This one is hard to believe. Above The Law recently reported on a law firm that took the “opportunity” to remind its attorneys that being on medical or family leave does not mean what it implies —- that the lawyer has temporarily LEFT the law firm to deal with serious needs that require attention and can be life-threatening. As in, those lawyers have departed the firm, and the firm must figure out a way to deal with this temporary circumstance.
The communique in question, from a law practice co-chair, stated clearly that there is enough time in any day for lawyers on leave to check e-mail and respond as required. Yes, you read that correctly. On leave does not mean left. Really? Really!
It seems to have been settled long ago, in 1993 to be precise, that the Medical and Family Leave Act provided for LEAVE. It could be interpreted as “leave me alone for awhile” because I have a serious situation to deal with— either of the medical or family variety — that the law considers important enough to be protected. And since the enactments of that law, firms have been dealing with leave situations by devising simple systems to reroute inquiries and other matters directed to attorneys on leave to those who are not on leave. Period. Full stop.
Until now, I guess, when the absurdities of present day life in general are working their way into law firms and managers who should know better. And, as pointed out in the article, that is not only bad for the individual lawyers, and for the law firms, it is also bad for clients.
Fortunately, for law firm managers who remain clueless, the article provides simple recommendations for how to handle matters affecting lawyers on leave. It is not rocket science.
As I often have written and said, lawyers are better than this. It is time they acted like it. Here is the article for your reading displeasure.
It is so easy to forget how far women lawyers have come in the law profession in our country today. They now represent more than 50% of associates in law firms, the percentage of women partners is on the rise, and it is common for women to be members of executive committees and practice leaders. There is still significant work to do to increase the percentage of women equity partners, but even that Holy Grail has seen some upward movement. But, on balance, women lawyers have advanced on so many fronts to take their rightful seats at the table.
Here is a story of a woman lawyer, who fought to protect her clients from long-held assumptions surrounding domestic violence and leaned into it in a big way with a style that is still worth emulating. And no, I am not talking about policies and practices prevalent during Victorian times. I am talking about policies and practices and prevailing law in the 1970’s when I started practicing law and was referred to as “girl” and “honey” by judges in open court, even Federal judges.
It does not seem so long ago to those of us who lived it. However, living it and advancing in the profession in spite of it is one matter, but facing it down against all odds to change long-accepted policies, practices, and perceptions is quite another. Read this story of a woman lawyer, now departed, who leaned into a problem of great magnitude and dire consequences with truth and dignity on her side and changed the perception of how women are entitled to protect themselves and their families against abuse within the very family itself.
Read about Holly Maquigan and thank your lucky stars that she came before you. I wish I had known her. Here is her story.