Would Mandatory Paid Childcare Leave Make US #1?

I discovered two things today — seemingly independent but connected, I think.  These things are important for all women, those with children and those who love the children of others, and they are important to me.

First of all, I read that the United States of America comes in fourth in terms of being the most desirable country to live on earth.  The first three positions were awarded to Germany, the UK and Canada.  Not bad to be in fourth place, but first place is better.  However, this probably was predictable because the subject of the survey was “quality of life.”  That includes stuff like paid family leave, access to affordable health care, mandatory vacations and the like.  We don’t rank so well on that stuff in America.

I remember traveling in Jamaica years ago (not a contender for a top slot in this survey!) and meeting a couple from Germany.  They were on a six week vacation because the government mandated that employers provide that kind of break from the pressure and routine as a way to force its citizens to unwind, relax, enjoy life, and, presumably, be better balanced and produce more when they are working.  My family and I were trying to eke out a week away from the grind of two law practices, and the German way sounded pretty good to me at the time.  Still does.  Quality of life is important.

The second “thing” that came across my radar today also is a quality of life thing.  It seems that the DC Council is considering a paid family leave act that goes beyond anything anywhere else in our country.  This is really important stuff.  It is so stressful and anxiety creating for new mothers and fathers to leave their infants to the care of others in the first months after their births, and, many times, the new mothers and fathers cannot afford to quit their jobs and give their newborns the kind of care they require.

Here is what the proposed DC law will require that employers provide:  11 weeks of paid family leave for parents to bond with newborn or adopted children and eight weeks to care for an ailing parent or grandparent — among the most generous paid leave laws in the nation.

The proposal, released Monday to the full D.C. Council, is expected to draw support from a majority of the council, which has been discussing paid leave for more than a year. You can read more about the specifics of the proposed law in this article.

Advocates of paid family leave believe that it fills a critical need in a country where 59 percent of mothers with infants are in the workforce and only 12 percent of workers in the private sector get paid leave through their employers.  Count me among those believers.  Studies also demonstrate that both parents and children benefit from the opportunity for a parent to care for a child after birth or adoption.

In case you did not know, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a national paid leave law of any kind, and only a handful of states have independently passed paid leave laws.  So, this new law that looks like it may pass in DC is a big deal.

Perhaps we can take some solace from the fact that both President-elect Trump and his daughter Ivanka talked a lot during the campaign about paid childcare leave.  A national law that is generous and treats parents, and especially women, with the dignity they deserve on this issue is what we need.

Then, maybe, we can be considered the best country to live on the planet.


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Thought For The Day

“We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.”

Anne Frank

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Happy Thanksgiving!

The house is sparkling, the table is set, the last dash to the food market is OVER, the pies are baked, the stuffing is mixed, the “bird” awaits its destiny, and there is a delicious aroma of cornbread coming from the oven.  The family is coming from yonder and afar, and we are waiting with open arms.

If you are the host, Thanksgiving dinner is a lot of work, to be sure.  But, it is worth it because it is the one day a year when we collectively pause to reflect on our blessings.  As the host, you can orchestrate an emphasis on the “thanks” in Thanksgiving — what makes our lives better, and who we simply would not want to live without.  I hope you take time out for that reflection this year.  I know I will.

Once we are gathered at the table and just after the toast to our good fortune of being together another year — and before I raise my fork as a signal that the salad course is officially served — I will lead the conversation about being thankful.  I consider myself to be very fortunate, so I could go on and on and on.  But, in short order, eyes would start to roll accompanied by not-so-subtle side glances between hungry guests, so I will keep it short.  Here is what I will say I am thankful for:

  • My family — including my 101 year old Mom who still recognizes me and laughs at my jokes;
  • That my 46-year marriage to a wonderful man is about to take yet another turn along an ever exciting and eventful path;
  • That our children have the best educations that my husband and I possibly could have provided them and that they value learning and service;
  • That I live in a country where diversity is celebrated and where people are free to express their opinions;
  • That, in this country, we believe in the rule of law and a peaceful transfer of power;
  • That women are on the rise as leaders across the globe and that more women were elected to the United States Congress in the 2016 election than ever before in the history of our nation; and
  • That hope springs eternal in the United States of America that we always will pull together and resolve our differences for the good of the people and the nation.

Well …. maybe I will leave some of that out to avoid an insurrection at the table!  But, it will be on my mind and in my heart.

And, I am thankful for YOU — the faithful followers of Best Friends at the Bar.  You keep me interested and ever vigilant for opportunities to make your careers in the law manageable, fulfilling and successful.  Thank you for letting me be a part of your team.

Pick up your fork, Susan, dinner is served!

What are you thankful for?

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Thought For The Day

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”

Thurgood Marshall

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Thought For The Day

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.”

Melodie Beattie

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Women Lawyers from Elite Law Schools Leave Practice Sooner — Why?

Last month, Above the Law ran an article, “Stat Of The Week:  The Mysterious ‘Elite Retreat’ Of Women in Law,” which got my attention.  The premise of the article was that the “conventional wisdom” that women lawyers leave Big Law after just a “couple of years” because of work-life challenges is flawed.  Citing research from ALM Intelligence (the same group that recently supported the Major Lindsey Africa study and findings that women law partners earn 44% less than male law partners), Above the Law reported that the timing of departures is more variable and that the proportion of women in law firms declines in a much more “gradual and steady manner over time.”  The data cited shows that women one year out of law school comprise 44% of Big Law lawyers, but women 25 years out compose only 25% of the Big Law lawyer population.

OK.  So far, so good.  The stats are not encouraging, but I believe them.  I never had the impression that there was a mass exodus by women lawyers after just a few years of practice, and I typically have relied on statistics from NALP (National Association for Legal Career Professionals) which show that nearly three-quarters of women lawyers leave Big Law in the first six years of practice.  Six is not “a couple.”

But, the most interesting thing about the Above the Law article was the reporting about an “anomalous subgroup” of graduates of elite law schools and the statistics that women from top law schools have a higher rate of attrition than women from lower-tiered schools.  ALM has identified that as the “Elite Retreat.”

First of all, I am not sure who cares about this.  But, presuming that someone does, the article went on to say that “ALM does not offer a hypothesis for this apparent greater tendency on the part of elite graduates to leave the law earlier.”  Really.  Well, let me put on my thinking cap and make some observations.

First, it seems possible that women from elite law schools (like mine: Georgetown University Law) either have enough money to pay the very high tuition at an elite law school OR those same women become burdened with very high student loan debt.  If we assume the former, having enough money to pay for the high-priced law school spread also means no debt to repay.  Exiting from the profession early on becomes much easier under those facts.

Second, graduates from top law schools tend to get top jobs for top pay, which enables them to pay back student loans at top speed.  Pay back and leave sooner. 

Third, we also could assume (with a little imagination) that the women lawyers from elite law schools, who are saddled with high student loan debt, could easily end up with mates from among the other students at the elite institutions — who may be privileged and elite and go on to really high paying jobs, help pay back the student loans, and make dropping out much easier for the women lawyer mates.

This does not challenge my brain that much.  Elite begets elite, and being elite can make everything so much easier. 

I did not end up as one of the elite on the easy track, and I am sure that many of you did not either.  I was saddled with student loan debt and had no choice but to stay in my chosen profession to pay it back.  AND I am grateful for that.  If I had been a true elite, I might have made a different choice and missed out on so much.

So, I repeat that I am not sure who cares about stats like this.  But stopping short of trying to connect the dots is very disappointing.  So that’s my connection.

What do you think?

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Thought For The Day

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”

Thurgood Marshall

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Thought For The Day

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Albert Einstein

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