Women and law graduate overproduction

Departure memo sent by a former junior associate at a large law firm:


A day in the life of Ms. X (and many others here, I presume):

4:00am: Hear baby screaming, hope I am dreaming, realize I’m not, sleep walk to nursery, give her a pacifier and put her back to sleep

4:45am: Finally get back to bed

5:30am: Alarm goes off, hit snooze

6:00am: See the shadow of a small person standing at my bedroom door, realize it is my son who has wet the bed (time to change the sheets)

6:15am: Hear baby screaming, make a bottle, turn on another excruciating episode of Backyardigans, feed baby

7:00am: Find some clean clothes for the kids, get them dressed

7:30am: Realize that I am still in my pajamas and haven’t showered, so pull hair back in a ponytail and throw on a suit

8:00am: Pile into the car, drive the kids to daycare

8:15am: TRAFFIC

9:00am: finally arrive at daycare, baby spits up on suit, get kids to their classrooms, realize I have a conference call in 15 minutes

9:20am: Run into my office, dial-in to conference call 5 minutes late and realize that no one would have known whether or not I was on the call, but take notes anyway

9:30am: Get an email that my time is late, Again! Enter my time

10:00am: Team meeting; leave with a 50-item to-do list

11:00am: Attempt to prioritize to-do list and start tasks; start an email delegating a portion of the tasks (then, remember there is no one under me)

2:00pm: Realize I forgot to eat lunch, so go to the 9th floor kitchen to score some leftovers

2:30pm: Get a frantic email from a client needing an answer to a question by COB today

2:45pm: postpone work on task number 2 of 50 from to-do list and attempt to draft a response to client’s question

4:30pm: send draft response to Senior Associate and Partner for review

5:00pm: receive conflicting comments from Senior Associate and Partner (one in new version and one in track changes); attempt to reconcile; send redline

5:30pm: wait for approval to send response to client; realize that I am going to be late picking up the kids from daycare ($5 for each minute late)

5:50pm: get approval; quickly send response to client

6:00pm: race to daycare to get the kids (they are the last two there)

6:30pm: TRAFFIC with a side of screaming kids who are starving

7:15pm: Finally arrive home, throw chicken nuggets in the microwave, feed the family

7:45pm: Negotiate with husband over who will do bathtime and bedtime routine; lose

8:00pm: Bath, pajamas, books, bed

9:00pm: Kids are finally asleep, check blackberry and have 25 unread messages

9:15pm: Make a cup of coffee and open laptop; login to Citrix

9:45pm: Citrix finally loads; start task number 2

11:30pm: Wake up and realize I fell asleep at my desk; make more coffee; get through task number 3

1:00am: Jump in the shower (lord knows I won’t have time in the morning)

1:30am: Finally go to bed


Needless to say, I have not been able to simultaneously meet the demands of career and family, so have chosen to leave private practice, and the practice of law (at least for now). I truly admire all of you that have been able to juggle your career and family and do not envy what a challenge it is trying to do each well. I appreciate those of you who have been incredibly understanding of my family obligations over the past few years, and especially the last several months. I have learned so much from so many of you and hope to keep in touch for years to come (a special thank you to A, W, G and D). Please call or email anytime – my personal contact information is listed below.

Total law school enrollment in 1971-72 (JD students): 91,225

Total law school enrollment in 2011-12 (JD): 146,288

Increase in law school enrollment between 1971 and 2011: 60.4%

The U.S. population increased by 51.2% between 1971 and 2011. This means that over the past 40 years law school enrollment has grown 18% faster than the US population as a whole.

However the real rate of increase in law school enrollment, relative to the size of the population cohort from which almost all law students are drawn, has been much faster:

Approximate number of people ages 22-33 in 1971: 32 million.

Approximate number of people ages 22-33 in 2011: 44.4 million. The population of people ages 22-33 was only 30.6% higher in 2011 than in 1971 – not 51.2%. (This is because by 1971 the front end of the baby boom had reached law school-attending age). So enrollment in law school has increased twice as fast over the past four decades as has the population cohort from which the vast majority of law students are drawn.

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