Deborah Kelly joined her firm three months pregnant with triplets. It was a decade ago at Washington D.C.’s Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky L.L.P. At the first associates meeting, one overeager newcomer asked for more work. Ms. Kelly piped up and said, “I picked this firm because it’s not a white collar sweatshop.” “If my peers could have carried me out on their shoulders they would have,” recalls Ms. Kelly.

In due course, she gave birth, took maternity leave, then returned to an 80% schedule. A partner politely asked how long she’d need this deal, and she replied, “Until you fire me or I quit.”