Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Helping Hands

I firmly believe that it takes a village to raise a child. As you will see from our posts, none of the three of us JD Moms do it alone. We have an army of spouses, grandparents, day care teachers and friends supporting us emotionally and physically every day. They are the people who move your car from the train parking lot at 2 a.m. when you are stuck at work on a project and your husband can’t leave the kids at home alone. They go with you and your sick kid to the hospital even though your kid has swine flu. They bring dinner to your family when you’ve been on trial for a week and your children are beginning to think that Lucky Charms are a food group. They are amazing.

It is truly these people’s tireless efforts and love for our children that allow a working mom to make it through the day. And they are all deserving of (and will get) their own posts singing their praises for their contributions to our children and our lives. We couldn’t do it without them.

But in the law firm setting, the working mom has few friends. The moment a woman announces she’s expecting work dries up and people treat you like you have the plague. And once you get back from actually having the baby it isn’t any better.

Of course, after you become a working mom there are people at law firms who pretend to understand. Heck, there are even law firms that label themselves “family friendly.” But when it comes right down to it, most partners don’t care if you are missing bedtime for the third night in a row or if you haven’t seen your children awake all week. They care about their clients, and they expect you to do whatever it takes to keep their clients happy. Including working all night long.

At my last firm, 4 o’clock projects with a “first-thing-in-the-morning” deadline were not uncommon. I’ve seen the sun rise from my old office more times that I can remember. That’s a part of Big Law. But when I had kids, spending the night in the office wasn’t a sacrifice I wanted to make anymore. I made every effort to work as much as possible in the office, go home for dinner, and then work like mad from home after the kids went to bed. But as every lawyer knows, there are some things that just can’t be done from home.

It was when I was faced with those projects that I came across the working mom’s most uncommon ally – the twenty something male associate. Unlike other working moms with whom I would commiserate, the twenty-something males would do more than sympathize with me when faced with a 4 p.m. stay-in-the-office project - they would offer to help. They’d offer to review a larger portion of the documents (and from time to time all of the documents) or manage the midnight electronic filing or draft the motion. They’d take on more responsibility so that I could go home and be with my kids.

And I’m not (too) embarrassed to admit I usually took them up on it. I worked at my old firm for seven years. I know that many of the “emergency” projects I was faced with were not true emergencies. I also knew that the associates who offered to help me were all smart, competent attorneys. And they truly “got” it. They understood that I wanted to go home to be with my kids, not to avoid work. Or they wanted more billable hours. Either way, they did more work so that I could be more mom. And I’m so grateful for that.

Brad, Matt and Simon gave me the greatest gift – more time with my kids. And in doing so, they also gave me hope for women in the profession. Women lawyers still have a long way to go to be equals in the profession. But with men like those three moving up the ranks, there’s hope for the next generation of women lawyers. If Sweet Pea grows up to be a lawyer, I hope she works for one of those guys.


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