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High Attrition Rates Open Doors for Attorneys Returning to the Workforce, But Hurdles Remain; ABA and Hastings College of Law Launch Programs

Execmom2Typically, it's been tough going for attorneys who temporarily stopped practicing law to spend more time with family or for other personal reasons, and then seek to return to law firm jobs after the kids were grown or family finances changed. Such attorneys were often viewed as not being serious about their careers. Firms also struggled with questions of hierarchy - that is, where to position an older, returning attorney within the firm in terms of pay and rank.

But according to a recent article on, with attrition rates at their highest levels ever, many law firms are now accommodating lawyers seeking to transition back into full time work. Additionally, reports that both the American Bar Association and the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco have launched initiatives to help attorneys who have stopped practicing to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition back into the profession.

The ABA project, now with chapters in New York and Washington, D.C. will organize seminars for attorneys not presently working to keep them abreast of important legal developments in their fields. Interested attorneys can contact Skadden Arps partners Kayalyn Marafioti or Linda Hayman in New York or DLA Piper Rudnick partner Ann Ford in Washington, D.C.

Joanwilliams The Hasting's program will advise returning attorneys on practical issues, such as how to explain the gap on their résumé, what kind of networking they should be doing, how to negotiate a part-time salary and schedule, and how to juggle new work life balance demands. Interested attorneys can contact Joan Williams at the Center for WorkLife Law (see photo at right).

That networking and keeping abreast of major legal developments in one's area of expertise remain the key ingredients for a successul return is evident from the "success story" of Amy Goodman, now a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's D.C. office, who was hired by the firm in 1998 after spending 11 years at home with her children. Goodman had worked as an attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission for 11 years, and remained involved with the securities world during her time at home by working as an author and editor of several books and newsletters on securities and corporate law. Goodman advises: "[i]n the midst of raising kids, you think you are going to be a parent forever, but children's needs change over time. It would behoove attorneys who have taken some time off from practice to think about keeping in touch and not closing doors."

On the opposite side of the spectrum is a 45-year-old Rockville, Md.-based attorney who attended a lower-ranked law school who is returning to the workforce, as a result of getting divorced, after 10 years at home taking care of her three children. Despite several years' experience working for Deloitte & Touche and seven years as a staff attorney at the Environmental Protection Agency, she still has not found a steady full time job.

Read the full article here.

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