Once Big Law Associates, These Women Reflect On Their Careers 12 Years Later

SUCCESS IN BIG LAW REQUIRES ‘A GREAT PARTNER AND A GREAT WORKPLACE’

Hogan says that to be successful in Big Law, you need two important ingredients: “The first thing you need is a great partner,” she says in the video. “I have a great husband. You also need a great workplace.”

The most interesting insights come from Maggie Spillane, who quit Big Law to achieve more balance in her life. She is a staff attorney at the Securities & Exchange Commission. A dozen years ago, she told the Times: ”I’ve always been assertive. I grew up in a big family, and I know how to get what I want. And the women I’ve met at law firms are plenty aggressive. But this is something I worry about: that to succeed you have to figure out what your peers need socially. At jobs in the past, I think I didn’t realize that my way, getting my way, could ever be seen as somehow threatening or offensive.”

After she reads this passage, a smile appears on her face. Spillane recalls what it was like in retrospect. “Do you feel like you are going to go in and be an equal and be who you are?” she asks. “Or are you going to get squashed by this hard-charging male atmosphere? There have always been times where you think, ‘Ok, this guy is never going to listen to me because he looks at me like his granddaughter.’

‘I NEEDED MORE BALANCE’

Ultimately, the hours were just too long and the sacrifices too great to be worth it for her.

“Forget about the getting there part of it,” she now says. “You see how hard the partners have to work when they are there. You recognize that in order to do that job well, you really, really, really need to love working really, really hard. i love to work hard and i love to do a great job but i need more of a balance. I didn’t go in with the expectation that iI needed to be a partner. Otherwise, it would have been a failed enterprise.

“I can keep up,” she adds, “but at a certain point you do look around and you see you are the only woman playing this game, or i am the only woman making these jokes, and i am the only woman or one of three women and 17 men still playing poker at the firm dinner at 1:30 in the morning. It is what it is, you know.”