March 2014 Bar Bulletin
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March 2014 Bar Bulletin

Moms and Law Firms: Please Steal My Ideas but Not My Team

By Eric S. Newman

 

Since my girls were born, I have spent a lot of time in places where kids gather and, as a result, a lot of time where moms gather. A dilemma that often came up from PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) moms, preschool moms and playground moms was going back to work and how to balance work with time spent with their kids.

The fact that this is largely a mom dilemma, and not a dad dilemma, is a subject for another article, as is how moms themselves solve this dilemma. This article is about how employers can solve this dilemma and be rewarded for the effort.

When my kids were young, I wanted more control over my career, so my partner and I left big firms to start our own. We were fortunate and it did not take long before the work was more than we could handle, so we started looking for help.

Of course, if we wanted to keep that business, our clients were going to expect the same quality of work from our employees as they expected from us. We needed talent, but we had a problem. We had to attract that talent away from big firms with fancy offices and large staffs. These firms were well-established institutions, while ours was a two-year-old startup with part-time staff. We needed a hook.

That got me thinking about those playground conversations. For many moms looking to go back to work, flexibility was a big factor. They did not have to be with their kids every minute, but they wanted to be around more than a full-time job would allow and they wanted flexibility to be around for those special moments. The "white whale" job was challenging, professional, part-time and flexible. We could do that.

We could not provide fancy offices, but somewhere out there, there was a great lawyer looking for that dream job and we knew just where to look. We sent out a job announcement on the MAMAS list-serve and from it we were lucky enough to hire a talented, experienced litigator, Molly. We were excited to get such a fantastic member of our team and Molly was excited to have a fulfilling, professional job, while still being able to be president of her kids' preschool board and volunteer in their classrooms.

Somehow there is a perception that litigators always have to be in the office in case something happens. I can tell you, this is simply untrue. Molly works in the office three days a week. If something comes up that requires her to come in on a different day, she changes her schedule for that week.

She keeps her computer on when she is at home and her phone with her when she is out. Our clients and our adjusters can almost always reach her. Occasionally, she is out of contact, but so am I, so are we all. If a client calls and cannot reach her, it may be because she is leading a reading group in her kid's classroom, but it is just as likely that she is in a deposition with her phone turned off. Nobody is available 24-7.


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