Full Time Practice

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Staying Involved While Staying At Home

(Written by Megan Needham, who works on the JRCLS Media Committee and is responsible for the Updates and Inspiration e-mails.)

A year and a half ago I wrote this post about figuring out how to balance a legal career and a family. At the time I was an associate at Kirkland & Ellis in New York City and a newlywed.  Now I'm a new mom and recently quit my full-time law job.  I've been eagerly seeking ways to stay involved in the legal world while maintaining the flexibility to put my job as a mother first.  In the process I've gathered some of my own suggestions along with the suggestions of more seasoned mothers who have sought the balance for them between work and family.  Here's what we've come up with:

Nancy Van Slooten
Get or stay involved with the Law Society on local and international levels.  In many cases, mothers are the grease that keeps the Law Society going.  Former JRCLS International Chair, Nancy Van Slooten said, "Working in the leadership of the Law Society has helped me feel that I am working for a bigger and greater good when [the] household routine can seem mundane and repetitive.  Being able to talk about the Law Society with friends and new acquaintances helps me feel that I am still an attorney and part of the legal world.  It helps others respect what I have worked for and my life aside from or before children."

Keep up with CLE credit.  By keeping your attorney registration active you will be ready for pro bono opportunities or part-time work whenever it arises.  JRCLS conferences and events and BYU Education Week seminars are some wonderful opportunities for CLE credit.

Elizabeth Smith
Look for challenges.  Elizabeth Smith, editor of the JRCLS Newsletter, started a law firm with her husband and worked part time when her kids were young.  She says, "I loved learning new areas of the law.  I also tried to make myself invaluable in some of the administrative aspects of the firm, thus freeing up the full-time lawyers to practice law . . . .  I found some talents I didn't know I had, and I learned quickly some weaknesses I didn't know I had, but had the opportunity to keep at it until I got better at it."

Show up.  Shortly after I quit my job Elder Oaks was receiving the Canterbury Medal for religious freedom in New York City.  I knew that many JRCLS members would be at the dinner and it would be a great opportunity for me to meet people and feel professional.  Even though it meant leaving my son with a friend right before bedtime and getting home late, I made the effort to go.  It was worth the sacrifice, and I was able to write about the experience for the JRCLS Newsletter.

Keep writing.  We get good at the things we do frequently.  If we want our legal skills to stay sharp, continuing to write is invaluable.  One way I do this is by writing a blog and sometimes covering legal topics.  It helps me to continue to think critically while juggling laundry, dishes, and bath time.

Volunteer.  Many legal organizations could use an extra hand.  Around the time I quit my job I contacted BYU's International Center for Law and Religious Studies to see if there were any projects they could use help with.  It has turned into an opportunity to work on a treatise with one of the professors at BYU.  You never know what opportunities might arise unless you ask.

Read cases.  It's pretty difficult to be an expert in an area of law even if you are practicing full-time, but reading the news and some court decisions here and there can be a good way to have meaningful legal conversations when you are around other attorneys. 

Please comment!  How have you stayed involved with the law while raising children?


  1. Great write-up, Megan. I'd add to the list adjunct teaching (though this fits nicely under the Looking for Challenges heading). I recently heard a woman speak here in NYC who touted her mid-day flexibility as one of her qualifications to an area law school, and they loved it, in time asking her to teach additional subjects beyond her immediate area of expertise. Her flexibility was key; so many adjuncts are available to teach primarily in the evening. She emphasized that teaching as an adjunct pays very little, but for her it was an opportunity to develop experience, to stay in the game, and to prove her commitment to education -- in time transitioning to a full-time leadership role in university administration as her kids grew. Quite an inspiring story.

  2. Thanks for the post, was an interesting read. Curious as to how you came about that solution… Website