April 25, 2005
Are Law Schools Family Friendly?
Posted by Christine Hurt

Jennifer Collins is guest blogging at PrawfsBlawg and is asking for readers' non-family friendly experiences in academia.  Before we declare law schools as being un-family friendly, I think we have to do a reality check.  I would say that in most respects, law teaching jobs are much more flexible for moms and dads than "real jobs."

I absolutely have to be in a physical space at a particular time about six hours a week.  Outside of class time, I am available whenever a child gets sick, has a dentist appointment, has a school "holiday" (about 1-2 a month), has a school party or program, has a gymnastics practice or swim lesson, or just looks like he needs to go to the park today.  I cannot imagine how parents who punch a clock keep their jobs with the seemingly endless sick days, doctor's appointments and school holidays.  Most employees (even non-faculty at a law school) are required to be physically present during certain hours of the day.  I, however, have enormous flexibility.  In addition, if I have to cancel class for an emergency, the only constituents I answer to are my students, who rarely complain!

For example, today my son and I are home because his preschool is closed for Passover.  We're having a nice morning of Blue's Clues, Battleship, and Blogging.

That being said, I have found that law teaching is incredibly flexible on a micro, day-to-day, scale, but not as much on a macro scale.

For example, I have never had a maternity leave, although I have had two children.  I interviewed for a job as legal writing director at the U. of Houston when I was seven months pregnant.  I got the job, but was told that I had to start on July 1, even though my due date was July 2 and I lived 600 miles away.  In the end, I started on July 15, moving with a two-week-old baby on a Friday and starting my job on a Monday.  I'm sure that a more astute negotiator could have gotten an extra day or two, but I wanted to start my job on good foot, blah, blah, blah.  My second child was born Thanksgiving week.  After Thanksgiving, we had one more week of classes, so I took Luke to school with me, and my mom (who had flown in) watched him in my office during class.  In the Spring semester, I had a full load.  As far as I know, the school had no formal maternity leave policy for faculty; leaves or reduced schedules were negotiated individually with the Dean.  This ad hoc policy, which I think is fairly common, works against the non-tenured or pre-tenured, who have less negotiating power.

However, I have always told myself that my academic bargain is much better than I could get in the non-academic world.  If I were still in a law firm, I would have had my paid 12-week maternity leaves.  However, the 13th week would have been a doozy! 

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