Many women lawyers do not return to private practice after having children. This can be for a number of reasons. For some, it might have always been part of the plan to be a stay at home mother. Others, however, may feel they have little alternative: part time work, job sharing or homeworking may not be realistic options, and many do not relish the prospect of going back to work full time with its unpredictable hours and demanding clients that make it incompatible with raising a family.
Of course there are alternative careers which do not involve a complete sea change. Many working mothers shift focus and become professional support lawyers (see 'Alternatives within legal practice') or work for the business side of a practice including areas such as compliance, conflicts or community relations. Non fee-earning roles such as these benefit from fixed hours and are more conducive to flexible working and consequently a better work/life balance. Teaching law (see adjacent) is also an attractive option for those who wish to benefit from shorter hours and longer holidays.
Some lawyers may decide to have a career break in order bring up their children. After a few years they may yearn to return to some sort of activity, but not a return to law in a million years. It can be hard under the constrictions of a very specific qualification and the time had away from working life to break into another field, and many women find new-found entrepreneurial skills through necessity. Whatever the decision, most women will feel out of touch with the work place and may lack the confidence to launch straight back into a career without some assistance and training. Thankfully there are many agencies and websites which now attempt to harness this talent pool. Try www.women-returners.co.uk which offers help for women wanting to return to work; www.everywoman.com and www.bawe-uk.org are good sites for networking; www.wireuk.org specialises in rural businesses.
For those that do wish to get back in, the Association of Women's Solicitors run 'Returner' courses, aimed typically at those who have been out of the profession for 5-10 years: http://www.womensolicitors.org.uk/
Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time of posting, the information is intended as guidance only. It should not be considered as professional or legal advice.