Having kids during vs after law school

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erinbrockovich
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Having kids during vs after law school

Post by erinbrockovich » Mon May 07, 2018 11:06 am

I've seen a bunch of other threads in which people recommend having kids during law school rather than during the first year of work out of law school. I'm curious about this, as I plan to start trying with my partner pretty much as soon as I graduate. Knowing this, I had assumed I'd need to go with a firm that is known for having a good parental leave policy. Wouldn't having 6 months paid leave make having a kid easier than no leave whatsoever in law school? Why do people say it's harder to have kids your first year?

If this has been discussed somewhere else, feel free to link :)

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UVA2B
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by UVA2B » Mon May 07, 2018 11:20 am

You're looking at this sort of backwards from that advice, I think.

People recommend having kids during law school instead of during your career because the interruption necessary to have kids won't impact your career. Firms cannot and will not discriminate based on pregnancy officially, but if you take 6 months off to have a kid, you'll be 6 months behind the rest of your associate class, will have missed out on 6 months of experience that will make you valuable to the firm, and will put yourself in a bit of a precarious position because you've brought less value to the firm during your time there than your fellow associates have.

It's also harder to have kids when you've graduated if you realize the above, and try to do everything you can to avoid being on a short list of people who are expendable, whether fairly or not (and to be clear, it's likely not fair at all), who could be the first associate let go when that occasionally needs to happen. So trying to raise your newborn/infant child while still staying on target to bill 2000+ hours in a year (even prorating for maternity leave where you're not billing) would be irrationally difficult when compared to having a child during 2L or 3L year, where your only responsibilities (assuming you do your SA right and get an offer from the firm you're working for) is to do marginally well in classes and not fail out.

Having kids is a major life change, and it adds significant amounts of stress in both your personal and professional life. Your first year in practice will already be one of the most stressful times in your professional life, so now you're just compounding stress with stress. It's unfortunately a very possible way of flaming out of this career sooner than you may otherwise want. But once you get a year or two into parenting and have the home front more settled, it'll be marginally easier to balance your work life (where demands will be consistently high) and your home life (which you obviously hope to maintain for the health and happiness of your family).

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DorkothyParker
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by DorkothyParker » Mon May 07, 2018 2:17 pm

I did want to point out, from a woman's perspective, that depending on your "Mom Goals", you may find yourself desperately trying to breast feed all 8 hours the newborn is awake (because they cry hysterically the moment you unlatch and the doctor is concerned about weak weight gain.) And waking to pump and attempt to breast feed every 90 minutes at night. (Pro tip: Baby wearing and keeping a pacifier on a necklace will allow you to at least go grocery shopping. Unless your baby will let you leave it in the carrier, lucky you.)

Bath when the baby baths. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Clean when the baby cleans!

If you have a very talented uterus, aim to give birth in mid to late May after your first year. Because the 4th trimester (first 3 months of infancy) is a sort of Hell. (Not even JUST the lack of sleep.) Although, you will definitely be getting 4-5 hours of sleep most nights the first month. Non-consecutive, of course.

I mean, you might have a super chill baby. Or maybe you won't obsess over every little thing and have severe anxiety. But it's possible. So just make sure you have a support system for that.

Sorry. You'll be fine. Good luck. (Infants are demons.) <3 <3 <3

erinbrockovich
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by erinbrockovich » Mon May 07, 2018 4:55 pm

Would this advice change at all if I weren't to go into big law? And how many years into working do most people start having kids? I'm assuming it can't be too unusual when you're hiring 25-35 year olds for people to take parental leave... right?

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UVA2B
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by UVA2B » Mon May 07, 2018 10:31 pm

erinbrockovich wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 4:55 pm
Would this advice change at all if I weren't to go into big law? And how many years into working do most people start having kids? I'm assuming it can't be too unusual when you're hiring 25-35 year olds for people to take parental leave... right?
The advice isn't explicitly about big law, but yes, it could somewhat change, depending on what career you're imagining outside of big law.

People have kids at various points in their lives and careers. The advice to have kids in law school instead of your first year of practice is really a false dichotomy for someone like yourself considering it. There is never a "right" time to have kids. Far from it. You have kids when, based on your own personal estimation of when it's appropriate for you and your family, you can have a career and still start a family that stays together happily. If you're working in the private sector, you need to appreciate that it'll be several years into your practice before you have skills that employers actually covet/value. So whether it's big law or not, if you're taking significant time off in the early years of your career, you're more likely to be setting yourself up to fall behind in the career instead of setting yourself up where a brief sabbatical for having kids will be accepted by the firm that employs you. So assuming you work for a smaller firm (aka not big law), taking a huge amount of time off (which may or may not be paid time off in that firm) could meaningfully affect that firm's bottom line and operating budget. So when you want to come back from having and raising the baby, they could decide that they can't afford to try to bring you up to speed in their current matters. Conversely, if you get into government or non-profit work or something where the pressure of producing profits is reduced/eliminated, you have slightly more freedom to plan for when it's best to have kids. But the pressure of producing results in your employment is never eliminated, so any significant time off needs to be planned in a way that establishes your value to the employer so that they will look forward to your return.

All of this is to say something important: it's possible to plan for a career and a family and be successful in that, but if you sacrifice too much in one for the benefit of the other, the former may fall through. If you decide to have a kid during your first year in practice, take 6 months of leave for raising that child, and try to come back after that hoping you haven't fallen out of favor with your employer, you may be completely out of luck professionally without establishing a skill set or marketable resume. If you find yourself in that position, it will be difficult to find another opportunity. But on the other hand, if you have your child and immediately head back to work to save your professional career, you risk your family resenting you and your career.

You should consider having kids when you and your partner are emotionally and psychologically ready for it. That's not really driven by your law school plans, but it is definitely somewhat driven by your particular career goals and your desire to be successful in those goals.

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Nony
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by Nony » Mon May 07, 2018 10:33 pm

So, full disclosure, I don't have kids, but I have lots of friends who do, and fwiw, many have said stuff that echoes a lot of the above - that it's better to have kids in law school because your schedule is way more flexible than when you start work. 3L in particular can be a very relaxed year and you can choose how much/little you want to do. Also having kids actually in your first year of work can be tough in that you may lose out somewhat on the chance to cement relationships before disappearing on maternity leave. (Also, I think for some firms you have to have worked there a year to be eligible for maternity leave? I could be mistaken about how firms handle this, though - I don't think any employer *has* to give time off if you've worked less than a year, but it may well be big firms do it anyway.)

Also, six months paid leave seems a little more than most employers give (see https://biglawbusiness.com/generous-par ... law-firms/ for a few numbers). I don't think I know anyone who's gotten 6 months paid - usually that length of time is some combination of paid/unpaid.

If you're not going to biglaw - it might be harder have a kid during school if you're aiming for the kind of job that doesn't hire till after graduation, but I'm still not sure that mixing new parenting and new job-ing is the easiest path. If you're considering government, you usually have to work a certain amount of time to accrue sick leave/vacation time anyway, so the first year you won't have much (I know people who've done leave without pay when their other leave ran out, but that's not much fun). Don't know how smaller private employers handle this and I suspect it varies a lot.

All the above said... the one thing I've seen most parents say is that there is no perfect time to have kids, so you have to do so when it's right for you, personally. If that's not during school, then don't have a kid during school - I think people mostly want to throw out reasons to consider it (and help debunk the idea that law school is 3 years of tormented labor and misery; it's much less work than practice, except for short periods leading up to finals). There are always reasons why any given time is not a good time to have kids.

And yes, of course people have kids after they start working, all the time - most employers give some kind of parental leave, it can range from brilliant to terrible in how long it is/what it covers, and what options you may have will depend a lot on where you're working. There are reasons (mostly identified here) to not aim for your first year, but conversely, you're a lot more fungible when you know nothing, so some people find having a kid early in their work career turns out well. It's going to depend a lot on personal circumstance.

Edit: mostly scooped by UVA2B.

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UVA2B
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by UVA2B » Mon May 07, 2018 10:37 pm

Nony wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 10:33 pm
So, full disclosure, I don't have kids, but I have lots of friends who do, and fwiw, many have said stuff that echoes a lot of the above - that it's better to have kids in law school because your schedule is way more flexible than when you start work. 3L in particular can be a very relaxed year and you can choose how much/little you want to do. Also having kids actually in your first year of work can be tough in that you may lose out somewhat on the chance to cement relationships before disappearing on maternity leave. (Also, I think for some firms you have to have worked there a year to be eligible for maternity leave? I could be mistaken about how firms handle this, though - I don't think any employer *has* to give time off if you've worked less than a year, but it may well be big firms do it anyway.)

Also, six months paid leave seems a little more than most employers give (see https://biglawbusiness.com/generous-par ... law-firms/ for a few numbers). I don't think I know anyone who's gotten 6 months paid - usually that length of time is some combination of paid/unpaid.

If you're not going to biglaw - it might be harder have a kid during school if you're aiming for the kind of job that doesn't hire till after graduation, but I'm still not sure that mixing new parenting and new job-ing is the easiest path. If you're considering government, you usually have to work a certain amount of time to accrue sick leave/vacation time anyway, so the first year you won't have much (I know people who've done leave without pay when their other leave ran out, but that's not much fun). Don't know how smaller private employers handle this and I suspect it varies a lot.

All the above said... the one thing I've seen most parents say is that there is no perfect time to have kids, so you have to do so when it's right for you, personally. If that's not during school, then don't have a kid during school - I think people mostly want to throw out reasons to consider it (and help debunk the idea that law school is 3 years of tormented labor and misery; it's much less work than practice, except for short periods leading up to finals). There are always reasons why any given time is not a good time to have kids.

And yes, of course people have kids after they start working, all the time - most employers give some kind of parental leave, it can range from brilliant to terrible in how long it is/what it covers, and what options you may have will depend a lot on where you're working. There are reasons (mostly identified here) to not aim for your first year, but conversely, you're a lot more fungible when you know nothing, so some people find having a kid early in their work career turns out well. It's going to depend a lot on personal circumstance.

Edit: mostly scooped by UVA2B.
I didn't have citations though. :)

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Nony
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by Nony » Mon May 07, 2018 10:40 pm

I just had to google to make sure I wasn't missing truly amazing parental leaves!

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presh
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by presh » Tue May 08, 2018 12:22 am

Also a government worker. I’m about six years out of law school and most of the lawyers I know waited until the third or fourth year of practice to have kids. I can’t think of anyone who did it the first year out.

For government, my anecdotal experience is that it takes about three years to accrue enough leave to take three months off.

erinbrockovich
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by erinbrockovich » Tue May 08, 2018 8:56 am

Thanks guys, this is all really helpful info.

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jeff chiles
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by jeff chiles » Tue May 08, 2018 9:19 am

I don’t have kids but I’ll add that small firms generally, like a lot of small businesses, have terrible/nonexistent paid parental leave so if that’s the direction you’re going its something to be aware of

8green
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by 8green » Wed May 09, 2018 1:43 pm

Following. Would love to hear people's experiences with having kids during law school or first couple of years at a big firm. Many thanks!

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dannyinsd
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by dannyinsd » Thu May 10, 2018 2:02 am

Don't have a kid in law school. Or in your 20s. Be social. Make friends. Travel. Drive a nice car. Then have kids. Because it's way harder to do it the other way around.

erinbrockovich
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Re: Having kids during vs after law school

Post by erinbrockovich » Thu May 10, 2018 1:03 pm

Perhaps worth noting that I will have just turned 30 when I graduate. I'm sure advice is different for people who graduate at 25, where having kids 5 years into practice is a bit easier. Not that starting a fam at 33 is not a viable option - I'm certainly considering it.

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