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High on the polished walls of the Great Hall are 19 imposing oil portraits of distinguished men: the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, along with 18 former presidents of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. One morning recently, the gentlemen overlooked an assembly of 109 mostly young attorneys — 107 of whom were women — gathered for a seminar on the subject of coping as mothers in what is sometimes said to be a man’s world of the law. Indeed, these snippets of anxious conversation were overheard at the coffee bar before seven women panelists began speaking: “So, did you tell your office you were coming here?” “What excuse did you give?” “Did you sign in under a false name?” Nevertheless, the seminar was confidently titled “Having it All: Attorney-Moms & Their Strategies for Success.” Moderator Constance A. Fratianni, mother of four, was moved to offer a frank perspective on the modern hope of �galit� in the pursuit of a legal career. “Being a woman is not an impediment,” said Fratianni, 42, a partner in Shearman & Sterling’s bank finance and bankruptcy group. “But being a mother is.” Many years into her career at Shearman, Fratianni seemed to have hit the glass ceiling as a firm counsel. But with Shearman’s 1999 decision not to hold part-time or flex-time service against an aspirant for partnership, Fratianni was finally elected in 2000. “If you measure success as someone who gets out of law school and makes partner in eight years, then only one woman on our panel is a success,” said Fratianni, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. “You’ve got to change your definition.” Fellow panelist Shelley C. Chapman, a bankruptcy partner at Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, went beyond agreement. She contradicted the very title of the seminar. “You’re not going to be able to have it all,” said Chapman, 46, a graduate of Harvard Law School. “There’s a cost, there’s never enough time in the day. It’s a miracle when you get a manicure or a haircut. My husband and I don’t go out much. “I’ve been asked, ‘Don’t you wish you were more successful?’” she added. “I think [success] is a different model for women than for men.” ANOTHER MODEL In a later interview, Chapman elaborated. “There is another model — the on-again, off-again model. It means getting your firm or employer to see you as a longer-term investment. If you stand me next to a guy from Harvard, maybe he’s got a bigger book of business. But if you expand it out over the years, I catch up. “And there are things that women bring [to a firm] that men can’t. Women, in their approach to law, are different,” said Chapman. “They can be every bit as tough at litigating, but their natural approach is more conciliatory, more facilitating in problem-solving.” For example, Chapman said, “Women engage in a little less bullshit with each other, maybe in part because we’re in a hurry to get home.” The on-again, off-again model is not without problem, according to panelist Susan Kurz Snyder, co-founder of the legal employment firm Greene-Levin-Snyder. “When you get a r�sum� from someone who’s taken time off, it’s difficult — not insurmountable, but difficult,” said Snyder. “It depends on the economy.” To a woman, the panelists spoke of exhaustion at the end of each long day spent in the dual career role of lawyer-mom. “I work at 5th Avenue and 55th, and I live at 8th Avenue and 55th,” said Ellen J. Odoner, a corporate partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. “Sometimes, just walking out the door I feel like Clark Kent.” But there have been certain quotidian advances. Fratianni recollected a female partner who kept her motherhood a deep secret, whose office contained no pictures of her children, a woman who took pains to meet her nanny several blocks away from the firm. On the contrary, the walls of Fratianni’s office at Shearman are decorated with poster-sized color photos of her brood. And between her first and last child, the accoutrement required for breast-feeding underwent a profound change in packaging. “When I had my first, I carried The Big Blue Box. It wasn’t attractive, it wasn’t discreet. It was bright turquoise, about three feet long,” said Fratianni. “Every woman knew what it was, the men wondered what sort of technology it might be.” Today’s box, said Fratianni, houses the breast pump and other necessaries in a handsome leather case. Other panelists at the City Bar were Jo Willa Gramling Lopez, first vice president and general counsel of the Merrill Lynch Banking Group; Mary J. Mahon, deputy executive director and general counsel of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and Ellen Rosen, an attorney-writer who contributes to the National Law Journal.

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