Work-life balance elusive for most lawyers

New study probes challenges many professionals face juggling work and family demands
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/17/2006

When lawyer Kirby Chown had her twins during her first year of practice with McCarthy Tétrault LLP in the early 1980s, there was no support available to help her balance the demands of family and work. More than 20 years later, women lawyers still face challenges when they become mothers.

“Our average maternity leave is about nine months, so women would step out of their practice, they would be at home and they would be disconnected from the firm and then they would have trouble reintegrating,” says Chown, now the Ontario regional managing partner of McCarthy Tétrault, which has 800 lawyers in offices across Canada, including Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, as well as in New York and London.

However, thanks to Chown and other women in leadership positions, the firm has instituted several programs to support lawyers with family demands. McCarthy Tétrault matches each woman going on maternity leave with a “buddy” — usually another woman who has been on maternity leave and has returned to work. The buddy helps the woman wind down her practice, stays in touch with her while she’s on leave and assists with reintegration.