How To Practice Law As A New Mom

How To Practice Law As A New Mom

This week we welcome guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about balancing a law career and a new baby.

As a new attorney starting out, I had gone straight from undergrad to law school to private practice. I was in my early 20’s, single, and willing and eager to work as much as possible. 

I happily put in long hours at the office including weekends and on holidays. I enjoyed my work and the feeling of being needed by clients and my boss. 

After a six-year break in practicing law, I got back into the industry. This time, I was sworn in to the New York Bar on my son’s second birthday with my husband by my side. Needless to say, my day-to-day life is extremely different this time around now that I’m married and have a child (and one on the way!). 

That doesn’t mean, however, that I couldn’t be a good lawyer and a good wife and mother. I simply had to figure out the right balance of each role. Here’s how I did it. 

Set Your Expectations 

The first year my son was in daycare, he was sick every single month for six straight months. I’m not talking about having the sniffles. I’m talking major illnesses like the flu, pneumonia, hand, foot, and mouth disease, and others. On top of that, he was suffering from food allergies my husband and I couldn’t quite pinpoint. 

I literally missed a week of work every month for six months. I’m fortunate to have worked for an incredibly understanding employer at the time (not practicing law). 

Fast forward to the second year my son was in daycare, and I was working for a private law firm. This time, when my son got a major stomach bug, my office was not supportive at all. I spent several nights in a row cleaning vomit off of sheets, clothes, and showering in the middle of the night after being thrown up on multiple times. Then, the next day, I would hold my son in my arms while typing out legal documents on Google Docs on my phone with just my thumb. 

It was utterly and completely exhausting. And, it just wasn’t working for my family. 

As a new mom and a lawyer, know two things. Number one, your child will get sick. Number two, you want to have absolute confidence that when your child does get sick, your employer will be understanding. If you have doubts about that, find another job. Because you just can’t be everything to everyone in those crisis situations. At least not long-term. 

Seek Help 

In my case, my husband travels often for work during cold and flu season. He helps out as much as he can, but when he is away, I am a single parent for the duration of my husband’s trip. That means, if my son is sick, I’m the only parent that can take care of him during that time. 

However, I have called on a friend a few times now for help during those situations. She has held my son while I cleaned up more vomit (yes, really). She has held my son while I showered. She has held my son while I have taken a nap, because I just couldn’t keep going anymore without solid rest. 

As lawyers, our job is important. Our clients depend on us to handle complicated and difficult matters for them. And, as moms, our kids depend on us for even more. 

In order to be able to meet all of those demands, we have to find ways to take care of ourselves. That means having a support system in place that can give you a break when parenting and lawyering become especially difficult. 

Look For Flexible Work 

I mentioned that the law firm where I worked when my son recently had a flu bug was not supportive of my need to take time off to be with him. I was doing everything I could to still be a productive member of the team while also taking care of my son. 

It became extremely clear, however, that no amount of burning the candle at both ends would satisfy my job. As a mom, the job simply wasn’t a good fit. I left and opened my own law practice. 

I’m not saying you have to hang your own shingle in order to balance being a mom and a lawyer. One of my best friends from law school is legal counsel for a major insurance company. Her son is just four months younger than mine. She is both an amazing mom and an amazing attorney. 

She went through a similar experience her son’s first year in daycare. He was constantly sick, and her private law firm employer still expected her to meet her billable hour requirements despite her son being out of daycare for extended periods of time. 

Now, as in-house counsel, my friend says there is much more balance and flexibility. She is happier, and her son is happier. 

As a lawyer mom, you absolutely have options. If you find your job is not the right fit for you as a working mother, there are other possibilities out there.

At the end of the day, a job will replace you without thinking twice. But, your family is forever. The time really does fly by, and your kids really will grow up too fast. Take the time to enjoy being a mom. Love on your babies. They won’t be babies for long. 


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About Hillary Vaillancourt

Hillary Vaillancourt is a lawyer and writer at The Vaillancourt Law Firm, LLC. She has experience in a wide variety of matters including food law, education law, real estate law, family law, criminal law, contracts, and estate planning. She earned her JD from New England Law|Boston and is licensed in Virginia.

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