Victoria's blog: Feeling valued

A Citymother's Diary

clock Released On 25th Jul 2021

Victoria's blog: Feeling valued

In my previous post, I looked forward to some nice routine surgery for a break from my work and my life. Unfortunately, my routine surgery became emergency surgery that knocked me out for six weeks. Six weeks was plenty of time to reflect on the fact that it took having an organ (a minor one that I can manage without) removed to make me slow down. And yet, within a week or so, I had worked myself into a frenzy of guilt even though I was physically incapable of working.

Was the guilt entirely my own doing? Yes – but for so long as law firms reward billable hours, any kind of reassurance that medical leave is not an issue, rings rather hollow. Before I had an organ removed, I was well ahead of all my billable hour targets – on my return, I worked like a demon (contrary to the advice of my doctor) to ensure that I hit the minimum bonus threshold by working six months’ of billable hours in four and a half months. Perhaps that sounds incredibly mercenary but it’s not about the money. The money is the value that my firm places on me and falling short of billable hour targets is just that – falling short.

Speaking of value, I am fed up of NQ pay wars. Each time a law firm raises NQ pay, the pay differential between those NQs and senior solicitors at the same firm narrows. And while we are well paid as compared to the vast majority of the population, the narrowing of the pay gap between NQs and senior solicitors devalues experience. It makes those of us who have fought tooth and nail to hang onto our careers through hideous deals, long hours, caring demands and all the other things that life throws at you as you get older, wonder why we bothered when experience seems to be so little valued. Perhaps it is because that life experience has made us value other things more – flexibility and supportive teams – but why don’t our firms value us more?

My thoughts have turned to this subject because I have realised that what drives me more than anything else, is feeling valued. And generally speaking, my firm and clients do make me feel valued. In fact, it is much easier to impress them than it is to impress my children. On my return from medical leave, I have regularly worked until any time between midnight and 3am for a US client who was incredibly grateful for the long hours I worked on their behalf. There was a time when I regularly pulled all-nighters for my children – with never a word of thanks from anybody, let alone remuneration. My husband often wonders why I went back to work after our first child was born – my answer has always been that I am a better lawyer than mother. But perhaps it’s that by most measures, society values my work as a lawyer more than my work as a mother.

And that brings me round to the topic of unpaid care work and the impact the pandemic has had on women… I’ll save that for next time.

Victoria is a solicitor at a City firm and her husband is a solicitor in-house. When he grows up her 5 year old son wants to spend ‘all day working on his computer like mummy’ and her 2 year old daughter wants to be a ‘police’ so that she can have a whistle. 

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