I am a second year associate at Kirkland & Ellis in New York, and there have been a few things I have really struggled with over the past year and a half. On one hand, I feel like I went into law school thinking that I was pursuing a career that would afford me significant opportunities and flexibility. On the other hand, the only job I could really get coming out of school was at a firm that expects everything out of its associates. In looking at what my "other options" are, I feel that I am not qualified to do much else than work at a law firm, and I feel like it is difficult to navigate important life events (like marriage and starting a family) when your "examples" within any geographical proximity seem to be women who have made the decision that career is an important part of their lives.
The reality is that each of us only has 24 hours each day, and if we choose to work, that is going to take most of our time. Women who try to do the part time thing can often find themselves working similarly crazy hours for reduced pay. I've tried to find some meaning in my disenchanted realization that perhaps the law is not quite so flexible as some people made it out to be, and at the same time, perhaps big law firm life doesn't have to mean complete surrender to the will of one's bosses.
Megan (Woodhouse) Needham is a 2010 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and is an intellectual property associate at Kirkland & Ellis, NYC.