not having it all

Female Lawyers Look Back 12 Years

Photo: Corbis

In 2001, The New York Times Magazine spoke to 21 women who had just graduated from law school and were recruited to a New York law firm. They were asked to discuss gender issues — you know, your standard are you planning on having it all roundup. Now they are following up about whether these women had it all.

Their original quotes, Martin-Kessler writes, are “optimistic, supremely confident, even arrogant.” Looking back at the interviews, these women criticize their clichés, their naïveté, and their unrealistic expectations.

In the past dozen years, most of the women have left the law firm; there is a high attrition rate for men, too, writer Florence Martin-Kessler points out, just not as high. About half moved to private practices, several moved to corporations or nonprofits, and others became full-time parents.

They sound like they are still very much figuring it out. Here are some highlights:

Is the purpose of life to show that women can do it, is the purpose of life to raise the kid who’s gonna be the one who rules the world and anything in between?

Until we get to parity we cannot let down our resolve. That’s for our daughters and their daughters.

I thought that by working heard and by dedicating yourself fully to each aspect of your life you could have everything that you wanted and I think I just built these unrealistic expectations.

Always fascinating to see people do battle with their former selves. To guard against that, it would make the most sense to assume your life is going to be unimaginably complicated and different and difficult. But then again, in twelve years you will probably have your shit figured out. Your life is so complicated now, it makes sense that your future self is relaxing all breezy-easy. See ya in a dozen to check in about it.

Female Lawyers Look Back 12 Years