Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 37

THE LEARNING CURVE

The Perils of Doing It All
By Josephine Bahn

W

hat do I have to get
done today? This has
been my everyday
battle since the
pandemic started. It's the same
balancing act that every woman-
lawyer-professional-leader-
parent-short-order cook-volunteer
has been doing, and trying to
do it all without crashing.
This month's theme of women in the law
presents so many positive possibilities, especially now that the end of the pandemic is in
sight, so much so that I think this column will
likely stand in contrast with the other pieces
in this issue of the magazine. For much of my
young lawyer career, I have been the person
trying to stand on top of the ladder and helping
to bring up even younger lawyers and law
students behind me. But the truth is I fail, and
fail pretty often.
My to-do list seems to be overflowing constantly, I find myself out of breath halfway
through an oral argument thanks to being six
months pregnant, and some days I just feel
unable to cut it. I am captive to the constant
need to impress. I have to be the one who
sends in the goodie bags to my daughter's
daycare for every holiday (homemade baked
goods, of course). I have to manage our home
finances (I mean, is my smart lawyer husband
really capable of doing simple addition and
subtraction? Who cares if he took calculus in
eighth grade; this is a mortgage check!). I have
to be the one who volunteers for the special
project at work and constantly asks for extra
assignments (I don't want to be seen as less

committed than the other folks on my team),
and so on. I get exhausted because I don't say
no. I get burned out while I put the final batch
of cookies in the oven for the 15 daycare
teachers and turn back to work because I've
been offline from 6 to 9 p.m. It's a never-ending
cycle of needing to be so perfect that one
slip-up, one human moment, seems unfathomable. And then I crash. And many other women
do, too.
According to the National Women's Law Center,
nearly 2.2 million women left the workforce
between February and October 2020, whether
voluntarily or not. While it's impossible to know
every woman's individual situation, I'm quickly
learning just how impossible it can feel to " do
it all " and how many women continue to be
impacted by the constant needs at home, at

The practice of law
can be more conducive
to a woman's success.
work, in their volunteer roles, and within themselves to achieve their goals. The legal profession, specifically, is at a crossroads. Young
female lawyers are leaving the practice of law
at alarming rates because of this constant
struggle.
In 2019 the American Bar Association published
a first-of-its-kind report on why women leave
the law at significantly higher rates than their
male counterparts. The report included input
from more than 1,200 lawyers who were in
practice for at least 15 years. It concluded that
women were far more likely than men to report
factors that blocked their " access to success, "

including lacking access to business development opportunities, being perceived as less
committed to their career, and being denied
or overlooked for promotion. Among the many
reasons women lawyers gave for leaving the
practice of law were family or caretaking
responsibilities, the level of stress at work, the
emphasis on marketing or originating business,
and the number of required billable hours.
The pandemic has put me and my fellow
young lawyers in murky waters. My daughter
has been on countless Zoom calls, and I long
for the days when I could truly separate from
work or parenting to focus on the other. I want
to give each priority the time and attention
that it deserves, but I find myself attempting
to do both simultaneously, which leads to hurt
feelings on all sides and peanut butter on my
keyboard.
The structure of our profession needs to
change, quickly, or we face even more hemorrhaging of female lawyer talent or a graver
mental health crisis. The ABA's 2019 study
provides concrete ways that the practice of law
can be more conducive to a woman's success
and more open to women lawyers advancing
into leadership roles at their respective workplaces. By providing more flexibility in their
schedule or billable obligations, destigmatizing
going part time or taking leave to care for
a family member, and promoting the work
that women are engaged in while balancing
responsibilities outside of the direct practice
of law, lawyering will become more accessible
to women - and maybe the peanut butter
can stay off our keyboard, too.
Josephine (Jo) Bahn is a senior attorney in
enforcement at the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation. Bahn also serves as the D.C. Bar's
Under 36 Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates
and will chair the ABA Young Lawyers Division in
2022-23.

MARCH/APRIL 2021

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WASHINGTON LAWYER

37



Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Digital Extras
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Staying Put in Big Law feature
A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Worth Reading
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
ABA Delegates Corner
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effecy
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 5
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Staying Put in Big Law feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 20
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 24
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 28
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 32
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 34
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 40
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 41
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Pro Bono Effecy
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 49
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 50
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 51
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover4
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