It's a struggle to figure out the juggling act, she says. "You want to be seen as a team player, and then all of a sudden you have children, and you are thinking, 'I can't be constantly available in the same way I was before.' Whether those demands are coming from your law firm or colleagues or they are demands you are putting on yourself … it's really hard to go back in time and change how you are going to operate," she says.
Smith says she took maternity leave after her daughter, Olivia, was born in 2008 and went back to work full time. She made partner in January and says her leave did not hinder her promotion. She says that while she works in a "pretty understanding environment" at Baker & Hostetler, her job is nevertheless demanding. She may leave the office at 5:15 p.m., but she often works at home in the evenings.
"When I was a young lawyer, I thought that my work was absolutely world-changing. Not to say that it's not important … but being a mom gives me a new perspective on how to prioritize everything," says Smith, who is expecting a second child in November.
Like Smith, Amy Beckstead, a labor and employment partner in DLA Piper in Austin, Texas, started a networking group for women lawyers, MAMAs Austin, in 2010. She says the women lawyers with children use the group to "talk about issues that happen when you are a working mom." Speakers have talked to the group, which has more than 200 members, about topics such as how to make flextime work, marketing, how to talk to your children about sex and how to maintain a relationship with your husband.
Beckstead, whose children are 5 and 7, says she works a flextime schedule at DLA Piper, but it's "kind of chaotic" in that some weeks she works long hours and others she doesn't.
"I made partner last year on a part-time schedule. It hasn't hurt me in the least; in fact I think it helps me. With a lower billing requirement, I can do a lot in the community that helps you build business," she says.
Laura Edrington, a partner in Locke Lord in Houston who worked a part-time schedule for about 15 years while her children were young, says she doesn't consider "mommy track" a derogatory term or concept. "I chose my role as a mom," she says.
Edrington, a 1988 University of Houston Law Center graduate, had one child while in law school and had a second after she joined the firm now known as Locke Lord as an associate. After having her second child, Edrington says the long hours were taking a toll and she was ready to leave the firm. In December 1993, she had accepted a job with a client, but the firm's management committee offered her a part-time schedule, so she stayed at the firm.
"It was great, and I don't regret it. You can never take back those years with your kids. It does set you back a little bit with your career, but for me it was an easy decision," says Edrington, who had a third child while working part time as a senior counsel. She says she chose to return to full-time status in January 2008 because her practice was so busy that she had been working full-time hours for a couple of years. Edrington, who has a bond and securitization practice, made partner in late 2007.
What advice would Edrington give to young women lawyers with children?