Kristina Maynard
Kristina Maynard ()

Monday marked Kristina Maynard’s first day back at the office in six years. Her children—ages 9, 12 and 13—wanted to commemorate the moment as she had done for them every first day of school.

Maynard had been a trusts and estates partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, where since 2004 she had worked out of Detroit-based Am Law 200 firm’s office in the Motor City suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Maynard made partner in 2010, but a year later she made the decision to leave her practice behind in order to focus on raising a family.

Now, with her three children on their way to adolescence, she’s stepping back into her estate planning practice. The American Lawyer caught up with Maynard, 44, to discuss her heading back into Big Law.

You originally left the firm in 2011. Why did you decide to step away? What have you been doing since then?

In 2011, I had a busy estate planning practice and three children under the age of 8 and, leading up to that time, it was sort of a whirlwind for me. I practiced first as a CPA [at Deloitte LLP] and put my husband through medical school and then I went to law school. I had my first child right after graduation and then studied and passed the bar while my husband was deployed in Kuwait with the military.

So I went right into practicing law and starting a family at the same time. By 2011, I had established myself as a lawyer, my services were in demand and I had great clients and colleagues, but I just felt like that was a right time for me to step back and rebalance.

What have you been doing since then?

I’ve done a lot of volunteering, but I focused primarily on the family and established some routines and traditions that I can continue with my job outside the home. I volunteered on the board of my son’s PTA and with local charities in my town and the JDRF [formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation], which is a cause that’s close to my heart.

I also invested in training and credentials that help me stay current in my field of law. Back in 2013, I completed a certificate program in probate and estate planning that was issued by the State Bar of Michigan and a CLE program. I spent some time in New York City last summer doing an estate and probate seminar.

Did you go into this thinking that you would always return to practicing law?

I think I always knew I would come back. At the time when I left, I thought of it as a temporary thing and I think the entire time I was gone, I knew that I wanted to come back at some point.

Why did you decide to return and, specifically, why to Honigman?

I thought about returning to work several times over the last several years, and each time I did it was frustrating because part-time attorney jobs are not exactly advertised and it takes some patience and persistence to convince a firm to invest in the unknown.

In my case, two of my former partners who are both working mothers played an important role in my returning to this firm. It started with lunch dates and several phone calls and—after all that—I was excited about the opportunity to practice law again and optimistic that I could do it in a manageable way that was still adding value to the firm. Women inside law firms are a powerful tool in tapping into the talent of women with a gap in their resumes.

Do you think that helped in your transition back to the firm?

I think so. I think my partners here have been instrumental in that. It’s always sort of a scary thing to jump back in, but I can honestly say it’s sort of been seamless. I feel like I’m sort of returning home.

We’ve reported on firms using certain programs to bring women back into Big Law. Were there any programs or resources at Honigman that you used in your transition back to firm life?

What’s really helped me the most about Honigman’s approach to bringing back talented women is their willingness to tailor an individual arrangement that fits my needs. They allowed me to develop a billable hour’s requirement, an office location and even helped me with workflow assistance, where the partners help facilitate my workflow so I can take on assignments that I can reasonably do remotely.

That’s invaluable [and] for me the single best thing that I found in coming back. I know that they do that for others. There’s also a program called “WorkStyle” that allots funds for lawyers to purchase technology for the home so you can mimic your office at home. I can be at home working and it’s as if I’m in the office.

What’s different this time around?

I think for me it was really a good time [in 2011] to take a break and focus on my family. So what’s different for me is that I had a chance to do that. I established some great routines with my family. I feel sort of at peace coming back and focusing again on a career and being able to do it in a flexible way that allows me to still maintain that connection at home.

All interviews have been condensed and edited for style, grammar and clarity.