Life Without Parole: How having a second child is a lot like hiring a new associate

The story I’m about to tell you is true. Except the people aren’t real, I made up the quotes and I made up some of the events. Okay, a lot of the events. But otherwise it’s totally true.

I’m at my office, trying to get through a pile of work, when an email pops up from one of the legal assistants. A new associate, Sarah, has just joined the firm, and the assistant has to work for her in addition to Jim, the associate she’s worked under for five years.

Email: Now that I have to split my time between Jim and Sarah, Jim is not pleased.

Reply: Tell him you’ll still pay attention to him. And remember, this is a hard transition.

Moments after hitting send, I get a text from my husband. He’s on paternity leave with our five-year-old son, Ethan, and our six-month-old daughter, Kate.

Text: I don’t know what to do with Ethan. Since we brought Kate home, he thinks I’m not giving him any attention. He keeps acting out.

Who’d have thought hiring a new associate would be just like having a second child? In both cases, the newbie is a threat to the hierarchy. I text back exactly what I told the assistant. As I get back to work, an email pops up from the managing partner.

Email: Jim is in a bad mood. I gave Sarah four new files. I’d offered them to Jim six months ago, before Sarah started, and he wouldn’t take them. Now he’s upset. What should I do?

Reply: Ask if he’s feeling slighted that you’re giving love to the newbie. I guarantee that’s it. Now another text from my needy husband:

Text: Ethan is freaking out. I gave Kate his box of old toys. The one he hasn’t touched in years. Ethan is having a meltdown. What do I do?

Why does everyone come to me with questions about babies, big and small? I look at the email I just sent my partner. Yup, this works. Copy. Paste. Send. In a few minutes, my phone buzzes again. It’s the husband:

Text: Sorry I bothered you. I know how busy you are. What can I do to help out tonight?

Reply: Let’s start with a back rub and see where it goes . . .

Then the managing partner writes me to say thanks and asks how he can pay me back. I instinctively cut and paste:

Reply: Let’s start with a back rub and see where it goes . . .

Send. Oh no.

wild birds

 


Sharon BauerSharon Bauer is a partner at Fireman Steinmetz Daya LLP and Precedent’s parenting columnist. Follow the mother of two on Twitter at @SharonBauerLLB.

 

 


Precedent Summer 2017 IssueThis story is from our Summer 2017 issue.

 

 

 


Illustration by Adrian Forrow

Life Without Parole: How to lawyer your baby to sleep

You know the cliché “sleeps like a baby”? Well, it’s a cruel misnomer. Babies don’t sleep.

Before my son was born, a few years back, I expected him to keep me up now and again with crying and diaper changes. I wasn’t worried. I know a thing or two about pulling all-nighters. After all, as a lawyer, I have to bill 2,000 hours a year.

Having a newborn couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Basically, yes. My colicky son pretty much never slept, especially at night. During my six-month working mat leave, I had to train him to do what I thought was a natural act. And there wasn’t time for anything else. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. The puffy, dark circles under my eyes. The knotted hair. The spit-up-stained pajamas I’d worn for a week.

Having a type A personality, I knew I couldn’t give up on this disaster. And around his one-month birthday, I realized something: all the lawyer skills I started to develop back when I was a junior associate could also help me sleep-train my little one.

To a feisty associate, the billable-hour target matters more than anything. One way to keep yourself motivated is to track your hours. That means docketing, on time and all the time. So I brought that logic into the nursery and downloaded a sleep-tracking app to monitor my baby’s sleep patterns (and my awake hours).

After two months, the app said I’d spent 372 hours awake with him in the middle of the night. If he were my client, I’d be rich. But of course, I’m doing this pro bono. Unlike my billable hours, I wanted this number to go down.

I started to lose motivation again. This is common in life, but not among us lawyers: we feed off of the chance to out-bill and out-lawyer our co-workers. So when I heard all the moms in my mommy group (with their skinny jeans) bragging about how much sleep their babies were getting, I started to think of these mommies as my competition. My son would get more sleep (and I would soon be able to fit into my skinny jeans).

So I did what any good young lawyer does when faced with a seemingly unsolvable problem: read. If memorizing the Rules of Civil Procedure put me to sleep — I mean taught me how to survive in court — then surely there’s something I can read that will teach me how to survive this dilemma. I took a pamphlet from my ob-gyn’s office, which recommended letting him “cry it out” and not to enter the room and console the baby. Well, this approach worked with some opposing counsel. I thought it was worth a try.

Success! The day my son turned six months old, I slept for more than four consecutive hours, the little guy not crying once.

When most lawyers do their readings, trounce the competition and meet their billable-hour target, they get a bonus. But as a parent, achieving my goal only meant that, on that morning, I actually had time to brush my teeth.

Mother with baby

 


Sharon BauerSharon Bauer is a partner at Fireman Steinmetz Daya LLP and Precedent’s parenting columnist. Follow the mother of two on Twitter at @SharonBauerLLB.

 

 


This story is from our Winter 2016 issue.

 

 

 


Photography by Jeannie Phan


Life Without Parole: How planning a birthday party is like prepping for trial

It’s two nights before the big day. I’ve spent countless hours over the past year preparing and it’s nearly here. The event space is booked. The guest list is confirmed. And the boxes are packed with my tab-filled binder, my 10 highlighters, four pens, a hole punch and, of course, a portable printer (you never know when that might come in handy). I’m ready for my daughter’s fifth birthday party. All in all, it’s been as stressful and time-consuming as prepping for trial. But the parallels between courtrooms and parties don’t end here.

There are, of course, the last-minute surprises. For example, as I run through the party checklist one last time late at night, my daughter runs down the stairs in a panic. “Mom, I don’t want a Cinderella birthday party anymore! I want a Batman-Cinderella party.” What? How can she change the theme on me last minute? Can I adjourn this party? “And by the way Mom, I want to invite Alex.”

While I have nothing against sweet little Alex, I know her overly judgmental parents, who would no doubt be in attendance as well. Parents, at these things, function as juries. They closely observe the party, probing for mistakes. So far, the jury-selection process has gone in my favour. I’ve already successfully “challenged” four of my daughter’s good friends, knowing their parents will take notes and gossip. But regarding Alex, my daughter is adamant. Looks like I’m stuck with her parents.

Even the attire at my daughter’s party is at risk of resembling that of the courts. “I can’t wear this pink princess dress anymore,” she tells me. “It won’t match the Batman theme.” Are you kidding me? “Where am I going to find you a Batman-Cinderella dress?” She quickly replies. “I know! That black dress with the big wings you wear to work.”

Is she right? Does my court robe really look like it belongs to the caped crusader? I reply, “No honey, only grown-ups get to wear costumes.”

With that, there’s one last thing to do: prepare my daughter for her performance on the stand. This is crucial, so as to avoid a repeat of last year where every present she opened was followed by a curt “like it” or “don’t like it.” I tell her that no matter what the present is, say “I love it.” She has a confused look on her face. “So, you want me to lie?” she asks. I remind myself: this is not a trial. I cannot be disbarred by the Mom Society. “Yes,” I reply. “Yes I do.”

party

 


Sharon BauerSharon Bauer is a partner at Fireman Steinmetz Daya LLP and Precedent’s parenting columnist. Follow the mother of two on Twitter at @SharonBauerLLB.

 

 


Cover of the Fall Issue of Precedent Magazine

This story is from our Fall 2016 issue.

 

 

 


Illustration by Kyle Metcalf

Life Without Parole: Why you should treat your child like a client

“Mommy, my taco broke,” shouts your four-year-old son. “Fix it.” It’s Tuesday Taco Night and from the look on your son’s face, things are about to get decidedly un-fiesta like, and fast.

You have a flashback to that afternoon, to the moment when the unruly client sitting across from you yelled, “You are my lawyer! Fix it.” Both as a parent and as a lawyer, you are supposed to be a miracle-worker. Fix everything or brace yourself for a tantrum.

Earlier, you tried to explain to your client, “I’m sorry, but the law is not on your side.” It didn’t work. Your client seemed on the verge of throwing a fit. You know the look. And so, when you tell your son, “I can’t put the taco back together,” you aren’t all that surprised to hear him scream back, “YES YOU CAN!”

OK, so how did you fix things with the client? To start, you asked for more facts. By rearranging the facts, you reasoned, you could make them fit the law to the client’s advantage. You tried, but it was useless. The facts just wouldn’t fit the law. But you refused to give up. “Mr. Smith, do not worry,” you declared. “We’ll do some research. I’m sure we can find another case that applies the law with a ‘flexible’ approach.” After doing the research, though, you still came up empty-handed. When you delivered the news, your client’s face went red, as smoke shot out of his ears. He shouted at you.

You had wanted to avoid this, but decided it was time to get the senior partner involved. Surely she would be able to manage your client’s expectations. As soon as she walked into the meeting, she said to the client, “You’ve got a great lawyer in your file. She will take good care of you. Got a problem? She will fix it.” With that, she turned around, walked out and shut the door. WHAT?! you thought. This is no time for compliments. Then, you did what you should have done from the start: stopped giving out false hope and stuck to hard truth. Eventually, the client, though unhappy, accepted reality.

Back to Tuesday Taco Night. Just like when you elicited more facts from your client to make them ‘fit’ the law, you get more toppings like salsa and cheese to ‘fit’ the taco. You hope this will distract your son from the broken taco shell but to no avail. Then you search the pantry, but can’t find another taco.

Next, similar to when you brought in the senior partner that afternoon, you call over Daddy, who just walked by. “Good, let him deal with this,” you think. “Daddy, my taco broke,” your son shouts hysterically. “Oh don’t worry,” he replies. “Your mom will fix it.” And he walks away.

As your son falls to the floor, arms flailing, you remember the solution that worked with your client: make him accept reality. And so you issue an ultimatum: “You either eat this broken taco or you’re having Monday’s Mystery Meat again!” In an instant, the crying stops. He eats the taco, broken shell and all.

Looks like your kid won’t be filing a parental negligence complaint with the grandparents after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sharon BauerSharon Bauer is a partner at Fireman Steinmetz Daya LLP and Precedent’s parenting columnist. Follow the mother of two on Twitter at @SharonBauerLLB.

 

 


This story is from our Spring 2016 issue.

 

 

 


Illustration by Hudson Christie