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Work-Life Balance

Filed appropriately under the category: "Insane." That's where I have placed the past few weeks of my life. While my husband and I were fortunate enough to take a nice trip to Europe--leaving our 7-month-old son to be pampered for 10 days by his grandma and grandpa--getting back into the groove of life and work has proved to be a challenge.

Before I left, I knew work would be busy when I returned. But having worked under tight deadlines for many years, I knew I would get the work done. My husband also had been scrambling at work to make progress on several important projects. And he was prepared for those projects to be waiting for him upon his return. These things we planned for.

But as new parents, we didn't incorporate "the baby factor" into our plan. Sure, it was a few days before our little guy got settled comfortably back in his own house and slept soundly in his own crib. We could deal with that. But no sooner was he back to his happy self than he started getting ear infections--one right after the other. And here's what we didn't plan for--middle-of-the-workday calls from daycare, impromptu trips to the doctor, and sleepless nights--oh, the sleepless nights! This disruption to our schedules, combined with a week's worth of catch-up at work, made for a couple of crazed and irritable working parents.

The saving grace for both of us? Bosses who understood when these parental duties called. In these times of budget and staffing cutbacks, some employers may be setting aside their family-friendly policies on flexible schedules in favor of keeping what staff members they still have working in the office. And considering the financial difficulties law firms have been facing, I expected them to be among the least understanding. However, some firms are seizing an opportunity to be more family-friendly while also saving money. They are allowing employees with family responsibilities to work reduced hours at a reduced salary.

Last month Working Mother magazine honored 50 law firms that have made work-life balance a priority. The list boasts some familiar names, including Alston & Bird, Holland & Hart, Jenner & Block, Littler Mendelson, McGuireWoods, Perkins Coie, Sidley Austin and WilmerHale--to name just a few. To see the full list, visit www.workingmother.com.

Kudos to those firms and to all companies that place a priority on family. These policies make for happier and more productive employees.

Editor

Cathleen Flahardy

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