Law firm run by working moms is taking a new approach to work-life balance

Last week, Texas Right to Life reported on a Huffington Post survey of hundreds of women who have elected childlessness over motherhood.  The reasons for their decision varied, but there was an overarching theme of women believing that dedication to a career was incompatible with bearing and raising children. 

Indeed, many career paths are so demanding that women are faced with the dilemma of either quitting their jobs – which they strove to attain and at which they are often exceedingly skilled – or “outsource” their parenting responsibilities for lack of time to be present themselves.  Lawyers, financiers, doctors, and many others face this difficult crossroads upon becoming mothers.  Or, as evidenced by the Huffington Post survey, many women choose to forego the entire conundrum.  Very slowly, however, some inroads are being made to show mothers that a work-life balance is possible under the right conditions.  A budding law firm in Virginia is one example.

In May, the New York Times released an extensive portrait of the women behind the Geller Law Group.  The firm is an all-woman undertaking predicated on the belief that women can – and should – have the ability to pursue motherhood and career in tandem, even if that career is as demanding as the legal profession.  To that end, Geller Law Group partners Maria Simon and Rebecca Geller have had to pioneer a new approach to practicing law that flies in the face of the traditional glued-to-the-desk or always-in-court modus operandi imposed on associates by traditional firms.  For the sake of face time with their children, Geller and Simon craft their work schedules around their family life, rather than vice versa. 

As the Times reports, Geller and Simon “have a near-evangelical determination to show that parents can nurture their professional ambitions while being fully present in their children’s lives.  Ms. Simon has such conviction on this point that she is almost personally offended by suggestions it might not be possible.”  Indeed, in recent years, friction has grown between factions who believe work-life balance is a possible achievement and those who believe the notion is a figment of the dreaming woman’s imagination.  Simon made a grounded observation in relation to the debate: “I think women can have it all.  It’s just based on your paradigm of ‘all.’”

The Geller Law Group seeks to prove that, while being a successful, fulfilled working mom is not easy, women nevertheless deserve a shot at the dream.  And by and large the firm is exceeding the expectations of naysayers.  The Times calls the firm a “small-scale experiment in parenting while employed,” acknowledging that, “the reality has been messier than the theory.”  For example, the partners work hours comparable to those at traditional law firms.  The ideal of being able to parent and work did not come with a reduced work load that left more time to parent; rather, Geller and Simon worked to achieve a more malleable schedule that defies the iron-clad scheduling dictates of other firms.  Instead of working fewer hours, the women of The Geller Law Group have the flexibility to work those hours around their children’s lives – putting in time on weekends or late at night, and often from home.  The article explains:

Ms. Geller, who has two boys ages 6 and 4 and a 12-month-old girl, spends Tuesdays and Thursdays with her younger two children, shepherding them to music classes and play dates and squeezing in work while they rest.  Many of her tasks, like introductory phone calls and managing the daily inflow of client queries, can be wedged in throughout the day.

The ability to work from home – a boon to mothers in many professions – involves some creativity when running a law firm. For example, Geller’s phones are strategically routed to wherever she is – if she’s working from home, that’s where her business calls are automatically directed.  Likewise, if she is on the road, her cell phone takes over.  The technology allowing women to branch out of the traditional office setting is in place, but businesses are not always willing to experiment and accommodate. 

While there are undoubtedly many opportunities for working mothers that have yet to be explored, women are slowly but surely achieving the ability to incorporate the fulfillment of motherhood in conjunction with the career pursuits they worked hard to attain.  Examples like The Geller Law Group affirm that children can be raised by moms who are fully present because of their willingness to sacrifice in order to achieve a balance that promotes a healthy family life and successful career.  Helping mothers and families flourish is at the heart of being Pro-Life.