Class of 1977

After graduating from U of T in 1977, and being called to the Bar in 1979, I joined a large Bay Street law firm. I had summered at the firm (before summering was a verb or a concept), articled there, and then enjoyed many wonderful years of practice there. I had my first child in 1982, and was made a partner in 1984. When I was pregnant again in 1985, I proposed to the firm that I work part-time, with the necessary adjustment in remuneration. After some initial controversy and turmoil, my firm agreed to a part-time proposal. It did not come without a price, however, as I was required to resign from the partnership. I did so quite willingly - the prospect of spending more time with my children was quite appealing - but the consequences of resigning affected more than my compensation. For instance, I could no longer sign cheque requisitions, and was no longer invited to partners' meetings, regardless of what was on the agenda. At the time, I was still naïve enough to be struck by how much of my status within the firm was connected to billable hours, and how my other contributions seemed to be of much less significance.

I am cautiously optimistic that a part-time proposal would be less controversial today, and that it would not require a female partner to relinquish all the privileges that she had earned. I must also say that throughout the 80s and into the early 90s, I regularly received phone calls from women lawyers that began something like this: "You don't know me, but I hear that you are working part-time ... could we chat over coffee ...." I loved getting those calls, because I enjoyed helping other women construct a more balanced professional life, and because it was reassuring to know that other women were struggling with the same competing tensions.