Richmond Women’s Law Work-Life Panel
By Taylor Anne Moffett (2L)
Work-life integration has changed since March 2020, when the pandemic began, even in big law. More people are working flex schedules, spending part of their week in the office and the other part working remotely. This has given the workforce more time to do household chores between calls with clients or spend time with their kids before and after school. The time that was once spent commuting to work can now be spent elsewhere. Knowing that work-life integration has changed since the pandemic and that women especially are concerned about juggling home life and a legal career, Richmond Women’s Law hosted a Work-Life Panel. We invited four practicing attorneys from different backgrounds to share their unique experiences and to give their advice on what has worked best for them.
First, let me introduce you to the panelists:
Colonel LaJohnne Morris is an Army Staff Judge Advocate who runs the JAG office at Fort Lee. She has served in the Army for over twenty years. She has been stationed worldwide, including in South Korea, Qatar, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, North Carolina, California, Hawaii, and Virginia. She is also a new mother with another on the way!
Cheryl Atchison 15L is an attorney at CancerLinc. Cheryl had an eight-month-old when she started law school and then had her second child after her first year of law school. She sometimes had to bring her kids to class because she couldn’t find a babysitter. After graduating from Richmond Law, Cheryl worked for Hirschler for seven years. Four months ago, she began working at CancerLinc, a non-profit that connects cancer patients and their families with legal assistance. Cheryl now has four children.
Alexis Fisher-Rizk 05L is an assistant commonwealth attorney for Henrico County. She was a first-generation law student when she started at Richmond Law. After graduating, Alexis worked at the Richmond Public Defender’s Office for four years. She then went into private practice for a few years until she became a Commonwealth Attorney six years ago. Alexis is also the treasurer of the Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association.
Kim MacLeod 96L is a partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP. As a first-generation law student, Kim graduated from Richmond Law and began working at Hunton & Williams (now Hunton Andrews Kurth) after clerking for the Virginia Supreme Court. Kim is a partner in Hunton’s business finance practice and has been at the firm for over 24 years. She serves as chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee and is a member of the Associate’s Committee (overseeing compensation and evaluations). Kim has held various other leadership positions at Hunton, including Richmond office Hiring Partner, Firmwide Hiring Partner, and Vice-Chair of the Richmond Pro Bono Committee. She is also active in the community and is on the board of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, Mending Walls, Boaz & Ruth, and The Positive Vibe Foundation. Kim is a single mother to two human children, Riley and Aidan, and two canine children, Mookie and Maggie.
These are some of my key takeaways from the panel:
- There are a lot of childcare options. Cheryl had to bring her kids to class on occasion during law school. Colonel LaJohnne Morris has an au pair to help with her childcare. Alexis’ husband works from home and can be there when the kids get back from school. Each situation is a little different.
- Our panelists recommend that you establish healthy work-life boundaries early on in your career. While also recognizing that you have to put in a lot of hours at the beginning of your career, especially at mid-size to large law firms.
- To mitigate people’s expectations of a quick response, always set your out-of-office if you take the day off.
- If you are interviewing somewhere and want to know if the employer respects work-life balance, reach out to classmates that summered there or ask younger associates at the firm about their experience. However, DO NOT ask your interviewers unless they bring it up with you. If an interviewer does ask what you expect to have as a work-life balance, be genuine and give an honest answer.
- If you’re summering at a firm, come in on the weekend or stay past dinner. Look around the office, and ask yourself, “Are there a lot of other people still in the building? Are people comfortable going home to eat dinner with their family?” This could be an indicator as to what the firm expects from its employees. Then you must decide what kind of work-life integration works for you because everyone is different.
- As an associate at a firm, you are typically going to be working longer hours. As a *very* general rule of thumb, the larger the firm, the longer the hours.
- Public defenders often work longer hours than prosecutors because, as a public defender, you have clients, and as a prosecutor, you don’t. When Alexis was a public defender, she visited clients in jail up until 9:00 pm on some nights. As a prosecutor, she no longer has that direct communication with clients. She will work with victims, but Henrico County is her client now.
- Everyone is a little different and will find that they prefer different work-life balances. Some people are okay answering emails on vacation because they feel less overwhelmed when they return to work the following week.
To watch the full recording of the Richmond Women’s Law Work-Life Panel, click here. (Must have UR NetID login).
About the Author
Taylor Anne Moffett