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Attorney Marianne C. Cirillo of Darien, Conn., wants to make a comeback. But after taking 12 years off to raise her family, she worries about how employers will perceive her. “Employers may have a preconceived notion that we-that is, this class of ladies who wants to return to work-are not going to be as committed as we once were,” Cirillo said. Law schools are stepping in to help Cirillo, and others like her, prepare for the legal job market. Pace University School of Law’s “New Directions” program will be one of the first to assist attorneys who left the practice get back to work. The University of California Hastings College of the Law launched a similar program in fall 2006. “I read an article in the New York Times last March that discussed how Harvard Business School had a program like this for those who wanted to return to their business careers,” said Amy Gewirtz, associate director for alumni counseling and relations at Pace’s Center for Career Development. “I work with a lot of alumni, and I have seen that a number of women are facing the same issue in the legal profession.” In a 2004 survey conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy, an organization located in New York City that conducts research on productivity and personal well-being in the workplace, 37% of “highly qualified” women reported that they left work voluntarily at some point in their careers. For those with children, that statistic reached 43%. Of those who left the workplace at some point, 93% wanted to return to their careers, but only 40% ended up returning to full-time, professional jobs. The survey defined “highly qualified” as those with a graduate, professional or high-honors undergraduate degree. “I never realized how hard it was to go back,” said Rajini Sharma, a San Francisco attorney who tried to re-enter the legal job market after six years away. “Many recruiters looked at my r�sum� and said they could not present it to employers because of the gap. They told me they needed someone with more recent work experience.” That’s where these programs come in. “The program is an invaluable way for a lawyer re-entering to come up to speed on practical issues,” said Kathy Rosenthal, a partner at Rosenthal & Markowitz in Elmsford, N.Y., who participated in a focus group for Pace. “I would be more likely to hire someone who has gone through it because it is a practical way to get concentrated skills. I would take someone who took this course over someone who took 10 CLE courses in two months.” The Pace program, run in collaboration with the Westchester Women’s Bar Association, will begin on May 21 with an intensive “boot camp” week, followed by twice-weekly sessions through mid- August and an externship starting Labor Day. The first session will focus on substantive family law doctrine, as well as career development and legal research, said Gewirtz. Later sessions may focus on other substantive areas of the law. The program will cost about $9,000. The Hastings program, called “Opting Back In and Forging Ahead,” does not focus on a substantive area of law but on preparing r�sum�s and refining legal research skills, said Linda Marks, director of training for the program. It’s part of Hastings’ Center for WorkLife Law, which conducts research and advocates against employment discrimination for caregivers. The group meets once a week for four weeks, and listens to panels of employers and women who have successfully returned to work. But the main role of the program is to keep participants, mostly but not exclusively women, motivated by assigning “homework,” or goals they must reach by the following week, Marks said. Part-time barriers River Abeje, who has found a part-time job with the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, Calif., attended the Hastings program. After taking time off for five years to raise her daughter, Abeje knew that she would not want to return to work full-time. “Every time I told an employer that I only wanted part-time, I kept getting this disappointed ‘oh’ back,” she said. Abeje’s position is temporary, as she fills in for another woman attorney who is on maternity leave. “I definitely credit the program with helping me stay on course,” she said. “It gave me confidence and concrete ideas on how to get back to work.”

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