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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

As in the past, I am starting this column by asking you to help your peers. Send me your thoughts on how you know when to stop researching. Just send an e-mail here or tweet to @babysharklaw. Easy! I will share the responses in a future column. Thanks!

Katie Larkin-Wong on Parenting, Lawyering and Staying Sane.

Being a lawyer and a new parent involves innumerable challenges. For insights on juggling all the responsibilities, I interviewed Katherine Larkin-Wong. She is an associate at Latham & Watkins, a new mom, and the past President of Ms. JD. Her partner, Jono, also has an “all-in” career. Here are Katie’s insights on parenting, lawyering, and staying sane:

Q:  What advice would you give to new mothers in BigLaw?

A:  Number one, take a deep breath. You can do this! Number two, realize that your “new normal” may be a daily negotiation. I know there are some moms who can adhere to a very strict schedule. For me, trying to “schedule” everything was making me crazy. I felt like I was always “behind.” Instead, my schedule varies based on my daughter’s needs, Jono’s needs (also a busy professional) and my clients’ needs.

Q: So if you don’t schedule everything, how do you make it all happen?

A: Jono and I trade off days during the week:  One of us takes care of the mornings, the other one takes care of the evenings. If I handle breakfast, Jono leaves early for the office. Then I work late, and he gets home for the baby’s bedtime. This way we both get time with our daughter and feel like there’s a shared load.

Usually, I’m early on Mondays and Wednesdays and late on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  But it always changes. Recently I found out I had to go to a deposition out of town at the same time Jono was out of town for meetings.  So, I picked up the phone and called my mom who lives out of state: “Any chance you want to come down for a week?” Not surprisingly, she was thrilled to do it.

Q:  Is there anything about being a mother and balancing a career that has been unexpected or particularly challenging?

A:  I am so grateful to be a mom and a working mom. Too many working moms have to work multiple jobs and still struggle. So, I do not take for granted the opportunity to be raising such a strong, persistent, happy girl (and yes, I know all of those things about her at seven months!) while also pursuing a career that I love. I think I expected to feel more conflicted about it. Of course, there are moments when it is incredibly hard but, generally, I just feel a lot of gratitude.

Q:  I know you love apps. Tell me about your apps and other resources that have been helpful.

A:  Ah, yes! Everyone loves hearing about my apps! I love the Baby Feed Timer. It helps us track almost everything that is going on with our newborn. That has been a lifesaver when we’d have to answer those questions at the pediatrician’s office. With all of the sleep deprivation, we would not have known the answers without the tracking! My daughter’s caregiver, Jono, and I all have access to the app. We use it to track her various feedings, her reactions to new solid foods, her diapers – and so much more. It’s a great way for us to exchange information especially if we forget to talk about something in the handoff at the end of the day. Pre-baby, Jono swore by the Contraction Timer app for tracking my contractions and knowing when it was really time to get to the hospital! For books, I swear by The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Wonder Weeks.

Q:  What can firms do to help their lawyers who are new parents?

A:  Ask new parents what they need – and strategize to make it happen. There is no one-size-fits-all. And be excited when new parents come back from leave! It is a big transition, and it helps a lot to see that people are glad to have you back. New parents should remember to be patient with themselves. It may take a few weeks – or months – to get into a groove. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, set small goals. And if you need help, ask! Firms cannot help if you do not ask.

Q:  With a new child, I am sure time management is even more critical. What are your tips?

A:  In BigLaw, we generally get to work in teams. If you invest time in your teams, you are more likely to be able to justify a last-minute opportunity for someone junior to you when a time arises that you need to focus elsewhere. And put everything in one calendar. Jono sends his work travel to my Outlook calendar so that I can easily see when we can’t do the usual trade-off. And control e-mail!

Q:  How do you reduce stress?

A:  I try to protect two hours a week for a workout for me. I also try to get out and do physical things with my family – like hiking and walking the dog. Sometimes the day calls for you to have a glass of wine and television to decompress. But honestly, just being a mom has helped me stress less about the things that I just don’t need to stress over.

For more insights, check out Katie’s new column for Ms. JD, called #Millennialmom. And connect with Katie on Twitter @kmlarkinwong.

Good luck!

Join the conversation by submitting questions on Twitter @Babysharklaw or here. Get the new Second Edition of Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks here.

Grover E. Cleveland is a Seattle lawyer, speaker and author of Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer (West 2d. 2016). Grover specializes in programs to help new lawyers successfully transition from law school to practice, helping them provide more value and avoid common mistakes. He is a former partner at Foster Pepper PLLC, one of the Northwest’s larger firms. His clients included the Seattle Seahawks and other entities owned by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. Grover is a frequent presenter on lawyer career success and generational issues at leading law firms and schools nationwide. Many questions in this column come from those programs. Readers may submit questions here or follow him on Twitter @Babysharklaw. He is not related to the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.

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