Nov 20, 2012

Well, My Mind is Going Through Those Changes*

So I'm starting a new job at the beginning of the year.  This means I had to quit my current job, which was agonizing.  The only job I have ever truly quit (rather than moving on in a natural sort of progression) was Senior year of high school when I spent one day as a telemarketer calling elderly people trying to get them to come in for a free chiropractor session in a smoke filled basement.

My current job was a bit more difficult to leave.

However, unfortunately, there is an inherent discord between the concept of billable hours and motherhood. Women's law groups and firms bemoan the low retention rate for women in the profession, but until serious changes are made to the system, mothers of young children are going to leave firms. 

My firm was wonderful about accommodating my new schedule, and the fact that I leave at 5 instead of 7.  However, I just couldn't bill enough hours to satisfy my own standards.  I constantly had that stress in the back of my mind that I wasn't doing enough, yet could not muster the ambition to quit playing with Miss Priss and go review documents.  When I stay late, I have to scramble for childcare and pay someone else to take care of my baby.  I miss her dinner and her bath, and the main chunk of time I spend with her if I get caught in the office.  Saturdays and Sundays?  They are for my family now, not playing catch-up.  The thing is?  I want more kids!  It's not like I will get through this year, and it will get better.  It's going to  get worse for the foreseeable future!

So, I made an incredibly difficult decision.  I am saying goodbye to something I have worked extremely hard at for the last 8 years (3 of law school, 5 of practice). And the goodbye is awfully final. For those of you who are not in the legal profession, it's quite unfriendly to those who take a break for a number of years, then desire to return.  Why would you want to hire someone with children and other obligations, who is unfamiliar with the latest practices, when you can hire a fresh young graduate without family, who is willing to work 60 hour weeks without complaint?  It's a no-brainer.

However, I will never let my license lapse, and will faithfully slog through my yearly CLE's.  Although going back to a firm is not really an option, I might practice law in some other permutation down the road. 

So, my new gig?  Keeping my father and brother in line at our family business.  I'll be doing a little bit of everything- HR, consulting and advising on various matters, some of the books, and corporate miscellany.   The amazing part?  I will be working from home.  Dell Harper will be going to Mother's Day Out one day a week, and the rest of my work will get done during naps or at night.  It's going to be an adjustment for sure, so I will need plenty of advice from those of you who work from home.

So that's my big news.  It's a bittersweet change.  I'm so thrilled to be in a more flexible situation, and to not have to put on a suit everyday, but sad to say goodbye to my be-suited, wheeling and dealing business lawyer self.  Now that I have finally made my decision though, I am excited to start this new journey.

Lady lawyers, working moms, stay at home moms, work at home moms, non-moms, dog-moms, (guys too- I just have, like, 3 male readers) what are your thoughts?  How can the billable system change to become more family friendly?  How do you make it work with life-balance?

*Have you ever listened to Buddy Miles?  "Them Changes" is a fantastic song.  Download it!


  1. Great news! I wish you the best. Some days you will love staying at home others you will miss work, but you will never regret the time you spend with you child(ren).
    Enjoy! I can't wait to see how your story unfolds @home

  2. I work in a "Big Law" firm and we basically have a revolving door of female associates (and no female partners). As soon as a female associate gets pregnant, it's pretty much guaranteed that they'll leave, and in a few months a new girl, fresh from law school, fills their place. Talk about bizarre and antiquated. Clearly women are doing just as well (if not better - during interview season we see class rankings) than their male counterparts in law school, but the profession itself is still so backwards! The entire billable hour system needs to go - project-based pricing makes so much more sense, both to clients and attorneys who actually want to have a life outside the office.

  3. I am sure that was a hard decision to make and bittersweet to leave the law behind but many congratulations on your new role! How wonderful to spend more time working with family. And the extra time with Dell Harper - so great! Sounds like a perfect arrangement for your family.

    I wish I knew how to fix the beast that is billable hours. I can tell you I've not had a day off in 16 days (but who's counting) and my poor husband wants to know where his wife is and who is this stressed out, crabby woman who has taken her place. Billable hours and children are just a crappy combination. Even in a family friendly firm like mine, it's tough. I know moms who make it work but I can certainly see the appeal of going in-house or taking a government position - or changing fields entirely.

  4. I couldn't be happier for you!! It's so hard to try to juggle it all yet I think you gave it your all... At least you tried and now you know what's right for you, for DH, and for your family.

    My best advice is to know everyday will have its challenges but being able to be at home with your baby is the best feeling in the world. MDO is awesome and look for other fun play date oops in Ktown too!!

  5. I'm not a lawyer, but I think the expectations need to change. The immense pressure to work, work, work (in a lot of professions, not just law) is so great that we sacrifice our family's time to meet work demands. And, as such, burn out from wither exhaustion or guilt (to either one, really). I'm lucky to work in a company that places a high value on family and that both my manager and VP have young children themselves so they get it.

    Not to say that dads and professional men don't have children, but they aren't mothers and let's face it, mothers still do the majority of staying home with sick kids and handling doctor's visits. It's just how it is.

    Good luck in your new role and there are lots of places for attorneys in the corporate world so I'm sure when you do decide to go back to practicing you'll be able to.

  6. Though not a lawyer, I worked for a Top 5 Consulting Firm (that shall remain nameless, but starts with a M) and also had billable hours as well as grueling travel. When I had Child #1, they were willing to work with me and cut back on the travel part, but I was paying the nanny a pretty penny while I tried to meet the billables. I lasted two years, during which I tried part-time, full-time from home (disaster - I hated seeing my kid, but not being able to talk to her), part-time from office, and finally on a contract basis. It all came down to one thing: at this point in my life I wanted to be "that" mom, and I was willing to give up one dream for another. Thankfully, my husband (who is an attorney) was both supportive and agreeable with this decision and I am truly blessed that, although we sacrifice some luxuries, I can be there for my kids (Child #2 was born shortly after I became SAHM). Kudos to you!

  7. I'm a lawyer and expecting my first baby in February. Luckily (?) I work for a corporation and while I definitely wear my lawyer-hat, I work a typical 9-5 kind of job. The best part is the corporation is pretty family friendly so I work from home a few days a week and I work flex hours so most days I'm done by 3 or 4. Of course my salary isn't commensurate with most firm work, but you win some and you lose some.

  8. I hear ya. I have been practicing law since '98, mostly with big firms (one Atlanta based, one Richmond based). My husband is a lawyer too, with a smaller Raleigh-based firm. Our son was born in 2003 and is now 9 yrs old. We are both working full-time (and I have a commute). A lot of the time, I am pulling my hair out (not literally) from stress. I applaud your decision and wish you all the best! Oh, and in case it's not clear, I am super jealous... :)

  9. My daughter was born right around yours (1/28/12) and I have practiced law for the past 8 years. I only made it through to August before going to work for the family business. Law and babies do not go together. It was exactly as you said - I am not at a point in my life where I can make up the billable hours I missed during the week in order to go home early. Nor do I want to!

    I feel you. And honestly it was the best decision ever. Leaving the law feels great. I do not miss it at all. Being a lawyer pretty much sucks and you don't fully realize it until you go onto other careers.

  10. Congrats Samma! I'm so excited for you! You're going to love it and I doubt you'll ever regret this decision. As for your question about firms, I sure wish I knew the answer to this. I left BigLaw a few years ago to go in-house knowing full well that I couldn't remain at the firm and have a family. I took a big pay cut, but I also work less hours and have a life. My friends at the firm with kids have all either left law completely, went in-house or have some type of flex time arrangement with the firm. The flex-time sounds promising, but I'm pretty sure they still work their butts off (and bill a TON), are expected to meet their hours yet make less money. My husband's also still at a big firm and it's no easier for him. We miss him when he has to work late or over the weekends. It's just hard.

  11. Congrats on your new job!
    I work for a National firm up in Canada and, despite it being the law to give one-year mat leaves, female associates still feel guilty taking a full year off. They get "left behind" and that's only after ONE baby. What about those who want more?
    As much as firms want to promote themselves as being family friendly, it just doesn't seem to work.
    How lucky you are to be at home with your beautiful girl!

  12. I'm pretty convinced that it can't work. Unless you're a solo or work in a nonprofit/government sector with no billable hours, there just doesn't seem to be a way, and it's a damn shame. And if you work in a nonprofit/for the government, you have the time to get home for dinner but you can't afford the childcare for the hours you are at work.
    I haven't been on a date in over a year and I get stressed just thinking about it ;)

    Honestly I have a friend who is an associate that bills close to 2400 hours a year who is scheduled to get a puppy at the end of this month... and I am already nervous for her because I just think that's the worst idea ever.
    Happy for you that you're getting to spend some more time with your girl, and hopefully it's much less stressful time!!!

  13. Hey! Congrats Samma. You are going to love this. I would recommend having a nanny come to your home like 2 or 3 days (mornings?) a week to watch Dell Harper while you get some work done. If the nanny can do a little laundry and dishes while she is there that will make your stay at home part much more enjoyable! Congrats on your decision again!

  14. Good for you! It is so hard to figure out work and motherhood and I'm sure even harder as a lawyer. I'm a lobbyist which involves long hours but no billable hours. However my husband is a lawyer so I have some idea of what you are talking about. I work 50ish hours a week and often my days start at 7am or go until 7am or 10pm. However, my office is very flexabile and on the days I don't have to be at an event, or city council hearing I can take of at 3pm. But even with that it's really hard. My husband works 70 hours a week easily. The only way it works is with lots of help! My Mom watches Margot every single day and she if able to take her at 6am on days I need to work really early and keep her late on days we can't get out. Since she's with Mom I don't have to worry so much about being away. Sure I miss her but I know she's happy as a clam. She also has a complete set up at my Mom's complete with a Nursery that has a crib, and rocker and full set of toys and clothes. We also have to hire a fair amount of help. We have a great guy that does all our yard and landscaping and a lady that cleans our house. I know I could quit or change jobs but I love my job so much and I don't think I could return if I left. My profession is all about connections and loosing those would be the end.

    Good luck with the changes ahead. I'm sure they will be great. And how wonderful that you can join a family business. That really might be the perfect solution to the working Mom gig!

  15. Beckett hasn't even arrived (11 weeks out!) and i'm already dreading figuring out how to be away from her, how to come back, what will be right for me and my family. Best of luck to you - I think it's amazing that you'll be able to WFH and have so much time with Miss Dell. And no one can take that law degree or your experience from you, I just hate that you didn't feel you could have both but I think that's all too common and won't be surprised if I find myself in your position sooner rather than later. So much for you to look forward to though and i'm so happy for you that you had options!!!

  16. I had all of my law school app's filled and ready to mail the day that I found out I was expecting B. Ten years and two more babies, those app's are still in our basement. Maybe I will mail them someday. But for me and my family, I just knew that I could not have "it all" at the same time. I applaud any mom (or dad) that makes changes that are right for their family. Good for you!!!

  17. Oh lordy… I think about this all the time. We're lucky to have so many choices though right?! I'm constantly juggling and prioritizing, but I do love the balance of work/being with my baby that I have going. Good for you for making a change and can't wait to hear how it goes.


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