Rachel is currently Special Counsel at RPC Premier Law, a joint law venture between Reynolds Porter Chamberlain and Premier Law. Rachel holds a BA/LLB (Hons) from the Australian National University and a BCL (Hons) from the University of Oxford. She somehow managed to get admitted across 4 continents including New York, England & Wales and Singapore. She spends around half the day in her office and the other half split in many directions, including running Advocakes & Solicitarts and being run off her feet by her 2 children. She has an active pro-bono practice and enjoys teaching.
This letter is addressed to her 28-year-old self, a mid-level lawyer who is very pregnant with her first child.
I hear your sigh of exhaustion as you ease into your chair and try to slide as close to your table as possible without pressing into your belly. Delivering this baby will certainly ease your physical burden, but will bring a whole host of other issues into play.
It is easy, when in law school, to imagine yourself as the multitasking Eveready Bunny, running a fulfilling practice and the ideal family. But the reality is different. At this stage, I know you are wondering whether you can bear to leave baby with your helper, even though your parents and parents-in-law have promised to drop in from time to time. I know you are also wondering if you can afford to stay home if it becomes necessary, not just financially, but also sanity-wise.
Rachel, you are fortunate to have been brought up to believe you can conquer the world. And you are fortunate to have found a profession where your interests and abilities dovetail. I know the practice of law brings you great satisfaction. But life is about choices, and supportive though your employer may be, a work-life balance is an ideal and not an entitlement. There will be a lot of give and take ahead of you, Rachel.
Your firm may allow you to work flexible hours, and from home, at least for part of the time. Your firm may also allow you to work part-time. Be realistic. You will have to make sacrifices in terms of the quality of work that comes to you, and financially as well. I know you love the transactional aspects of your work. Remember that transactional work, by its very nature, requires 24/7 availability. If you want to work part-time or from home, you may need to step off the fast line of the highway. That is okay. You can step back on when your family circumstances allow you to do so.
There are also many other options open to you. Having a law degree gives you so many other options. You can go in-house, whether as a lawyer or in some other capacity. You can join MNCs, the public service, a start-up. You can teach. Your ability to analyse, elucidate, and write well will always stand you in good stead.
Regardless of where you are, be fair to your employer. Lawyering is a service industry. Your employer needs to provide a service to its clients and make ends meet. Try and look at work-life balance from your employer's point of view too.
Fundamentally, Rachel, remember this: there is no right or wrong in the choices you make to achieve a work-life balance. You may choose to continue in full-time practice, or you may choose to stay home with the children. These are two ends of a spectrum, and in between there are many points that you can choose. Whatever your choice may be from time to time, I know you will do the best that you can. There should be no guilt or regret involved. "If only I had" is one of the worst phrases in the English language. I know you will make a choice that is sensible and measured, and you will make the best of it.
Enjoy this new phase of your life, Rachel! God bless you and your family always.