I often write about solicitor mums, but I didn’t want this to be to the exclusion of dads. To suggest that solicitor dads don’t need the representation in the legal profession that mums do, wouldn’t sit comfortably with me. Feminism is incredibly important to me, but it is a means to equality, to which dads are entitled too. Now that Cognitive Law has two solicitor dads working with us, I want to tell you about their stories in the hope that it may help others break free.
Without entering into a discussion about which gender parent shoulders the greater domestic burden, it would be wrong to overlook the fact that a lot of men would like to spend more time at home too. A solicitor dad’s need for a work-life balance is the same as a solicitor mum’s, but much less talked about. Pretty much all the dads I know, whether they are solicitors or not, would like to spend more time with their children, but are restricted by long working hours, a long commute, and often a commitment to attend events outside of working hours. This is no different to solicitor mums, but somehow expected and accepted.
It got me thinking about how many dads out there are missing out on school plays, sports days, and the mundane but essential goings on of domestic life. Women have been pilloried over the years for leaving early to do school pick up or take children to the dentist, but I’m pretty sure a dad in a typical law firm would get more than a few strange looks if he wanted to incorporate these activities into his life.
Commuting doesn’t exactly help, does it? Hours wasted on a train or in the car, assuaging guilt by sending work emails, listening to life-bettering podcasts, or catching up on sleep. This can be viewed as “dead” or “wasted” time when the job to which he commutes can so easily be done from home. It’s not difficult to calculate how many hours can be clawed back by ditching the daily commute.
I’ve also witnessed the widespread expectation that male solicitors will engage in after-hours business development. Drinks and dinners after work. Rugby, football or golf at the weekend. So, on top of the commute and the expected presenteeism in the office to meet targets, he must give up what precious non-working time he has…for work.
And how does this play out at home? Exhaustion, dis-engagement, resentment, and separatism. His mates can’t rely on him to make the weekly five-a-side game; his partner can’t rely on him to get home in time for the children’s’ bedtime let alone taken enough of a burden off them so they can pursue a career; and the thought of being able to chill out on the sofa with a beer and a boxset is but a distant dream. Although it’s a very different set of contributing factors, a male solicitor’s exhaustion, stress, domestic dissatisfaction and hopelessness is equally debilitating.
Just as there is a different way of practising law for solicitor mums, so is there for solicitor dads. There is a way for him to reduce stress, reintegrate with the family, gain a closer bond with the children, feel fit and healthy again, and see his mates for a beer. And that is in addition to being able to throw off the shackles of prescriptive private practice life in which your days are measured out in 6-minute units.
You don’t have to believe me that consultancy has changed the lives of two men at Cognitive Law. You can read Darren Stone’s story here and Rich Bates’ story here. I have absolutely no doubt that their stories will resonate loudly with countless solicitor dads across the country, and I truly hope that they may also offer a drop of inspiration to other men who want and need to break free.
If you would like to talk to Darren or Rich about their journeys (because why would you take it from me?!), they love nothing more than waxing lyrical about how becoming a consultant solicitor at Cognitive Law changed their lives. Or if you just want a quiet look at what it’s all about, please check out our join us page for more information.
By Lucy Tarrant
Managing Director and Solicitor