The legal industry doesn’t have the best reputation for being a family-friendly business, particularly when it comes to working mothers who face barriers in law firms and other work environments. This challenging scenario often leaves them with no option but to quit or to work from home. Maintaining a proper work-life balance is difficult for all lawyers, not just mothers. Expectant or working mothers yearn to look for part-time schedules or flexible hours but it is rare to find this type of an arrangement in law firms.
The first thing for lawyers who are also mothers is to know how much time they can take off before and after they give birth to their child. In a survey, close to 80% of the participants, who were all legal professionals and mothers, stated that they get 10 weeks or even more as maternity leave. Around 35% of the participants worked at international family law firms that gave up to 12 weeks of paid leave while 44% worked at firms which offered even more time off. Moreover, four weeks of paternity leave was also granted to fathers or secondary caregivers.
More than half the mothers benefited from additional time off (unpaid) with 63% availing more than 12 weeks’ unpaid leave apart from their paid maternity leave. Although a large number of new mothers seem satisfied with the leave period to take care of their newborn babies, others felt that the amount of paid time was insufficient to nurture their babies in the best possible way. Generally, maternity leave covers 18 weeks after which you approach vacation time until it runs out. The last option is to take a few months off, unpaid.
Coming back to work after a maternity leave has its challenges. New mothers are often offered to make nanny service arrangements, register for on-site childcare services or day care in order to focus on their work without interruption. However, findings report than less than half of the total population of mothers who are practicing lawyers are offered these amenities.
Probably the biggest challenge new mothers face upon returning to work is dealing with the fragile balance between meeting family needs and work requirements. Thanks to technological advancements, flextime and telecommuting have been beneficial for striking a better balance between motherhood and work.
These options allow mothers the freedom to choose how and where they put in their hours, whether in the comfort of their home or in the office. However, this flexibility has its challenges when offered in a competitive field, like law. Dealing with demanding clients, tackling unpredictable schedules and working long hours to meet deadlines can disrupt an apparently manageable work-life routine.
Currently, the amenities and maternity leave policies of law firms do little to help mothers get back to work with the same vigor and ambition. Nevertheless, mothers who hope to pursue their ambitions of working as professional layers feel that law firms can reform their attitude and policy towards working mothers to get the best out of their employees.