Have a baby, and a killer career

How to balance your new family and work lives because you can have it all

By Sheena MacAskill

On Tuesday December 1st, 2009

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As one of the first so-called “part-time” equity partners on Bay Street, Sheena MacAskill (who worked 1,500 — 1,600 hours instead of 1,800 — 1,900 hours) knows a thing or two about having it all. “You need a fabulous husband, a fabulous daycare or a fabulous nanny,” she says. The former McCarthy’s litigator turned her experience into a coaching/consulting business, advising law firms on issues like parental leave policies and flextime and coaching individual lawyers.

Here is Sheena’s 8-step program to manage your maternity leave so you can return at full tilt.

1. Be realistic
Think about the length of your maternity leave and be realistic about the impact that it will have on your practice. Will it be harder to resume your practice in six months or in one year? What about your track to partnership?

2. Be strategic
Delegate files strategically. Which files are you prepared to delegate and how will you get them back? Best method: talk frankly with the colleagues who are taking on your files.

3. Make a plan
Talk to partners and give them a ballpark estimate (if possible) of how long you will be away. (Don’t worry, some won’t even notice how long you were gone.)

4. Keep in touch
When you’re on maternity leave, stay in touch by email and ask your secretary to forward your mail.

5. Stay involved
If you are working on a big deal or trial and there is an important meeting or event happening while you are away, ask to be involved. A few months down the road, this two or three hour investment of time could keep you on the file.

6. Have lunch
Go downtown for lunch with your colleagues.

7. Announce your return
At least one month before you go back, send an email telling your colleagues that you’re ready to hit the ground running when you return.

8. Go back
Always go back to work and test it out before making a decision to stop working. You don’t know until you’ve tried it!