Traditionally, women have had the option to take time off from their careers to raise their children. Meanwhile, men put in long hours at the office; bringing home the bacon, the breadwinner. The wife’s covers the “life” aspect of the man’s “work/life” balance, taking care of the home, children, and hobbies.
Yet, as we launch into the 21st century, the lines defining gender roles are drastically shifting. Responsibilities within the household are more equally shared, men have been demanding more time off.
According to a recent publication in The Atlantic, the values of young lawyers have drastically shifted from old standards. Men are demanding a more appropriate work/life balance. In addition, they want to the opportunity to ask for time off without the prejudice that desiring family time is only appropriate for women.
New law firms are developing to suit the needs of a younger generation. In a U.C. Hastings report on New Model law firms, Joan Williams says “men must commit to full-time schedule on their own terms instead dropping hours at work.” In an arrangement called “full-time flex,” lawyers work from home and distribute their hours across the day as they choose.
In the past, men were expected to be working for hours and in business outings every weekend. But times have changed. We now live in a society where men want to be able to tell their families, ‘You can count on me to be home for dinner and take my vacations.”
However, finding time in the busy schedule of a lawyer is a constant struggle. Everyone hopes to spend time with loved ones and cultivating interests outside of work, but its still a major obstacle to ask supervisors to understand these needs. Male lawyers tend to internalize the stigma that finding work/life balance is for women, even when they want to be present for their families. Plus, not all law firms are so accepting of lawyers who want to practice flexibility in their careers. A better work/life balance, however, would benefit both our employees and their children (our next generation). Hopefully more law firms will consider the need to be flexible with their lawyers: without the stigma.