Why are women attorneys leaving Big Law Firms?
The constant one-word answer: FREEDOM.
Experienced women attorneys want to create an environment that understands their unique needs and obtain the equality and treatment they deserve in a heavily male-dominated arena. Instead of waiting for their seat at the table, women are creating their own table, from the ground up.
There are huge challenges to starting a solo practice or building a law firm. It costs money, time, energy, and significant sacrifices. However, the light at the end of the tunnel is: freedom to create unique strategies for your cases, freedom to choose which cases to take, freedom to grow in your direction at any pace, and freedom to mentor and shape the next generation of lawyers to understand the value of diversity.
Trailblazers Eliminating Boundaries
The definition of “success” is changing. Once, the brick-and-mortar, corner office (with a view) signified success and status, but not any longer. Today, success is profound: freedom, work-life balance, and owning your own time.
When asked about the benefits of owning a firm or practice, women attorneys credit the fact that they themselves craft the culture they have always wanted. Since male associates are more likely to get promoted compared to their female counterparts, women attorneys are leaving Big Firms and creating their own. The following are some of the benefits of owning a firm/practice:
- You Have A Choice
As an owner, you can choose the matters you believe in and connect with your client. You can make a difference, one case at a time.
- You Can Be Creative
Lawyers are independent thinkers. Your case relies on your skills and abilities. Therefore, you have control.
- You Can Make Room For Your Passion(s)
According to a study by The American Bar Association, the lack of work-life balance is one of the most negative aspects of Big Law Firms. Billable hours are important, but it is not everything.
As a solo practitioner, you control your workload, work hours, and work boundaries. Similarly, Small Law Firms tend to have flexible hours since most attorneys are Independent Contractors. In this case, associates can work per hour or as needed depending on the case. With current technology, you can work from home at any hour of the day. This independence is often invaluable for those who want to pursue other activities like Community Service, Pro-Bono Work, Mentorship Program, or more leisure time with your family.
- You Craft Your Environment
Women are starting their own practice or companies at any age. As a business owner, you can craft the ideal environment you have always wanted. From dress codes to a fully remote business model – you control it. For many years, women attorneys have asked for equal pay, opportunity, and credibility. As much as we have progressed as a society, women are still behind compared to their male counterparts. As a result, we must create our own opportunities.
Starting A Firm Is No Easy Feat – Some Considerations:
Find the area of law you are most interested in making a difference. Which area are you best at?
- Start-up Costs
As with any business, starting your firm can be costly. You must be prepared to invest in software, marketing, licensing, and other necessary tools to establish your presence.
If you choose to build a Small Law Firm, are you willing to provide benefits to your employees? What kind of support do you want to provide your team? As a Solo Practitioner, what kinds of packages are you able to provide your potential client?
- Less Administrative Support
Expect to do administrative work like ordering supplies, paying for bills, or managing schedules. You may have to fill multiple roles (i.e., secretary, manager, etc.) in the first couple of years of your practice.
Be patient. It takes time to establish a network, reputation, and efficiency through processes and procedures. Most of all, profit takes time. Always remember to work hard and smart; the money will follow.
Though numerous firms believe they are doing well in advancing women at law, experienced women attorneys disagree. Those who leave Big Law Firms to start their own swear that the risk was worth it. As women, sometimes the only way to achieve success in a male-dominated profession is to create it.
This is exactly how Uplift Law was built. Our Founding Attorney, Melissa Fulgencio, Esq., saw first-hand the challenges and difficulties women face in Big Law Firms. As a result, she created her own table, built her own empire, on her own terms. As a business owner, she went through it all – the ups and downs, highs and lows. Therefore, Uplift Law is for you because she was you.