If We Do it Right, We Can Have it All
Retaining valuable professionals requires flexibility, creativity and trust. Leaders in corporations and law firms must encourage, rather than simply “tolerate” or “accommodate”, all efforts to be as productive as possible. This includes professionals being able to work when and where they can deliver their best work.
Flexibility increases morale and creates a more satisfied and loyal employee. In the legal industry, we need to be available to clients 24/7. The notion of being physically in an office 40-50 hours per week is antiquated, not likely to result in optimum performance, and incredibly difficult for working women (and men) who have primary – or any – childcare responsibility (or any other obligations to friends, family or self). If you are like the millions of Americans who commute to/from the office, the obligation to be physically present during working hours kills between 2-4 hours a day.
Maintaining work-life balance is critical for anyone who has high aspirations professionally and wishes to have a meaningful personal life. Modern technology plays a critical role in making that possible. I love my work and aspire to deliver best in class services to my clients and partners. As a busy lawyer and mother, I’m constantly on the go. Working from home at least two days a week allows me to succeed in both my personal and professional roles. If I’m not traveling for work, I’m likely at a sports game or attending to the varied and complex needs of two teenage girls. I work hard at making myself available, seamlessly, no matter where I may be. I am a big proponent of utilizing various technologies, such as the VoIP telephone system, to stay connected at all times.
While it is important that your organization provide resources and tools, you need to invest in, and advocate for yourself, as well. You are the best person to devise a plan that works for you. Forget about conventional rules and think about what it will take for you to succeed at work and home. Then ask for it-unapologetically and without compromise.
I ask my firm for flexibility and a focus on the bottom line, rather than taking a negative view of the differences in my working behaviors from the generations (of men) before me. I invest in myself by committing 1/3 of my home to a fully functioning office. When I need to be in the office, I often pay for an overnight or two in a hotel so that I can put in successive long days without adding 6-8 hours of commuting time.
Of course, you have to perform to the very best of your ability and prove yourself, so that when you ask for something that is different, people will be receptive. No one is going to give you everything that you need unless you ask for it and show them that it will work. I truly believe that we can have it all.