Monday, December 8, 2014

5 Tips For Pregnant Lawyers

I'm a mommy lawyer. And I worked while pregnant. I've got two kids under the age of 8 and I currently work in house at a company with over $1 billion in revenue. 

I wrote and passed the California bar exam when I was 8 months pregnant. I also worked at a large law firm, and then subsequently at a major legal publisher while I was in my second pregnancy. 

Pregnancy is hard. I'm not trying to rub salt in the wounds of those women who are pregnant and working as lawyers. I did it, but it was brutal. (Read my lament here.)

But having done it, Here are my 5 tips to being pregnant while working.

1. Disclose your pregnancy. Many women are scared to tell their employer that they are pregnant. I actually told a law firm in the interview and they still hired me, so the stigma isn't as bad as many believe it is. While it's not wise to tell your boss before the sixth month, pregnancy can mess with your brain, so you might want your workplace to be more understanding of any minor errors that you do, as a result of brain-fog.  The other added benefit of telling your boss is that the law protects you from adverse employment actions (i.e. getting fired or demoted) if you are pregnant. 

2. Use disability benefits for pregnancy. There are many benefits afforded to people who are pregnant. I was able to take the bar exam in a private hotel room with food, a private bathroom, and a pillow in my lap. If your pregnancy is particularly bad, you should even consider taking a paid leave. In many states, your job is protected. 

3. Work from home. Many transactional law jobs will allow you to work from home. If you're doing predominately research or redlining contracts, you can get away with working from home. I was working at a large international publishing house for the latter half of my pregnancy and they let me work from home four days a week. 

4. Get your sleep. After you come home from work, make sure you sleep well. I used to go to bed at 7 P.M. If you have other kids, this might be challenging but if you have a supportive spouse, you need to call on that support now. 

5. Eat well. If you're throwing up every meal, it might be hard to eat well when you are pregnant. But you need the energy and the nutrition. Keep some healthy snacks with you, such as fruit and yogurt. 

Many women work in law firms while pregnant. From time to time, you will run into difficult employers or people who don't understand. And yes, you might get labeled as the "mommy" (I actually won a gag award from a well-intentioned female boss called the "'Heck yeah I can make my numbers even with a crying baby' Award".)  

But in the big picture, you'll come out on top. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

What is the Difference Between In House Counsel and Law Firm Attorneys?

Going in house versus working at a law firm can seem like a dream for many lawyers. For some, they see it as an opportunity to have some work-life balance in the legal profession. Some lawyers crave business and love being in the corporate world.

This is the first of many posts, chronicling life from the inside of a large corporate legal department.

What is the difference between practicing law at a law firm and practicing in-house?

1. The bottom line. In a law firm, the bottom line is the billable hour. That is how the law firm makes money. In a corporation, money tends to revolve around business development and sales. A lawyer at a law firm is focused largely on building and maintaining the clientele base and providing thorough work to the external client. In house, however, the focus on helping business teams close large deals.

2. Networking. Law firm attorneys are expected to network to generate new clients for the firm. An in house attorney is networking to gain knowledge of new issues, new methods or new products that can benefit the legal department. Also, an in house attorney tends to network more within the company.

3. The substantive knowledge. A lawyer at a large firm can be more niche and specialized. A lawyer in a corporate legal department, however, will often find that they are the jack of many trades (if not the jack of all trades). A lawyer working on corporate contracts, for example, might need to understand employment laws, UCC, tax laws, privacy laws, and intellectual property laws. The difference however, is in the depth of knowledge. In many cases where a legal topic becomes too deep, in house counsel will outsource it to a law firm.

4. The hours. In house counsel still have a large workload. But many of them find that they can leave at a reasonable time on most days, if there isn't an urgent deal to close. Not every law firm has long hours. However, the law firm culture is notorious for keeping associates at their desks overnight. Don't be fooled, though. In house attorneys do work long hours and weekends when there are million dollar deals on the line.

5. The pay. It's no secret that law firm attorneys are paid a lot more than in house attorneys. In some cases, the pay can even out-- particularly as the in house attorney climbs the ranks. However, a typical law firm associate at a large firm can have a starting salary of almost $200,000 per year. By contrast, a recent salary posted at a Fortune 500 company in Silicon Valley for an in house attorney with three to five years of experience was $158,000. And, when he was hired, that attorney sat in a cube with the paralegal staff, as opposed to the swanky office that an attorney at a large law firm will have. As you hit partner level at large firms, you're looking and raking in $500,000 a year or more. Even at a VP level as an in house attorney, chances that you'll be hitting the half-a-mil mark are modest. Of course, once you hit the GC mark, then we're talking millions.

The bottom line is this-- work where you fit. If you like teams, business, budgets, PowerPoint, and versatility, then in house might be right for you. If you prefer working niche, developing business, and working independently, then law firm life might be a better fit.

Other Reads: (ReadWorking Parents, Don't Be Ashamed to Ask for Help)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Working Parents: Don't Be Ashamed to Ask For Help

It's not shameful to ask for help. But parents--moms in particular-- can find it so shameful to admit that parenting is hard work. They see the smiling moms, with their perfect jobs and coiffed hair raising three perfect kids, who make parenting and working look effortless.

Don't buy into that image. It's not always real.

Here's reality: When you're a working parent, it's hard enough to be in several places at once. If you're a lawyer and a mom, it's even harder. But this post isn't just for lawyer moms. It's for all working parents, as the struggle of balancing work and parenting is common.

Related Read: Quick and Easy Means for the Working Parent (Foodie Heaven)

When you're an attorney working at a firm, in house or operating your own practice, it's hard enough to be all things for all people.

Image from

But throw in kids into the mix and you've got a recipe for chaos.

It's a myth to say that humans are good at multitasking. We're not capable of multi-tasking. According to a recent study, only two percent of the human population can actually multitask effectively. What we've come to know as "multi-tasking" is actually the ability for a human to quickly change focus.

For a parent, it's even harder to "multi-task", yet, we've grown accustomed to switching focus at the snap of a finger. As a parent, at any given point of the day, your attention is split between your the task you are trying to accomplish and the need to care for your kids. Children are in some ways the most selfish of creatures. They don't care whether you are preoccupied or whether you have to meet a deadline. They don't care that you have hot oil on the stove. If they want something, they want it NOW.

Sounds like your legal client, doesn't it?

That's why the legal profession can be a particularly challenging one for a parent. You have people making quick demands and expecting fast turnaround all day, at all hours of the day. There's no "off" switch. There's no down time. When a legal client or a partner at your firm wants a task delivered, you must drop everything and deliver.

Many lawyers will opt to go in-house once they have kids, thinking that the removal of the billable hour might ease their deadlines and turnaround times. The in-house legal environment should theoretically be better. The attorney has only one client to represent-- the company. In practice, however, the in-house attorney's role is to be responsive to numerous internal clients, many of whom have critical multi-million dollar business deals to close in short time frames.

The reality is that if you're a working professional and a parent at the same time, it's hard to juggle the responsibilities of parenting and the demands of work.

Some people are fortunate to have parents or in-laws nearby to help. But for those people who aren't as fortunate, it's important to develop a network of close allies and friends who can help--you need good friends who can pick up your kids last minute from daycare if you're running late, share food with you, or even lend you a shoulder to cry on when the stress gets overwhelming. There's no shame in asking for help.