Where did you go to school (undergrad and law?)
BYU (Provo) and BYU (Provo).
Why did you go to law school?
I always planned on graduate school of some kind or another, and I had been accepted to a few PhD programs during my senior year of undergrad, but I fell in love with a sophomore and we got engaged. I started looking for graduate programs available at BYU so he wouldn’t have to transfer. I had enjoyed my Communications Law course, so I quickly put together an application for BYU’s law school and sat for the LSAT. It was very last minute and not particularly well-reasoned for such a life-changing decision. Lucky for me, I loved everything about law and law school.
What type of law do you practice?
Estate planning and administration.
Do you have children; if so, how many?
Two children: Charlie (8) and Cici (3).
What have you done since law school?
I graduated from law school in 2006 and had my first child one month later. I was a full-time, stay-home parent for the next four years, but I usually had some part-time or contract work going on that I could do from home, including a job with Kaplan PMBR, researching and writing their bar study materials.
Shortly after we moved to California, I interviewed with an estate planning solo practitioner who had a specialty in special-needs planning. I had a strong personal interest in her practice area because I have family members with special needs, and I agreed to work part-time for her as a clerk until I got my license. This turned into full-time work as an associate attorney until she closed her California office. When the office closed, I was nine months pregnant with my second child, and my family really needed my supplemental income. I set up a home office in the corner of my apartment and took on a few clients on my own during the transition, and I became an expert at nursing a baby while I pecked out my documents with one hand.
I found a position with another solo estate planner who needed some help on a temporary basis. My work for him allowed him to bring in more business, and the temporary position turned into full-time permanent work and a rewarding mentoring relationship.
My family moved to Orange County in 2012, and I took my own clients for a few months while I looked for another position. I’ve been at my current firm for almost two years where I am a full time associate doing estate planning, trust administration, probate, conservatorships, and some trust litigation.
How do you balance being a busy mom and a practicing attorney?
Here are a few sanity-saving tools related to keeping my mom world and my professional world from falling apart:
1. I married a man who supports my career wholeheartedly and enthusiastically shares parenting responsibilities. Really, the list could end here because, if I am ever successful with balancing, this is 99 percent of the secret to my success. (Hopefully he would say the same thing about me.)
2. I find and pay for childcare providers who love my kids and who are not shy about sending me reminders when I am in charge of the preschool snack or my son needs to have his Cub Scout uniform after school. I also depend heavily on my kids’ teachers, church leaders, and friends to keep the household rolling.
3. I am in a practice area with relatively flexible deadlines and manageable workloads. Sure, I have made more than one frantic phone call to my neighbor to meet my son’s school bus because a meeting or court hearing ran late, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
4. I try to focus on what I accomplish instead of what I am missing. This morning I fed, shoed, and hugged both of my kids before I left for work with my wallet, keys, and cell phone all in my purse. This is a successful morning. Who cares if I didn’t start the dishwasher and I only mascaraed one eye?
Looking back on your path, what advice would you give a new attorney?
Take pride in being an attorney and pursue your career goals with passion and confidence.
Take advantage of your “new attorney” identity because it gives you an excuse to spend time on legal research, try new theories and strategies, and ask dumb questions from more experienced attorneys.
Also, what advice would you give a new attorney with young children?
It will be tempting to ignore your degree and your license and focus solely on your kids, especially if you can afford it. My advice is, if you do take time out of paying legal work, to stay positioned for re-entry. You could do this by continuing to stay in touch with professional associations, volunteering, or simply subscribing to and reading a legal trade journal. I know from experience that it takes a long time and a lot of effort to elbow your way back in to practicing law, and it helps to keep a foot in the door.
If you have young children and you are working in a job that takes you away from your kids, my advice would be to find and keep caregivers who you trust and who may even be better than you are at some of the parenting responsibilities. (I am the first to admit that my babysitter does a better job than I would at keeping my kids’ noses wiped.) When you can trust your caregiver, you can focus your attention on being a terrific lawyer.
What are the things you enjoy most about practicing?
In general, I love being a lawyer, but I think my favorite part of my job is meeting new clients for the first time. My practice gives me the chance to meet hundreds of new families every year and to have meaningful conversations about them about their background and their goals. It is gratifying to have these conversations when I am in a position to help them with their next steps.