MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Meetings, debates, as Robert found out, you need moderation in order for these public forums to work. But as the woman we'll meet next can attest, you also need moderation in order for more personal things to work too like, for instance, your personal life. Marci Rose Levine is a partner at a top Washington law firm. She's also a mother to three young children, that's a combination legal insiders say is relatively rare in a town known for burning out young attorneys, especially young female attorneys. Tara Boyle spent some time with this attorney, slash, mommy to learn how she's finding a work life balance that isn't too hard or too soft but just right.
MS. TARA BOYLE
Marci Rose Levine, a partner at the law firm, SNR Denton is in the throes of a high stakes negotiation.
MS. MARCI ROSE LEVINE
Would you like to have one?
Okay, I'll find you another one.
It's a Friday afternoon and she's standing in the kitchen of her Bethesda home with her two-year-old twins.
...who are battling over accessories, specifically a glitzy scarf belonging to their sister Samantha. Luckily, Marci is able to rustle up a second scarf and avert a crisis.
There you go. Say, thank you mommy.
Thank you, mommy.
The boys have been home all day. It's Veterans day so their preschool is closed and that means Levine's Friday has been action packed.
We had a really great morning. And I found like a free play at my gym in (unintelligible) and they were great. And they took a nice long nap. So this is the first time today when we've really been home, just sitting and dealing with all of their energy.
Usually, Fridays are when Levine catches up on everything that didn't make it into the rest of the week. That's because she works a reduced schedule with Friday's off and an earlier departure time Monday through Thursday.
That means that I generally leave the office around 4:45 or so each day so I can pick up my children from preschool and from regular school. So I do work some odd times after they go to bed in the evening, sometimes on the weekends. But I have a lot of flexibility which is -- what's been really important for me.
That flexibility allows her to spend this time with her sons who, it should be said, are charming in every way but are not so interested in letting mommy do an interview. And what is this like on a daily...
It's chaotic. The twin experience is unlike anything I've ever experienced before.
So we decided to continue our conversation on Monday. In the hushed K Street offices of SNR Denton where Levine is a partner in the Health and Life Sciences sector.
I started out my career primarily working for hospitals and physicians and then really primarily hospitals for a long time.
Like many attorneys, Levine is busy all day long. She bills clients in six minute increments, meaning her time is always money. But she's found a way to keep work from becoming her whole life.
I tend to not be on big, huge investigations, litigations, things that you think of, you know, big teams of lawyers. I work for sometimes more modest sized clients.
Clients who back her desire to work a flexible schedule. And she's not the only one who has this option. She says about 10 percent of the attorneys in her practice group at SNR Denton have similar arrangements.
I think there's a lot of people who really crave this flexibility and it's men and it's women. It's people taking care of children and it's people taking care of parents and it's people who just have other interests. I think it can really work but you do have to have people who are committed to making it work.
And therein lies the catch.
MS. MANAR MORALES
You have to have a law firm chair that is going to be supportive of this issue. You have to have general council out there who are saying these issues matter to us from a business case because we know when you're not able to retain the top talent, those costs that are costs to the firm become costs to the client.
That's Manar Morales, executive director of the Project for Attorney Retention or PAR. PAR works with law firms on what Morales calls balanced hours policies. She says the number of hours attorneys are expected to work has spiked in recent years.
Back in 1963, 1,300 billable hours a year was considered full time. In 1985, it was 1,800 billable hours and today it's 2,000 plus some firms at 2,200 billable hours at year.
So in terms of hours worked per week...
That means that a person has to work 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every weekday and seven hours on Saturday, twice a month.
Which she says is one of the reasons you see so many women leaving their attorney gigs after just four or five years. Some women are opting out of the traditional track all together. In fact, a new survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers finds that, for the first time, fewer women are entering big firm practice.
You want to play -- you hear this song?
Back at the Levine homestead, Marci Levine is seemingly defying this trend. She was first promoted while on maternity leave in 2003 and became a partner several years later. But that doesn't mean her daily juggle is easy.
You know, like the other night, I came home and I'm in my nice little dress and my tights and I take my shoes off and I'm doing things around the kitchen and then I step in something wet and I turn around and there's Jason completely naked, no diaper. I said, Jason, did you do something on the floor? And he smiled and laughed and runs away and I can't find the diaper anywhere.
It just goes to show, in motherhood, as in work, flexibility and a sense of humor are essential. I'm Tara Boyle.
Whether you found the key to work life success or are struggling with these issues yourself, we want to hear your story. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time now for a quick break. But when we get back...
MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR
Is this garage heated?
MR. BRIAN CASTELLI
This is the warmest garage I've ever been in.
Right. It's not heated. It's because there's a garage door that seals itself...
And keeps the autumn chill away. We'll go inside a house that's taking energy efficiency to a whole new level. It's coming up on Metro Connection, here on WAMU 88.5.
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