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Life is full of coincidences. While on the phone talking about writing this article on balancing professional and personal life, I glanced over at my sick daughter on my office couch. Jane Pauley put it best: “Juggling a career and a family is nothing like juggling tennis balls. It’s like juggling a basketball — and a few eggs.” For the past 10 years, I have become all too familiar with the juggling act of work and home. At the outset, let me say that I am one of the lucky ones: I absolutely love what I do as a lawyer. I love the challenges my type of practice presents, my clients and the people I work with. On the other hand, my family (whom I love even more) is my most important priority. This, of course, creates a natural tension between the mental and time demands of this profession and the importance of being there while my family grows up — whether it is through plays, ballgames, recitals or the everyday events of dinner and homework. Quite frankly, there is no such thing as attaining the perfect balance — especially when you work full time. There are times that your practice will require much more attention and will cut into family time. The opposite also is true — I spent nearly one straight week at home last year due to my daughter’s positive strep throat test. Meetings and conferences had to be rearranged and deadlines extended, but it was more important to be at home that time. Clients also are extremely supportive, probably because most have families of their own. And when they know that you always will be there when necessary, they can work with you when unexpected emergencies or other family issues arise. Maintaining strict priorities while being flexible, communicating constantly, and coordinating schedules with work and home are the most important factors in making it all work — and hopefully keep me from going crazy in the process. The support of loved ones and co-workers is invaluable. Without a supportive spouse, fantastic secretary and the great attorneys I work with, any type of balance would be impossible. TECH HELP But an additional help has come to the working mother’s aid in a somewhat unlikely form: technology. Cell phones, laptops, faxes through e-mail and personal data assistants have made the office mobile and working outside of the office more flexible. When you find yourself faced with a holiday party at school and a conference call scheduled within five minutes of the party’s conclusion, a cell phone makes it possible. Electronic mail has particularly changed my practice. It wasn’t too many years ago that communicating electronically (besides fax) with a client was virtually unheard of. Currently, well more than half of my written communications with clients are by e-mail. My law practice is devoted 100 percent to insurance law — rendering insurance coverage opinions and litigating insurance issues. Three years ago I could not live without a Dictaphone because of the large number of long documents I generate. With voice recognition software, in addition to the informality and ease of electronic mail, I can generate the documents simultaneously while creating them. The result is twofold: increased productivity and the ability to work from any dial-in location. Also, the fact that my laptop at home can completely access my desktop at work (including faxes) gives me the utmost in flexibility. My firm is even exploring the option of becoming paperless. If that occurred, then all of my files could be at home (or wherever my laptop is) with me, too. Of course, I can look upon this new way of practicing as a curse and a blessing. Too much bleeding over of the professional world into the four walls of your private sanctuary is not conducive to any type of harmony. However, the availability of such technology has made it possible for a working mom to take off for a school play, a holiday party and a sick child without compromising work projects or client needs. Technology isn’t the entire answer to my challenge of being a working mom. The greatest factor is a total support system: a partner at home I can rely upon, partners at my firm who will work with my schedule and a great staff I can depend on. But as technology advances and the line between home and work blurs because of the ability to communicate and to access and create documents anywhere, anytime, more options are available to all working mothers — even when the kids get sick. Veronica Bates is a founding partner of Hermes Sargent Bates in Dallas. Her practice is devoted solely to insurance litigation and coverage opinions. Her e-mail address is [email protected]

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