It’s Time to Emphasize Results-Based Work Product

This past January, my family somehow hit the jackpot: our toddler son brought Covid-19 back to us from daycare. He was fine (thankfully!), but my husband was down for the count. As my equal partner in home and childcare lay on the couch entirely wiped, I was in over my head with documents, emails, and phone calls, trying to close a very large transaction. My son (now in quarantine with us for the next two weeks) was doing his best to climb into my lap, so he could take over “keyboard duties.” Around me were unpacked boxes for our move the very next day. And, I was 20 weeks pregnant. I don’t know if I have ever before or since experienced a more “working mom” moment.

Women are often praised with the phrase “I don’t know how you do it all!?” But the truth is, we can’t, and we don’t, and something inevitably drops. And although we come out on the other side, we may not do it in the way that matches our ambitions or our high expectations for ourselves. As the founder of the Women’s Initiative at Seward & Kissel, I frequently struggle to find solutions to these issues. I ask, what can change to make it easier for smart, hard-working female attorneys to stay and succeed at the firm?

The answer is not lowering standards or accepting from female staff something different than we expect from our male colleagues. After all, my professional fulfillment and accomplishments stem from providing excellent and responsive service to our clients in helping them accomplish their goals. The solution has to be creative, inclusive, and culture-changing.

A kernel of progress is achieved by flexible work arrangements that the pandemic, at the very least, demonstrated improve productivity and responsiveness. But the long-term solution, I would argue, is found in a workplace that emphasizes practical, results-based work product (over face-time or superfluous meetings), and supports innovative means of business development (that may be more in line with the interests and natural networks of women attorneys). I am proud to be counsel at Seward & Kissel, an industry leader in these efforts.