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‘I wouldn’t wish this half-life on anyone’: Mumsnet discusses life married to a lawyer

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Lawyers’ other halves reveal all

The wife of a highflying lawyer has come forward with a very sobering account of what life is like being married to her busy husband, prompting discussion among other lawyer couples on parental website Mumsnet.

“Does it ever get better?” writes the unnamed spouse who goes by the username ‘ancientruins’ in the relationships thread. “[My husband is] a lovely man and he earns a good salary but I’m twenty or so years in and the work never stops. I mean never. Not on holiday. Not during births. Not during house moves.”

It’s unclear where and which firm her husband works at, nor can we be sure of his level of seniority, but she does say that he can only do his job because of all the hours and expertise he’s built up over thirty years. Plus his work is in “an important field which he finds incredibly challenging and intellectually satisfying”.

The original poster (OP) goes on to describe her hubby as a “devoted father” who does get stuck in when available but that tends to be for “only two half days at weekends”, and by then “he is so exhausted he either forces himself to join in, falls asleep while we are watching a film, or he looks so wretched I send him to bed to catch up on sleep”.

The situation is “better” when the family go on holiday — “he becomes so much happier and more relaxed” — but business calls “still creep in here and there” and it takes him days to delegate and then catch-up again with work.

“I am getting a bit tired of being at the bottom of the priority list which appears to be: work, children (quite rightly), dog, household necessities, life admin, wife,” writes OP. “I’m thoroughly fed up of him constantly being on his phone, or conversations, meals and evenings being interrupted by calls from clients… I miss him.”

The new ways of working virtual conference: Living Room Law

OP’s candid post received hundreds of responses from other Mumsnet users who are lawyers or whose other halves are also senior lawyers.

Some users suggested “it’s the nature of the beast”, while others claimed OP’s husband is actually a “workaholic”.

“It’s actually not the job making him work like this — he wants to work like this,” responded one lawyer user. “There are plenty of jobs and positions in law where this isn’t required, even at partner level. I think you’d find if he changed jobs it would be the same — he’s a workaholic. The problem is (corporate) law encourages these types and often they’re held up as models. It is a choice though.”

One City lawyer hit back:

“I see why people are saying it is a choice — of course it is, he could get another job or, if he’s senior enough, restructure things a bit. But when you’re in the midst of it, it really doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like your clients, many of whom become friends, need you for something incredibly important to them and you are terrified of letting them down.”

Meanwhile, other users offered thoughtful advice based on their own experiences. Some suggested her husband take a three-month sabbatical while another said she finds it useful to book holidays in places with no internet or mobile signal just so her husband can switch off.

OP responded saying, “I wouldn’t wish this half-life on anyone”, and that her situation has actually got worse since the onset of the pandemic and move to remote work. “Hopes raised and feeling happy because he is actually at home… crashing disappointment because he is home but not actually available. So near and yet so far!”

This isn’t the first time a law-themed thread has popped up on Mumsnet. In 2018, one corporate lawyer asked users to ask her anything (and immediately regretted it), and in 2014, one soon-to-be City solicitor asked the site’s users for their top tips. Forum responses included, “avoid the letchy partners” and “don’t get drunk at the office parties and don’t sleep with your colleagues”.

The new ways of working virtual conference: Living Room Law

54 Comments

Anon

There is a reason why lawyers tend to marry other lawyers, an understanding of the sacrifices required to excel at law firms

(106)(12)

Anon

It’s actually because other lawyers are the only people dull enough

(44)(9)

Bob

The responses missed the key thing: his work is what probably keeps the kids in the posh private school and the wife in the Range Rover.

(151)(18)

Big Dogs Like it Rough

Clocks off at 9pm. Part timer!

(3)(1)

Thomas J

What is the point of earning all that money if you are only going to enjoy it on retirement.

(75)(0)

FlourPour

Retire? Why would I want to retire and sit around on my buttocks all day nursing my back pain when I could be assisting in the creation of shareholder value?

(72)(9)

Warren

Normally I would say that this is why those in demanding corporate positions marry someone in the corporate field but is still no excuse for being an absent husband and father.

(39)(8)

Alpha male

There are clearly some beta males in the comments section.

I personally couldn’t call myself a man if I didn’t make sure I was there for my family.

Churning money and bringing home the bacon is one thing and being a present, caring and attentive father and husband is another. Doing the former doesn’t mean you can neglect the latter simply because you a the breadwinner.

(92)(23)

A real person

I can see why you didn’t choose to write fiction professionally.

(13)(12)

Archibald Pomp O'City

“Doing the former doesn’t mean you can neglect the latter simply because you a the breadwinner.”

I love your spare eloquence.

(5)(0)

Jeremy

Gotta feel for her.

There’s also that fear factor of confronting the husband too much to the point where he leaves her for the young law firm receptionist or secretary.

(45)(19)

Anonymous

Maybe she could get a job and earn money to help the situation? Anyone who says “I am lucky enough to have my own source of income” is living off rent or family money and not working for it. She sounds a right spoiled xxxxx.

(56)(59)

Russet Potato Head

Something never heard in that household: “Darling, let’s sell the house in [Ealing/Highgate/whatever], let’s take the kids out of private school, and let’s move back to [insert provincial town where husband grew up]. You can get a job as a solicitor there and I’ll start working too.” Classic wants to have her cake and eat it syndrome.

(108)(33)

Ronan

There are lawyers who manage to have all the perks for themselves and their families without entirely sacrificing having a life.

We need to get rid of this narrative that you cannot do both.

He is clearly a workaholic. I have seen the type before. Even if he swapped his current role for a high street firm he would still be doing the same hours and not paying attention at home because he is work obsessed and doesn’t know when to stop.

(58)(13)

Anon

Very good, but these types tend not to live in interesting places like Highgate. They tend to live in monotonous stockbroker belt territory is personality-less holes like Weybridge.

(18)(2)

FlourPour

Why pay the personality premium when you spend all your life at work anyway?

The only people that pay extra to live in Highgate are the ones that still get invited to parties and need to sound interesting. No one’s inviting this square workaholic anywhere.

(10)(4)

Russet Potato Head

FP and 11:18, fair point, Highgate is out of date, but I have no idea where these people can afford to live now and could not be bothered thinking too hard. So many of them live east, (god forbid), or south of the river, (even worse unless it is Barnes or Richmond which these types can’t afford). I have no clue what these places are like and I have no interest in ever finding out.

(4)(2)

anon

East is mostly fine, so long as you aren’t going east of Stratford.

South is a complete write-off unless as you say you are in the outer south west which isn’t really south London anyway.

I’ve long been ont he opinion that unless you are living in zone 1-2 N, NW or W postcodes then there’s little point to living in London. On a basic cost-benefit analysis you are better off earning and living in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds or Bristol than living in south London, some grim place zone 3 or further out, or worst of all soulless commuter belt hell.

Anon

Ealing is nice. Hopefully Crossrail won’t bring too many more lawyers this way.

A Real Person

No-one wants to live “East” or in Ealing. They live there because they can’t afford to live where they want to live.

Anon

Says someone who didn’t have the best nights out of their life in Hackney.

I can assure you no one really wants to go out drinking in the west end, they just don’t know any better.

Anon

I bet she doesn’t complain about all the money he brings home.

Just saying.

(27)(17)

St Paul’s princess

My father is a partner at a MC law firm (he was promoted several years ago and was a senior associate for some time) and he always managed to spend time with us and took mum out to date nights every week and they were often on weekend getaways without us and we stayed with Nan during their away time.

Seeing daddy be able to do everything whilst holding down a city job is perhaps the reason why I am more optimistic than those in the comments section.

It definitely is doable but the man has to want to do it otherwise it will never change. A lot of city partners use the job as a way to get away from home and it’s their only sense of purpose so they don’t care about anything else.

(56)(11)

I love my job but it’s just a job

A lot of comments here implying she’s a hypocrite due to the amount of money he earns. My impression from the Mumsnet post is that she’d much rather have an available husband/father to her children. I’m a female lawyer at a MC firm and will admit I’ve been guilty of repeatedly prioritising work over my boyfriend – it’s almost like you wear 2 hats and don’t understand how the two impact each other, especially when your partner isn’t in law.

If you’re happy in your personal life and actually take a break, you’re going to perform better at work. If you’re dedicating time to your personal life, your partner is more likely to show an interest and support your ambitions at work, rather than resenting your job. It’s not always easy/perfect but I’ve found effective delegation has changed my work/life balance for the better.

(59)(1)

MC Sanity

This is a really thoughtful response so thank you. I think my gf experienced this when I was at law school (US) as I was so entirely focused on graduating with top marks. In retrospect, I could have absolutely taken more time off from school to focus on my relationship and get a grip on work-life balance but you don’t see it when you’re in it (or you con yourself into thinking you don’t). Fortunately, I’ve learned from it and my partner and I are much happier as a result. Sure I don’t put in as many hours as that single associate but I work hard and go home to the woman I want to marry. If that means I don’t make partner, so be it! I’m earning enough now to be quite satisfied.

(47)(3)

I Get The Picture

Cutie the bomb, met her at a beauty salon
With a baby Louis Vuitton under her underarm
She said, “I can tell you rock, I can tell by your charm
“Far as girls, you got a flock”
“I can tell by your charm and your arm”

(9)(59)

Hah hah hah!

Hah hah hah, yes, the impromptu quote from a rap song was incredibly hilarious and provided excellent comic relief! How quirky and outlandish too!

(19)(2)

Anonymous

Hardly impromptu. The point of the quote is pretty clear and I see their point.

(2)(5)

Sherlock Turned Marriage Counsellor

This is why it is so important to discuss long-term goals and expectations before getting married to someone, especially if they are working in a demanding field. He definitely needs to be there for his wife and kids, but are we sure that she didn’t agree to this life before, and changed her mind later? We need more information.

(7)(2)

Aaron

There are a lot of men who put in so much effort to pursue a woman he wants and does a lot to woo her and takes her on dates and dinners and trips and holidays and is caring and attentive

BUT changes once he has put a ring on the finger.

Or he changes after kids because he thinks well she is stuck with me now and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The issue is men putting up a facade at the beginning of the relationship and giving a false insight into their future life only to switch up once he has got what he wants.

(24)(22)

Random passer-by

Yep, its the men. Women never put up a facade at the start of relationships either. Women never try to get the attention of the ambitious successful man and then complain that he is not around as much. Yep, it is all the fault of men………

(30)(18)

James

Glad you agree

(4)(11)

Joe

Well done for spam liking your own comment and disliking the other.

Hope it boosts your self esteem

(7)(1)

Random passer-by

Haven’t looked at this until today so not sure what you’re on about. 25 likes in about 2 days is hardly spamming, relax. If I even knew how to do this, would have put in a lot more likes surely.

Colour Me Shocked

Ah, so you’re telling me that the reality of being married to a selfish individual is much darker that the smugness of bragging that you ‘bagged a lawyer!’???

I’m sure the girlfriends she alienated would be absolutely delighted to hear all about her woes.

Absolutely delighted.

(8)(11)

Barrister

You really don’t need to work all hours to send your kids to private school and drive a nice car, even in London. From the sounds of things this guy could downscale and still coin it. At a certain stage people like this just start paying for money drains like second home mortgages. The Mumsnet comments have it absolutely right that he is a workaholic. There are tons of people like this in law. A few years ago, a colleague of mine (perfectly healthy practice, not desperate for work) was debating with me whether he should accept an instruction on an arbitration abroad that would mean there was a reasonable chance he would miss the birth of his child. Didn’t think he was entirely serious, but I told him that of course he should not. He did the arbitration, missed the birth and first 2 weeks of the child’s life. Some people just don’t have their priorities straight. I feel bad for the Mumsnet poster.

(38)(0)

Kirkland NQ

I always tell my model girlfriend the priority so she is clear: job, Lambo, yacht, Chelsea townhouse, vintage Krug, holiday home on the Côte d’Azur. She can fit around that if she likes.

(20)(15)

Ok

Of course ‘she can fit’. You can just deflate her and pack her in your BPP tote bag.

(107)(2)

6 year PQE

Bravo.

On a serious note however, (and I appreciate that this site is full to bursting with people who claim that money > everything) I’ve never understood living to work at the sacrifice of everything else. I have a partner friend at a mid-size city firm who bragged to me this past Christmas that he was working straight through the holidays, even preparing documents on Christmas day instead of spending time with his fiance and kid. My mind boggles.

(26)(0)

Bantz Quality Control, Pty. Ltd.

Apply liberal amounts of ointment to the savage napalm burns.

10/10, outstanding.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

As an avid Daily Mail reader, I cannot rush to judgement on the members of this family without a photograph of the wife and a recent valuation of their home.

(44)(0)

HiHowAreYou

I can still remember when I went to a Slaughter and May presentation at Uni and the partner said she worked hard but ”if you’re organised you can have a personal/family life, for example, I managed to go to my daughter’s wedding”…
It was at that moment I realised this shit wasn’t for me.

(79)(0)

Emily

These law firms just about let you go to your own wedding.

They don’t even let you enjoy your honeymoon without sending you emails non stop.

I know an associate (a friend at another city law firm) who went on her honeymoon to Sri Lanka and said she was on her laptop in between activities and excursions.

The laptop was basically a third wheel threesome during that honeymoon.

(21)(1)

SC

Commercial law NQs are up there with investment banking analyst grads on income. Lawyer salaries are high partly due to the extent of qualification and training that is required, but if you are fortunate enough to be offered a TC with one of these big firms please also consider this; a trade off most people make for huge amounts of money is time.

Even if you’re not in the office until 11 most nights you may be on call, or at the behest of clients at the most inconvenient times imaginable. If you’re the kind of person that is happy to make the sacrifice then go for it but just make sure you consider this fact.

So much discussion about the perks of commercial law centre around the money and prestige, with little thought devoted by TC applicants to this very real sacrifice that comes with the territory.

(18)(0)

An Ony Mouse

The biggest issue with this has not been mentioned yet. Mumsnet. It really is a haven for the basic and vacuous.

(2)(2)

Brian Mayerwood

Nobody is forcing anybody to do this job. I moved to a US firm and I do about 2,300 billable hours a year. I get paid too dollah. My friends stayed at silver circle firms and do about 1600-1850 billable hours a year and get paid much less but they would never join me at a US firm. There is a point where the extra dollah doesn’t offset the personal sacrifice but that point is different for everyone. For me I’ll leave when I have 500k in savings but until them I’m happy to work long hours it’s what I signed up for.

(6)(0)

TheWife

This is my life. I’m the wife of the lawyer. And he’s a workaholic. He runs his own practice, an entrepreneur, and a full time SVP/GC for a major company.
I’m extremely grateful for the sacrifices my husband makes for our family. We have everything we need and much more. We take luxury vacations, private schools and that Range Rover mentioned above.
We are fortunate that he works from home. I will admit he’s always there but not always actually there. He’s wiped out at night. We have sex during the days when our son is at school and while he’s muted on conference calls. And I have no problem with it. He has vacation days but has never once taken one. He takes calls while sitting on the beach and walking the canals of Venice. But we appreciate that we have the luxury that he can do both!!!

It’s learning to finding the delicate balance. It’s not always easy. And I at times have to remind myself how lucky I am. He’s an amazing father and husband and he does all of this for us! And he’s present when it counts. And I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

(6)(13)

Dr Freud

Cool story bro, changed my life.

(2)(0)

Anon

Sex while he’s muted on conference calls? I don’t think so.

(1)(0)

Anon

Let’s face it – there has never ever been an interesting person who has made a long term career as a City solicitor. This article demonstrates why.

It’s a problem with lawyers generally, because the law is so dry and boring. You have more chance of an interesting barrister but then also the same issue if the barrister stays being a lawyer for too long – eg Keir Starmer for example, compared to say Blair who played at law for about 5 years.

The lesson to learn is, don’t expect fascinating stuff from lawyers.

(10)(0)

2nd year

Had an interview with an MC firm recently. At the end I asked something about WFH, and the Senior Associate said it was great because it meant she could have dinner with her kids for the first time in her life. I have an understanding of the hours but that hurt to hear.

(19)(1)

Dales Wanderer

What a sad tale.

Didn’t he get the memo? Work like a slave, and save even harder. Pack it all in at 40, sell up move somewhere lovely with sane house prices and live a great life.

FFS this stuff isnt difficult.

(1)(0)

Jim Hanks

Everyone is different. Every lawyer, every spouse, every child — and every law firm and every job. And every relationship. I have been a BigLaw partner in the U.S. for many years. I am often characterized as a workaholic. I married late to a wonderful woman who gave up her career as an engineer and we have a daughter. The important thing is that each spouse understand what it is (a) that he and she expects and (b) that each will be getting and willing to give up and contribute in a marriage and in parenting. This means talking — a lot, especially pre-marriage.

(1)(0)

Anon

This comment is very sensible. I am married to a BigLaw partner and he works very hard. I was a lawyer but no longer practice. I now have a somewhat demanding law-adjacent job, but the demands on his time and the demands on mine are of different orders. For us, it works because (a) we do a lot of communicating and (b) we don’t have children. I honestly don’t know how couples in this position who have children manage it. I will be sad when we go back to the office though, it has been lovely working in the same place.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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