The Why Behind ML|MW
A Note from Our Founders
We live in a modern world; a modern world designed for men. From everything as simple as cars, to more novel items such as stab vests and spacesuits, women are faced daily with a glaring fact: the world we live in was not designed with us in mind.
Today, women make up just shy of 47% of the total workforce. Since World War II, the 32.7% of American women in the labor force has risen to 56.8%. In the last fifty years, the percentage of women who have a college degree has almost quadrupled from 11% to 40%. Remarkably, 34% of women are graduating with a bachelor’s degree by age 29, a significant 8% above that of their male counterparts.
In 2016, women outnumbered men for the first time in law school attendance, though for the past twenty years, the percentage of women earning law degrees has remained between 45% to 50%. Despite the years of women earning law degrees at almost the exact same rate as that of men, women make up only 30% of non-equity partners and 20% of equity partners. Those figures drop dramatically for minority women. The statistics are endless in response to the disparity between men and women in the legal industry: women at all levels of practice make less than their male counterparts, they appear less in trial, and are billed out at lower rates. Unfortunately, much like the spacesuit dilemma that seems almost absurd enough to be a parody, it has become abundantly clear that the man size workplace was not designed with women in mind.
During my first year of law school, the Honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the infamous RBG as I prefer to think of her, visited the school I attended. At the time, I was a young 21-year-old woman raised in rural west Texas and completely blind to the opportunity in front of me to really acquire knowledge from this awe-inspiring United States Supreme Court Justice. Luckily, there was a woman in the room much wiser than I who took that opportunity. Diana Bandoh, the girl behind the pearl at Diana Bandoh Jewelry (seriously, check her out here), took the opportunity I did not to ask a question I would come to ponder time and time again many years later: can we (women) really have it all? Though I’m paraphrasing what was, to my recollection, a much more well-articulated question and response, Justice Ginsburg unequivocally decried “Yes, we can.”
At that time, I do not remember ever questioning that undoubtedly, we, as women, could have it all. It was 2011 for crying out loud. A couple of years later the warnings I had received while interning from female associates, who made clear that I could never truly be part of the boys club, accompanied by anecdotes of partners who never took the time to learn the handful of female associates names yet joked with the sea of male associates as if they were long time buddies, sounded from my own hippocampus as I confronted my naïveté. Soon after this realization, after coming back to that question time and time again throughout my first few years of practice, I set out to find the why behind the hurdle women face not only in the general workforce, but specifically in the legal industry. That answer repeatedly led me back to the choice between having a family or having a career.
Women are often penalized in law firms for life events in which their male counterparts are incentivized. These penalties are not unknown, but aside from platforms built by women for women,are treated more as an urban legend or “fake news”. Sadly, women begin exiting the legal industry almost immediately after entering it, finding they first pay a hefty penalty for childbirth known as the Motherhood Penalty. In fact, 43% of extremely qualified women across all industries with children are leaving their careers or off-ramping for a period of time. Unfortunately, the Motherhood Penalty takes no prisoners, and equally comes for women within their reproductive years who do not have children as well as those who never intend to take the plunge into motherhood. This exodus does not slow at the end of the reproductive years. Instead, it swells at the advent of what should be the height of their career, with the largest departure from the industry occurring in women over 50 who, now caring for elderly parents, have experienced death by a thousand tiny little paper cuts after years of watching less experienced and less qualified men routinely take their seat at the table.
Admittedly, the idea that career success was dependent upon giving up a family never really set right with me. Frankly, it seemed too simple. Because it was. The Justice's words from almost a decade were undoubtedly true. Women could have it all, but they need the infrastructure in which they are allowed to do so. It wasn’t that we as women are lacking in any way, but that we don’t fit the design mold.
After a lunch with the founding partner of Moster Craft, P.C., Charles Moster, where we somehow ended up in discussions about a close friend of mine who would likely be leaving BigLaw due in part to the treatment from partners she had faced throughout her pregnancy, an idea was born. What if we could create a firm for women designed to meet the very challenges she was facing? A place where motherhood was celebrated and accommodated rather than penalized.
Over the coming weeks, I dug deeper into the why behind what is termed the Motherhood Penalty. In doing so, countless discussions ensued of what exactly our vision was and how this vision could develop past its infantile stage. Ultimately, the decision we arrived at was a simple answer to the dilemma of a world designed for men: women should be allowed to design their own career path specifically tailored to meet their unique needs. We needed only to offer the infrastructure for women to do so.
Modern Law for Modern Women aims to do just that. To provide women a space where women can create their own mold and design their own career path. Within this division, we choose to meet women where they are. Whether on-ramping after several years away, trying to avoid off-ramping altogether within the chaos of balancing life, or just simply desiring a better work life balance, we welcome you. Each woman should be permitted a space where they can tailor their workspace, structure, client load, and compensation to truly work for them without sacrificing their personal lives, their family, or their ability to make partner.
Here at Modern Law for Modern Women, we value quality and creativity over mindlessly churning out billable hours. We value the decision to have it all, and to take the initiative to design what that looks like personally. We value women. We value you.
1, Caroline Criado-Perez, The deadly truth about a world built for men – from stab vests to car crashes, The Guardian (Feb. 23,2019),https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/feb/23/truth-world-built-for-men-car-crashes?linkId=65300995&fbclid=IwAR3TleV8q6gBy2umLfSktZuzIOg9DdFjEC8KJgi3q9p0SDhXbobIB5PynbI.
2. Matthew S. Schwartz, NASA Scraps First All-Female Spacewalk For Want Of A Medium-Size Spacesuit, NPR (Mar. 26, 2019), https://www.npr.org/2019/03/26/706779637/nasa-scraps-first-all-female-spacewalk-for-want-of-a-medium-sized-spacesuit.
3. Mark DeWolf, 12 Stats About Working Women, U.S. Department of Labor Blog (Mar. 1, 2017), https://blog.dol.gov/2017/03/01/12-stats-about-working-women.
4. National Association for Law Placement, 2018 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms (Jan. 2019), available at https://www.nalp.org/uploads/2018NALPReportonDiversityinUSLawFirms_FINAL.pdf.
5. Destiny Peery, JD/PhD, 2018 NAWL Annual Survey, National Association of Women Lawyers, available at https://www.nawl.org/2018Survey (last visited Aug. 10, 2019).
6. Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013).
7. Dayna Evans, Women Are Penalized at Work for the Possibility They Might Have Kids Someday, The Cut (Jan. 6, 2017), https://www.thecut.com/2017/01/motherhood-penalty-young-women-hbr-study.html.
8. Staci Zaretsky, Why Are Women Leaving The Legal Profession In Droves?, Above the Law (Nov. 9, 2017), https://abovethelaw.com/2017/11/why-are-women-leaving-the-legal-profession-in-droves/.