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Although it has been a number of years since I graduated from law school and began my legal career, I distinctly remember my first impressions of life in a law firm. While I felt prepared for the challenges of practicing law, I was decidedly less practiced at managing my personal life and a career. Somehow during those early years, I managed to make choices that have served me well. Now, happily married, a mother and a partner at a large firm, I’m often asked: “How do you do it?” In other words, how do you manage a full-time career as a law partner in a major firm and life as a mother and wife? A number of factors allow women like me to tackle more than seems reasonably doable in any one day, week or month and accomplish it all well enough to succeed on the job front and to witness our children thriving on the home front. On the days I have the energy to contemplate my success as a wife, I declare victory if I recognize my better half as I climb into bed. As you embark on your legal career with professional and personal dreams of your own, I offer to you my “how to have it all” primer. First and foremost: Love what you do. Work hard to establish credibility and goodwill early on. Let’s face it-for women, a career as a partner in a major law firm doesn’t leave you with a part-time job as a mother and wife. It means you have more than two full-time jobs. That level of responsibility is only sustainable if you enjoy your professional endeavors. Garnering the energy to get up each weekday morning to face a day of meetings, drafting and administrative duties, followed by school meetings, spelling-test preparation and story time is impossible unless you find satisfaction in most of these tasks. Think early, long and hard Those women who graduate from law school and go on to careers that they find unsatisfying are unwilling to sustain the balancing act for very long; they find it just isn’t worth the trouble. Invest the time now to think about goals and to research job opportunities, workplace cultures and employers’ expectations to try to maximize the likelihood of a good fit later. Talk to lawyers of both genders and at all levels in the hierarchy of the firms or organizations in which you are interested to ascertain their level of professional and personal satisfaction. Work very hard in the years before you have children to establish a reputation as a “can do” person who always gets the job done well. Obviously, you have to continue to work hard once you have a family, but your years of dedicated service will generate goodwill that will serve you well when conflicting demands create a need for flexibility later on. If your colleagues know you always come through, they will not doubt your commitment (as much) when you leave early to catch a child’s piano concert. Choose your significant other wisely. The level of support my husband would offer me in my professional pursuits was not a major consideration when we married; I was too young, over-confident and na�ve to realize how important his commitment to my goals would be to achieving success in multiple roles. Luckily for me, my husband was raised by a single working mom who prepared him for family life with a working wife in a way almost nothing else could. While some would say his expectations of me on the domestic front are low, I like to think of them as fair. For example, I only cook one or two nights a week. Most evenings my family has eaten dinner by the time I get in, and my husband was the one who prepared it. We share most duties around the house. There are few nights that, as my head hits the pillow, I don’t say a silent prayer of thanks for a life partner who is as vested in my professional success as his own and as dedicated to raising happy children as I am. Child care makes a difference It is vital to invest in reliable, quality childcare. No one can effectively tackle complex legal issues while worrying whether the nanny has little Jack sitting in front of the television five hours a day. Think long and hard about the pluses and minuses of daycare versus inhome care. The decision is very personal and both have worked well for families. Seek out others who have faced the decision and ask them to advice. For me, hiring a nanny worked best, providing maximum flexibility and individual attention that simulated life at home with mom. In choosing daycare or hiring a nanny, do your homework, check references and follow your instincts. Don’t overlook extended family members who may be interested in lending a hand. And if a childcare situation is not working, do not be afraid to make a change. It is essential that you carve out time for your kids. I calendar my kids’ important events just like professional commitments and try to schedule around them. As a result, I miss very few of them. To be honest, as a full-time practitioner, I miss out on a lot of my children’s everyday moments. However, I fill available evenings, weekends and vacations with a good mix of structured events and free time so that we stay connected. Almost every evening that I arrive home by bedtime, we spend time reading together. This ritual has been a wonderful bonding experience. I often hear about my kids’ day as they wind down. I remind my kids constantly that I love them and that if they need me, I will be there. As the children of a working mom, my kids have developed a level of adaptability and independence that will serve them well throughout their lives. Acknowledge your guilt but don’t let it overwhelm you. I’d be lying if I failed to acknowledge occasional feelings of guilt about my decision to practice law full time while raising a family. Over the years, however, I have come to view guilt more as an affirmation of my love for my kids and my desire to see them happy and less as an indicator of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A little bit of guilt (like a little bit of fear) can be a good thing. It motivates me to stay on task in the office and at home. Many of us have spent our whole lives learning subconsciously that “good” working mothers feel guilty. If you can’t avoid feelings of guilt entirely, put the feelings to work for you in a positive way. Don’t listen to those who say you can’t have it all. If you want to be an attorney, mother and wife, don’t be afraid to say so. Ignore those who disagree with your choices. Only you are capable of judging what is best for you and your family. Surround yourself with female colleagues who are similarly situated and male colleagues who support their spouses’ career choices. Learn from your own and others’ successes and failures. Be aware that the choices you make at the onset of your career can help or hinder your ability to “have it all” later in your career. Get started on the right foot and establish patterns that will enable you to achieve success at home and at the office. Having it all is well worth the effort. Suzanne S. Mayes is a partner in the public finance department at Philadelphia’s Saul Ewing. She is the firm’s hiring partner and serves on its diversity and government involvement committees.

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