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Young female lawyers occasionally accost Karen J. Mathis, the chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and say something like, “I really don’t want you as a role model. I want a much more balanced life. You gave 90% of yourself to the law firm. To the extent that was a dysfunctional model, you bought into it.”

How does Ms. Mathis, a name partner at a small Denver firm, react? “I agree with them,” she says. “Many women of my generation delayed having children, saw their marriages suffer or wound up never marrying.”

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