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Everything posted by KOMODO

  1. In my opinion we don't know that, because we haven't had experience in an environment where people had the same or similar benefits. If you are basing your assertion on some situation where people had the same or similar benefits and didn't take similar leave, I would be interested to read about it, could you provide a source?
  2. If the "same benefits" are a number of months paid time off in the year or so following the birth of a child, I don't think it's silly for men (or adoptive parents, or other partners of women who give birth) to have those benefits even though they don't physically need to heal or breastfeed. The point of these benefits isn't solely to deal with physical issues, it's also to provide early childcare and bond with the new baby. In my opinion, only providing paid time off to women (to the exclusion of men) amplifies the impact of the fact that only women are able to give birth. By allowing for leave to be split between two parents, we would permit women time to heal and breastfeed and bond for a period of time, and then we would also allow the non-birthing parent to have time to bond and provide childcare as well. As a result, we would probably see people of all genders taking similar amounts of time off to care for children, and accordingly the stigma associated with being a child-bearing aged woman (which is that you will need or want to take leave while your male counterpart will not) would be significantly reduced.
  3. This is an interesting conversation starter and I've also wondered whether we should broach the topic of same-sex couples / nonbinary couples in this thread. I think that until now our conversation has been restricted to opposite-sex couples because we have more personal experience with that scenario (and because that scenario makes it easy to draw comparisons between men and women, which is what we were originally discussing), but I agree that it's important to recognize that lots of families aren't made up of opposite-sex parents. There was an excellent article in the Globe and Mail recently (it was originally printed in February, and then reprinted this week) about the experience of a male reporter who stayed at home for the first part of his daughter's life while his husband continued to work. It's available here and I would recommend giving it a read. Ultimately I think the things that many people are advocating for in this thread would seriously benefit same-sex couples - the idea is that it shouldn't matter whether you're the parent giving birth or not, all parents should get parental leave. So that applies even more strongly with male same-sex couples where both parents would traditionally not have very robust parental leave rights, and equally to female same-sex couples where traditionally only the delivering partner would have robust rights (and also to adoptive parents in the same way). In addition, he describes the revelations he has while participating in a parenting ritual that is often only experienced by women, and he describes how taking leave gives him so much more insight and appreciation for parenting. I think that allowing men to participate in early childcare more would allow them to have similar experiences. Regarding the comparison to single-parent families - that's a tougher nut to crack. Certainly in terms of male single parents, extending parental leave rights to men would provide a benefit that we don't presently have. In the case of single moms - I'm not really sure what employers could do to be more supportive, aside from providing salary top-up for a longer period. At some point I do think it's important to recognize the line between things we can change and things we can't change. We are able to have a positive impact on female career progression/male parenting/associate retention/family cohesiveness by providing equal leave opportunities to non-delivering parents, thus (partly) balancing the burden of child rearing between men and women (or delivering and non-delivering parents). Conversely, I can't think of anything we can do to make single parenting and dual parenting carry a similar burden. Regarding the comparison to younger parents - yes, I think there's quite a body of research that supports the idea that providing low-cost childcare propels young and otherwise socioeconomically disadvantaged women to pursue career opportunities that they otherwise wouldn't pursue. (see for example some of the stats cited in this slightly dated Star article - it was the first hit I got on google, and while it's not a real research article someone could rely on, I think that with some effort we could find actual research articles saying the same thing). That said, I think the topic of universal childcare hasn't been raised in this thread because although it's an important topic, it doesn't apply more to lawyers than the general population, and we were originally focusing on specific things in legal private practice that make it more difficult for women to advance than men. In that vein I still think the low hanging fruit is providing the same parental leave benefits to all parents.
  4. You're saying that women's decisions are negatively impacting their careers. I'm saying that the decisions aren't just being made by women, they're being made by couples, but only women are bearing the career-related burden. That's the difference. No, we agree that women are negatively impacted by the fact that women take parental leave more often and for longer periods than men. You're coming under fire because whether you intend it or not, the way that you've presented your opinion leaves the impression that you feel women could choose differently and have a different outcome. In reality it's not that simple.
  5. I'm sorry but I don't agree with your premise. To rephrase what I was trying to say in my previous post to you - men don't really have a true option to take significant parental leave from private practice, because (a) they wouldn't be compensated for taking that leave; and (b) they might be ostracized or otherwise limited upon return from a lengthy unpaid leave. As a result of the fact that men aren't able to take prolonged parental leave, when a male-female couple have a child and jointly decide that a parent should stay at home with that child for more than a few weeks (and I think we can all agree that most parents in our profession make that decision), the necessary implication is that the female partner will take extended leave to make that happen. So it's not that women and men are making different decisions - the two opposite sex parents are making the same decision, namely that a parent should stay at home for an extended period, and they don't have a realistic next choice to make, because only the female partner has the ability to stay at home. The way that you are framing your point is coming across as out of touch because if we follow your logic through, you're implying that women could (should?) make a different choice, namely returning to work earlier. That ignores the reality that if women made the "choice" to return to work as soon as physically possible (leaving aside the question of what that timeframe would be), then either their (mostly male) partners would have to forego salary and expose themselves to potential career limitations by taking substantial leave, or they wouldn't be able to make the joint decision to have a parent stay home in the first place. Basically your argument is coming across as victim-blaming - you seem to be saying that women are career-disadvantaged because they're making a choice that men aren't making - most of us disagree with that idea because we don't feel that women and men have the same choices to make. Women are (in private practice, anyways) necessarily taking leave as a result of decisions both parents are making together.
  6. I'm sorry that this happened. That type of situation is really frustrating because there often isn't one specific "sexist" event that you can point to and make noise about - it's more of a gradual accumulation of actions (or inaction) over time. I do believe that these kinds of experiences are connected to a non-trivial number of departure decisions on the part of female associates.
  7. I think I messed up my notification settings, so I'm just seeing these updates now. I know that others have addressed your comment generally but I thought I should also take a minute to respond and add my perspective, since you were responding to my post. In addition to the totally valid points that others have raised regarding physical healing, breastfeeding, and practical considerations like childcare, we should think seriously about your implication that women and men are making different "decisions" about taking time off. One of the key ideas in this thread a recognition of the fact that women and men do not have the same options regarding parental leave in private practice. If I (as a female associate) had a child tomorrow, my firm would compensate me for 17 weeks of fully paid leave and would have no issue with my taking 52 weeks of total leave. If my husband worked at the same firm (or any other major Toronto firm like it, to the best of my knowledge), he would be compensated for 4 weeks of fully paid leave and would generally be expected to return to work following that 4 week leave. Perhaps if he pushed, he would be able to take further unpaid leave, but it wouldn't be the norm for a male associate to take additional unpaid time off in my workplace. On the other hand, a full year of leave (17 weeks paid and the balance only receiving EI) would be the default/assumed trajectory for a female associate. So when you say that they made different decisions (the implication being that they could have made the same decision, in which case they would have had the same result) - I don't really think that's a fair reading of the situation. In my opinion the relevant decision was to have a child, and the way that they progress through the system following that decision is different because of a host of factors that are not really within control of the parents (those factors being biological, societal, workplace-related, compensation-related, etc.). Conversely, as Erinl2 mentioned, there are some workplaces now offering benefits for the male parent to also take substantial leave, and I think those workplaces will see greater numbers of women advancing as a result (and happier families and employees generally, because as leafs_law has mentioned, this isn't just a "women's issue" - men want and deserve to have an opportunity to participate in parental leave programs too).
  8. [portion only quoted] I held this view for a long time, but have changed my position over time. I think the key here, from my (current) perspective, is that if only women take leave when people have children, then it seems unfair to say that they should be held back post-leave, because it means that child-having women will always be behind child-having men (notwithstanding that they made the same decision, namely to have a child). If leave were allocated to men as it is to women, I would have less of an issue with this line of thinking. [portion only quoted] I think this is becoming far more common. Different firms call it different things, but one of the pushes that I'm seeing in the last year is towards the idea of a reduced hour target or counsel-like roles for those who want them. I think those programs are great but there are a few key things that can hinder their success, including (a) it's very secretive how much of a pay cut you would need to take to reduce your hours, so people are afraid that they'll ask and then the pay will be too low but their supervisors will already know that they don't want to work a 100% FTE; (b) firms are nervous about how resources like support, office space, etc. will work under these models, and employees are afraid that they'll take a pay cut but end up doing the same amount of work; and (c) people would rather avoid having this conversation about reducing hours and seeming like a "failure", so they just change jobs to go somewhere with fewer hour-related expectations instead. On account of (a) and (c), I tend to see these reduced-hour/reduced-comp models working best to attract laterals who are skilled but would otherwise not be in private practice (i.e. sometimes, stealing people back from in-house and government positions).
  9. Hi! Thanks so much!! I know, time flies. It's really nice that so many people I remember are still here! I don't mind coming back for a serious topic, and it's also given me the chance to browse through a few fun threads which brought back good memories. No offence taken at all on the "are you sure" suggestion - totally valid and of course I will never be sure. I feel pretty confident, but then again, I have the benefit of other interactions with the person in question, body language and tone during the conversation, etc. which you guys don't have. More importantly, whether or not it was meant as I took it, the experience provided a springboard for this discussion about some of the difficult and important issues that our industry faces. I think overall this has been a pretty constructive discussion and I hope it continues so that we can keep bouncing ideas and views off of each other. I would never get to have the kinds of conversations (and frankly, challenges to my point of view) that I've had in this thread in real life, and I think it's healthy and productive to have those conversations. So I really appreciate everyone participating
  10. Again, I disagree with your characterization of what I've said, and I think it's dishonest to take something moderate that I say and make it seem like I've made an extreme statement. I am not saying that men and women are identical or that there must be strictly equal numbers of men and women at every level. I would like to see similar rates of both genders making these decisions, and I believe that if the opportunities and expectations for mothers and fathers were the same, we wouldn't see the starkly different patterns that we see today. I have no idea, and I would suggest that you are also unlikely to have any idea, what exactly would happen in terms of the ratio of women vs. men in private practice - would women represent 45, 50, or 55% of senior lawyers at big firms? We don't know because we have never experienced a system that gave them the same choices. What I do know is that based on this 2016 study, only 9.3% of women lawyers in Ontario were private practice partners, compared with 22.3% of men. I do not believe that more than double the number of men want to become partners as compared with women due to biological differences. I think the social, financial, and career implications that women vs. men face are different and I would suggest that they are the main cause of this discrepancy. In particular, I feel you have significantly mischaracterized my position in your last paragraph. I have not at all focused on strict equality but rather have suggested that there are subtle and overt gender-based differences in how lawyers are treated, both generally and in relation to the parental leave they take (and I've suggested that is a problem). I am not trying to "enforce [my] ideal gender roles on the population", but do the exact opposite - call for an end to some of the differential treatment based on gender that I have observed, i.e. call for an end to the enforcement of certain gender roles on the population. If you believe in giving men and women equal opportunity and choice, then that's all I'm trying to say, and hopefully we can agree that's not currently the world we live in. Edit - my post crossed with Slightly Obsessed's post, which says the same thing I'm trying to say.
  11. I disagree with your characterization of what I said and I have no problem with women (or men, for that matter) choosing to exit private practice because of a desire to spend more time with their families. If people have different opportunities and choose to take one avenue over another, that's great. The fact is that firms are losing skilled women post-leave at a rate that is higher than would be desirable for those firms, and the loss of those women leads to people making assumptions about how future groups of women will perform post-leave. My personal opinion is that ideally we would see women and men leaving at similar rates post-leave on account of wanting to spend more time with their families (I think that would be evidence of a system in which people made decisions based on having similar choices), but that is not what we see in practice. We also know that women often face significant obstacles to reintegrating after they take parental leave. It's not unreasonable to connect those obstacles to the fact that women are leaving and try to address them. If you are saying that mothers are biologically determined to exit private practice at a rate that is higher than fathers, I disagree. I think the way that firms (and more broadly, society) treat parental leave, reintegration, and gender differences in relation to parenting is causing the imbalance.
  12. I wish men would be *more* vocal about the importance of men taking parental leave! I think that's a really important part of the conversation and probably a key part of getting anything done about it. Thanks for bringing it up and I would encourage you to make those views as public as you're comfortable making them.
  13. I find your post a little confusing but I think I mostly agree with you, and if I'm understanding correctly, there's no need to apologize for what you're saying. It seems like you're saying that men are penalized more for taking parental leave than women. I 100% agree and I think it's why women take leave more often and for longer periods than men (which leads to expectations and assumptions that are negative for the career progression of women). The way that we currently do things is bad for women AND it's bad for men. We should call on firms to do better and move towards compensating people equally for parental leave. It's the only way I can see to fixing this issue. I also haven't seen a lot of overt gender-based discrimination, it's more subtle (and probably unconscious a decent amount of the time). That doesn't mean it's not a problem.
  14. I think the point is that there is nothing objective to suggest that the associate in question won't ultimately progress to equity partnership - so although the list of qualities I provided isn't an exhaustive list of things required for equity partnership (instead, it's a list of things that are generally required for income partnership, which is the next step), this person should be considered "on track" for the stage they're currently at in their career, if equity partnership is the long term goal. The argument that you and others are making is like saying that a law student with an A average applying to OCIs is doing the "bare minimum" to become an equity partner - not really, they are not currently meeting the requirements to become an equity partner, but that's fine for their stage. They are otherwise doing the things that would be expected of someone at their stage who wanted equity partnership long term. To suggest to them that they're not cut out for equity partnership is not based on the objective data available.
  15. This discussion started because I shared a situation that I witnessed personally where it was suggested that someone was not cut out to stay at a firm long term (or potentially not desirous of staying at a firm long term), notwithstanding that if you looked at all objective measures for that person's stage of career, those measures would suggest that person was on track to stay long term. I think the arguments that are being made about what is and isn't required for equity partnership in Toronto are (a) irrelevant, and (b) not informed based on the market we're discussing. Associates aren't expected to display behaviours required for equity partnership because they're not eligible to become equity partners.
  16. Generally when associates in Toronto talk about "making partner", they are referring to becoming income partners, because as far as I know that is the required step between associate and equity partner at most Bay Street firms. To put it another way, associates don't "make" equity partner directly from being associates at most of these firms, as far as I know. This is getting a bit technical and sidetracked but the whole point was that based on an associate putting in the things I mentioned, it is generally expected that they will progress to the next step. Suggesting that they wouldn't is unusual. Picking apart the qualities that I used as benchmarks for progression doesn't make sense if you're coming from a market that does it differently.
  17. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. Again if you're coming from an American perspective where so few people make partner, then we already know that the expectations are quite different here in Toronto. If I were a 7th year call doing all of those things in Toronto and not seriously considered for income partnership I would be surprised and would expect my firm to be able to give me a concrete reason why not.
  18. I'm not at an eat what you kill firm, so I'm not sure - but yes, I imagine that however much it's not ideal at a more supportive firm it would probably be even worse at a less supportive one. Regarding staying involved while on leave, yes, I think that is generally recommended and probably a good idea. At the same time I can imagine it would be tough to do, so I wouldn't fault someone for not doing it. But as far as best practices yes, it probably makes sense. I would caution against people meeting with clients while on leave because I think that's confusing for everyone and not very useful if you're not doing work anyways, but certainly attending events makes sense.
  19. I think the question you have to ask is - why are women leaving? Why aren't there more women left? I think there are things that are absolutely in the firm's control that lead to more women leaving than men. I think most people accept that that's the case.
  20. Reintegration isn't only about the work that an associate puts in when they return from leave. When Bob gets back from his year long banking secondment, partners flood his office to welcome him back and catch him up, and generally ask him to resume the work that he was doing beforehand. When Barb comes back from her leave, partners don't bother her with work or client updates because they want to "give her space" and "let her gradually sink back in". Nobody speaks to Barb about what's been going on in the group, new or different expectations for her now that she's back, or the types of files she might feel ready to take on - the onus is on her to go door to door to get her work back. Often she will find that the associates who were "covering" for her while she was on leave are still working on the files that were hers before she left, and it can be hard to get those files back without seeming like she's not a team player.
  21. Okay....I don't think we're really saying different things. If you're doing these things in years 5, 6, 7, you are doing what you should to be eligible for partnership. There isn't more you're supposed to be doing, and to suggest that someone who is doing these things isn't cut out for private practice/partnership is unusual.
  22. [portion only quoted] I don't really agree that maternity leave is something firms can do little about - there's no reason that firms need to wait for legislation to act. Right now, firms expect and assume that women will take 12 months off but expect them to go without pay for 2/3rds of that time. They expect men to take 4 weeks and pay them accordingly. Firms could say, for example, that they would top up salary for 6 months of parental leave for every new parent regardless of gender, use it or lose it. I think if that were the case, more men in my workplace would take parental leave and the assumption that women fall behind with every child, but men don't, would be diminished. I do agree that reintegration post-leave is really important, and it's something that firms are terrible at doing. Most of the women I know who have recently had children, at my firm and others like it, say that there was minimal support to reintegrate. Many left their firms within a year of coming back post-leave (in my circle, 80% of the women I know who have had children in the last couple years have stayed less than 12 months after returning). In contrast, people who return from secondments of a similar length do not seem to have any trouble at all reintegrating into the firm landscape. This leads me to believe that it's not just an issue of client and partner relationships changing in that period, but rather something specific about child-related leave that is interfering with reintegration.
  23. By the time people are moving from income partnership to equity partnership, of course, it matters that they're able to support themselves with work from their own clients. However, (a) most large firms don't move associates directly from being associates to being equity partners, there is a step in between, and (b) although it's great to bring in "new" clients, the more common way to get clients in the early stages of partnership is to gradually inherit/take over books of business from more senior partners, and perform work for clients of partners in other practice areas (that's why independently managing files matters - it's a prerequisite to having your own clients). The clients we're talking about in the context of a big firm are mostly large institutional companies with existing relationships, and it's not as if a 7th year lawyer is going to independently steal that work from another firm entirely. Sometimes you get lucky and an existing client refers business to you, or you're part of the successful team on an RFP, but otherwise I don't think new client origination is as common as people think, and as a result it's generally not the main factor for moving into partnership from being an associate.
  24. There are a few things I would say in response to the discussion above about expectations for associates, becoming a biglaw partner, and job demands generally. It's a big discussion and it's late at night but here are my initial thoughts. From what I have seen in my years as an associate at a large bay street law firm, associates who reach year 7 and consistently exceed target/participate in non-billable initiatives/manage their own files are considered for partnership (and often make partner). I don't know where people are getting the idea that the above qualities aren't "enough" for someone to make partner - what else could someone be doing to be worthy? Perhaps we're having a miscommunication because I'm using a brief note to explain something complex. When I say that someone is participating in non-billable initiatives, I mean that they are acting as student mentors, sitting on committees, attending pitches, developing business, etc. When I say that someone is managing their own files, in the context of a large firm, that's pretty major - it means that they're often the key client contact on their files, and that they have the technical expertise to complete the sophisticated legal work that's required. Often they will consult with or even work under a senior partner on very sophisticated matters, but they will handle many complex files independently. What else do people think is required to enter the partnership? As with many firms, my firm uses a two-tier structure where associates become income partners for several years (generally) before they become equity partners. They are not expected to have a complete book of business that 100% supports them starting in year 1 of income partnership - instead they are required to prove that they have the technical ability, work ethic, and client relationships that support the business case that they will reach a point of self sufficiency in several years (at which point they will likely move to equity partnership). As someone stated above, the Canadian model differs significantly from the American model, and with due respect, I don't think an experience in NYC has any relation to the process in Toronto. Here, there are sometimes as many partners as associates and it is the presumed path for associates who remain with a firm for 7+ years (though some firms are beginning to change this and offer counsel-type positions so that associates don't feel too much pressure to go up or out). The firms want to keep people who make it to year 7 as much or more than people want to stay. Regarding targets and number of billable hours generally, again, what is being said does not jive with my experience. Sure there are people who exceed 2000+ billable hours, but that is not normal and those people often leave faster than those hitting 1700. I'm not sure exactly how people define "specialties" but it's possible at many firms to say that half or more of associates are practicing in the specialties (i.e. not pure litigation or pure corporate). Naturally there are files that support turning your clock on in the morning and turning it off at night, and people working on those files will bill more hours than people who docket to 20 matters a day (though note that rates can be reflective of this, so two associates with different billables may produce the same revenue for the firm). There are definitely big firms in Toronto with completely successful associates billing under target (fewer than 1700 hours), and those people are not being marched out - they may have totally legitimate reasons for billing that number, including participating in BD activities, contributing to non-billable firm functions that are quasi-administrative but necessary to keep the firm functioning, etc. Regarding the stress load and life, I disagree with the characterization that people want the money without the stress (in fact, I think relative to history, associates today have less money and more stress). Associates are constantly available, and tend to work long hours pretty uniformly (which don't necessarily translate to perfect billable numbers, partly because of how the legal landscape has changed - associates spend a significant amount of time on things that partners just didn't have to do 20 years ago). They are compensated very well relative to many of their non-law peers, but they are not generally living high on the hog - they are spending years at the beginning of their careers paying back large student loans, and then attempting to find housing on either a very expensive rental basis or on the basis of trying to purchase a modest home using extreme leverage. Notwithstanding this, they are labelled as "lazy" when they suggest that things could be done differently. Instead of working people into the ground and then asking why they don't have enough talent on their teams to complete the work that clients are trying to provide, firms are beginning to consider whether a combination of non-traditional career options, technological advances, and fixed-fee pricing models could help. I personally think that the combo of using tech to make things more efficient and using fixed-fee pricing to incentivize better behaviour is excellent - why are we continuing to reward people for being inefficient? I think there are ways to improve the bottom line while improving quality of life.
  25. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! If you don't mind me asking, are you saying that there are large firms that are offering 12 months top up to the female parent and/or more than 4 weeks top up for the male or adoptive parent? As far as I've heard, the standard across the big firms in Toronto is 17 weeks paid top up if you deliver and 4 weeks otherwise. It that's not the case then I would really like to know so that we can advocate to match what's being offered elsewhere! I would also assume that any firms offering so much more than the "standard" would be proud to make it known that they were offering those kind of benefits.
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