Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Legal Gossip

While down in sunny Florida (Disneyworld) with the entire Esq clan, a fellow female associate spotted an incredible article on AboveTheLaw.com, a legal "gossip" site. The article posted here is from a woman who was laid off at Paul Hastings, another Big Firm. The article resonates for me in particular because last summer I had a miscarriage. I had noticed some spotting over the weeknd and took myself over to the hospital practice. I had a morning appointment for an ultrasound to check on the pregnancy and I informed the senior associate and the client I was not available for a pre-closing call. Things were blowing up on the deal with pressure to close and I was triaging from blackberry and even my laptlop (since the hospital has wireless) while waiting to see the ultrasound tech. I missed the all-hands call because I was having the ultrasound with the bad news that the zygot wasn't developing (I was about 7 or 8 weeks along). It was difficult to have an emotional moment while clients (internal at Big Firm and those that really pay the bills) were setting off my blackberry every 2 seconds. When I explained I couldn't make the call because of an unexpected "doctor's" appointment of course the client wanted to know if everything was alright (like I was going to share that sort of item).

In some ways it was good to be busy to push it away for a while but I have no doubt if a few days later I had been fired I would have had the same reaction. It is also a lesson as to why you should keep your pregnancy under wraps for as long as you can and not to share too much of your personal life with your supervising attorneys. As an associate at a Big Firm it can be hard because you are so tired and need to get a break for sleep. I ended up telling the female partner who worked on a big deal with my during my first trimester so she could handle emails after midnight. Of which there were many. I was truly fortunate that I had no symptoms during my first trimester other than wanting to make sure I got some rest so to keep the tykes growing.

I doubt this woman was fired for her desire to be pregnant, it was probably for the earlier firm-related reasons she mentioned. I do think Big Firms are terrible at managing, especially the aspect of layoffs or firings for cause (poor performances). Everyone wants "more transparency" but you are dealing with people who hedge and caution for a living so it can make them less than forthright.

What do you think about this story? Are women at Big Firms at a disadvantage for their desires to have children?

1 comment:

Einat said...

Oh I TOTALLY think that she was fired for sinister reasons. I interviewed at that firm when I was in law school and had a bad vibe there. The week before she's a star and then they try to re-write her review from the previous year? Please!
By and large, lawfirms (and big business in general) are run by men who consider pregnancy to be a personal insult to them during good times and inexcusable during a downturn.
One non-lawyer friend of mine who got pregnant while unmarried had a CEO who told her co-workers that she ruined her career by not getting an abortion and then proceeded to make her life a living hell and denied her paid maternity leave. She had been a star there before they found out about the pregnancy.