Why a Woman CAN Take a Break from the Law

My mother has a saying: “Women can have it all…just not at the same time.”  She was a stay at home mom.  Once my sister and I were older, she went to the New York School of Interior Design and started her own design business.

I thought I could prove her wrong.  I started in banking, went to law school at night while working a full-time job and worked my way to become president and general counsel of a financial company. I enjoyed immense responsibility, put in long hours, and made good money. I figured that if I became indispensable to my company, that when I had children, I could work out a part-time or flex-time arrangement. That way, I could have it all.

What I did not anticipate however, was that I might have a change of heart. When I finally got married and was expecting my first child, I realized I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom much like my mother. I was more than a little nervous. If I took a break from work, could I ever go back? Would all my hard work, experience, and JD count for nothing?

I found a few truths about taking a break from work to raise a family:

  • You don’t lose your skills. All the hard work, education and experience you accumulated before taking a break from the workplace does not evaporate.  You are just as valuable now as the day you left.
  • You gain some skills. Negotiating, time management, multi-tasking, and conflict resolution all take on a new meaning when you are raising kids. You add to your skill set.
  • You gain perspective on what is important. When you have a family, priorities change.  When you go back to work, you may not have a high-profile career or impressive job title, but that may not matter as much as having flexibility and autonomy.
  • There will be always be some work for you. It can be intimidating going back to work but I found by just talking to people I could identify opportunities that aligned with my goals.  While I may not be able to step directly into the type of position I had, there were many possibilities to use my talents and experience.
  • There is also life beyond law practice.  I have met many attorneys who have left the law to start new exciting ventures, writing novels, starting businesses, or coaching other attorneys through podcasts or blogs.

I did go back to work, but not in the way I thought I would.  I met another attorney who was a stay-at-home mom.  We commiserated on how tough it was to be an attorney and still manage work-life balance.  She suggested that we start a law firm that could work around our families schedule not the other way around. 

We started a “mobile law practice,” doing estate planning and business contracts. We would make house calls to clients, visiting them in the homes or offices.  This business model allowed us to keep overhead low and provided us with the flexibility we needed. As our practice grew, we made use of a shared office suite for convenience.

My partner, Kelly C. Sturmthal, and I put our experiences on what worked for us into a blueprint for other attorneys seeking a better work-life balance and for those launching a solo law practice. We put together a resource manual, Law Office on a Laptop, Second Edition. : How to Set Up Your Own Successful Mobile Law Practice found on Amazon.com. We also have a website www.GoSoloForSuccess.com to provide advice and support for solo practitioners and entrepreneurs.

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