Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Traveling Mom

Since I was last blogging regularly, I've started a new job.  I've never really by shy about the fact that I didn't really want to be a partner in a law firm.  I mean, if I was going to be in a law firm I wanted to be a partner eventually.  But it wasn't my goal to make partner or anything.  Instead, I always wanted to go in-house.  But in-house jobs for litigators are few and far between.  It took a lot of years of looking until I finally found (and got) an in-house job.  And it is everything I thought it would be.

I generally love my new position.  I manage the litigation for an employee benefits company.  That means I handle everything from the company's commercial litigation to litigated claims made by our insureds (employee benefits includes health insurance - for now), to suits brought by our own employees.  It is a great job: I get to do all of the things I loved about being a litigator, and can hand off some of the things I loved a little bit less.  I still write briefs and research law, but a larger percentage of my time is spent talking strategy and communicating with our various business units on how certain choices in litigation could impact the bottom line.  It's challenging, I get to work with a lot of different people, and the lawsuits are never boring.  But it also involves a lot of travel.   

For me, being a litigator has always involved travel.  As a first year associate alone I spent one month in Minnesota on trial and one in West Palm Beach (one trial was December, one was June.  Guess which was which?).  Add to that travel for depositions, document reviews in dusty warehouses (anyone remember the underground storage facility in Kansas City??), site inspections and client visits, and there's some substantial time away from the office.  But this job makes all of that travel look light.  When I took the job I knew that the main business unit I'd be supporting was in New England.  That meant a trip out east for 3 days every month.  I could handle that.  But as it turns out, 3 days in New England every month is just the tip the travel iceberg. 

Our company and its insureds are spread throughout the country.   This makes for a lot of jurisdictions in which a lawsuit can be filed.    Thankfully, we have an amazing network of outside counsel and I am so grateful to get to work with them.  But whenever it is our person being deposed, or whenever an opportunity to mediate arises, I'm there.  Whenever a settlement conference is being held, whenever our company goes on trial, I'm there.  Which means I'm traveling a lot. 

So far, the entire family has handled my travel well.  I plan and prepare meals for the days that I'll be gone.  I set out the kids' clothes for each day.  I even make a list of each day that I'll be gone with what Husband should heat up for dinner, what needs to be packed in the kids school bags and what after school activities each kid has.  Husband really does not have to put much, if any, thought into things while I'm gone. 

And technology has been a huge help. Tonight, I watched my son, dressed in his jammies and tucked into his bed over 700 miles away, read a book aloud.  I saw what Sweet Pea drew in school today, and even got a sneak peak of Snuggle Bug sleeping.  No, it isn't the same as being with them, but it is workable. 

Moms who travel for their jobs, what tips do you have for me?  How do you stay in touch with your family while you are on the road?  More importantly, how do you handle the backlog of dishes and laundry that await you when you get home?  Do you bring the kids a small gift from each place you visit (and if so, who has a good suggestion of what to bring back from South Bend, Indiana??)? 

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