22:47:15

don't know what to suggest:

Context: I am a partner in a regional firm, head a team, and have one DS (7). I work FT. I agree, the older they are, the tougher it gets.

what sort of work are you in? Any chance you could move to less transactional work (if that's the problem). PSL might be an idea - much more child friendly, but in this market jobs will be hard to come by

would you actually have more time if you worked FT and "worked to rule" (you have to work to rule by stealth though - shooting out of the door at 5.30 will mark you down as a clock watcher). I do find it less stressful working FT than I would working 3 or 4 days - some jobs just aren't suitable for part time.

outsource everything you possibly can to cleaners, ironing services etc etc. You can't do it all, at all

I would think very hard about moving from your current role in the current market. The legal profession has been hit very hard by the recession (yes, to all but us lawyers I know that's cue the violins). Don't move unless you have something to go to that you really want.

And going against everything I've said above: would your firm mind you working reduced hours, extra holiday etc at the moment? Many firms are imposing 4 day weeks on their corporate and real estate teams - someone asking for fewer hours is ok at the moment. Only thing, you do have to make sure you don't work the hours anyway, that's what it sounds like you're doing.

Sorry can't be more helpful.

dinkystinky Fri 24-Jul-09 09:41:17

I'm a city lawyer too, currently on mat leave with DS2. When I went back to work after DS1, I went back on a 5 days a week, fixed hour basis - took a decent sized pay cut to do this so was pretty firm about leaving on time unless it was pretty much impossible not to (.i.e. stuck in client meeting or on urgent con call). I'll be going back on the same basis in September. Yes, I did have to work in the evenings to stay on top of things - and some weekends - though when it was more than the occasional staying late or hour or so in the evenings I would make sure the partners knew so that my work load could be reviewed - and on the occasions where I was on a deal and had to work lots of evenings and weekends I would be given an extra day off in lieu in view of the fact I took such a big paycut for the fixed hours lifestyle. Its not ideal - the cut in hours meant I lost out on the better deals to be done and ended up with a fair amount of dross, but it did also mean I got to see DS1 in the evenings. I know I have no chance of making partner while on this fixed hour regime - and I'm fine with that. I figure while the good days outnumber the bad days, I'll stick with my job. If the bad days start winning, I'll look elsewhere - though as others have said, now is a rubbish time to be looking to move in house or to another firm.

The fact of the matter is that transactional work - and the city lifestyle - arent particularly brilliant at working well with family life. You have to make sacrifices and compromises at both ends - and hopefully they are worth it in the end.

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