You might not remember Michelle Mumford, but I bet folks at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy still do. That’s because she said that being a pregnant associate in Milbank’s litigation department was akin to being “a leper in the public square — ignored, shunned, rejected.” She said that in 2003, after quitting Milbank in frustration.
Mumford today is the mother of six (ages 10 months to 11 years old) and the new admissions dean at Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School.
So many questions to ask:
Q: You had one child when we last talked. Now you have six. And you’re back working full time. I feel like a slacker next to you.
A: I went back to work in 2011 when I had four kids. I clerked for 10th Circuit Judge Monroe McKay, then worked as a staff attorney for the 10th Circuit. I had twins in January, and my [oldest child] is 11. I have a household of kids. Now you understand why I wanted to go back to work!
Q: Was staying at home not quite what you thought it would be?
A: What made it difficult was that my husband was so busy [he was an associate at Skadden Arps in New York, then Los Angeles, and now runs his own firm]. I was all alone with the kids for so long. I picked up hobbies, did charity work … but I got bored.
Q: So how in the world did you get back into the law world after almost 10 years?
A: I kept up with my [legal] writing, and I tried to stay active. I thought a clerkship was the best way to get back. There are no billables, no clients. Writing came back really easily. I thought, wow, I could do this again.
Q: But you didn’t try to get back into Big Law. Did Milbank sour you about working at a firm?
A: No. I recognized it for what it was. It was sad how the relationship ended. … I have no hard feelings about Milbank.
Q: You’re now living in Utah, which is radically different from New York and L.A., where you moved after New York. You’re Mormon, mother of six little kids and you work full time. That can’t be the local model. Do you feel pressure to be a housewife?
A: Sure. There’s incredulity at what I’m doing. The bulk of women in Utah would chose to do otherwise. But I feel there’s less stigma than there use d to be. People don’t think I’m bad; they just think I’m crazy.
Q: You’re now the admissions dean at Brigham Young’s law school, your alma mater. But it has only 39 percent female students. Is that something you’re working to improve?
A: Yes. I think I have a story that will help attract women. I can show women what the possibilities are: If you want to work, you can. … [But] it will be a while before it’s the norm.