4 tips to making your pregnancy leave time work
During her first maternity leave, Rachel Rodgers drafted a contract while her newborn slept next to her.
The sleep-deprived business and intellectual property solo practitioner had to juggle taking care of a preemie with serving a client who needed a contract right away. “It was stressful,” she says, recalling that she had to cradle her computer instead of her baby.
She’s not the only new parent who has found herself either working during her leave or bombarded with emails immediately after returning to work.
“It’s hard for any person whose life has just been turned upside down by creating life,” says Lori Mihalich-Levin, partner in the health care practice at Dentons in Washington, D.C., and author of Back to Work After Baby. “There are certain issues that are unique to attorneys, but in general, it’s a major life transition for everyone.”
Still, it’s possible to carve out a successful leave as long as you start preparing early, says Rodgers, who managed to have a full maternity leave after her second baby.
She says she only had to check in with her office occasionally, despite having a busy solo practice.
By the end of that first trimester, Rodgers began streamlining her New York City-based practice, Rodgers Collective. She hired a consultant who created systems for her contracts, automated the onboarding systems (welcome emails and intake forms and everything else that could be automated) and dealt with all the administrative items.
But even with everything streamlined, she still had to figure out how to keep all her clients while taking three months off work.
That’s when Rodgers contacted a law school classmate who had recently gone solo. Rodgers asked him to take over for her when she went on her maternity leave.
“There are lots of freelance attorneys and contract attorneys you can hire to help you out during your leave,” Rodgers says. “The only thing I will say is that they’re typically not always comfortable with managing a client. Solos are great to ask because they’re accustomed to doing it all.”
But no one can simply hop in and take over at a moment’s notice, says Susan Smith Blakely, a former partner, law career counselor and author of Best Friends at the Bar, which tackles the subject of women in law careers.
Before leaving for three months, Blakely says, prepare transitional memos for your team. These should include the history of your cases and an explanation of all the players, along with their contact info.
No matter how well you have things covered, expect to see thousands of unread emails sitting in your inbox once you return from your leave, Mihalich-Levin says.
After her first maternity leave, she made the mistake of reading through every one.
She was wiser the second time. Instead of reading through her emails, she met with her team and asked them what were the key things she missed and how could she help them moving forward, Mihalich-Levin says.
And instead of viewing her maternity leave as a total break from work, she saw it as a leadership opportunity.
“Take credit for a well-planned leave and return,” Mihalich-Levin says. “It’s about using those skills that you gained as a new parent. Think about ways that you could be a leader in your new role.”
This article appeared in the July 2017 issue of the ABA Journal with the headline "No Baby Blues: 4 tips to making your pregnancy leave work"